Silver Ferns announce squad for World Cup title defence

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Maia Wilson and the Silver Ferns during the national anthem. Photo / Photosport

Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua has named the 12-strong team to compete at the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa next month, including six players who are set to make their debut at netball’s pinnacle event.

Taurua confirmed the team to head to Cape Town for the World Cup, due to take place from 28 July-6 August, and also named three travelling reserves who can be called upon as injury cover.

The defending world champions will be captained by Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who is heading to her second World Cup, alongside Cup debutantes Grace Nweke, Maia Wilson, Whitney Souness, Maddy Gordon, Kate Heffernan and Kelly Jury.

Shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit, midcourter Gina Crampton and the defensive trio of Jane Watson, Karin Burger, and Phoenix Karaka, along with Ekenasio, will return to help win the title again they won in Liverpool in 2019.

For the first time, teams are also able to take three reserves outside their 12-person squad who can replace a player who has been ruled out by illness or injury with Taurua confirming Tiana Metuarau, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Sulu Fitzpatrick will travel with the side. Once an original squad member is replaced however, they cannot return later in the tournament.

Taurua said, with just 51 days until the first whistles are blown in Cape Town, she was pleased to finally be able to confirm her team and wanted to acknowledge the role of this year’s ANZ Premiership had on what had been a tough selection process.

“I think the ANZ Premiership has truly delivered this season and enabled myself and the selectors to see our athletes at their best and in all sorts of pressure-filled situations,” she said.

“It has been one of the closest competitions we’ve ever had, and of a high standard with some extremely tight results, which has provided a strong environment before we step onto netball’s biggest stage. I would like to thank all ANZ Premiership teams for the work they have done to help prepare the athletes and provide a fierce competition.”

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Dame Noeline Taurua. Photo / Photosport
Dame Noeline Taurua. Photo / Photosport

Taurua said the condensed ANZ Premiership season, which included a number of doubleheader weekends for teams, had replicated the back-to-back nature of the World Cup schedule which worked in the Silver Ferns favour.

“We have seen our athletes back up a number of times this season and in many cases backing up for some closely contested matches in extra time scenarios, which has provided the tests we had hoped they would face.”

The Silver Ferns and the three reserve players now come together for three training camps over the six weeks before heading to Cape Town on 21 July.

Taurua selected a couple of players who are specialists, but the majority offer positional versatility in what will be a demanding tournament style of netball which would see the Silver Ferns playing eight matches in ten days.

The midcourt trio of Souness, Gordon and Heffernan can all cover various roles as can the defensive quartet.

Nweke and Wilson have been the standout shooters during the ANZ Premiership as the most prolific and most accurate scorers respectively, the latter also showing her versatility having worn the black dress in the goal attack role previously.

“I’m excited with this group of athletes we have selected. We have stability with experience and players who have specific specialist skillsets. We have versatility with slide options. We have worked our depth over the past two years and provided on court opportunities. Youthful exuberance adds that exciting flavour. We go into these selections with our eyes wide open and with purpose,” Taurua said.

The Silver Ferns face Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Singapore in the group stages of the 2023 Netball World Cup.

Silver Ferns team

Karin Burger (Tactix), Gina Crampton (Stars), Ameliaranne Ekenasio (Magic), Maddy Gordon (Pulse), Kate Heffernan (Steel), Kelly Jury (Pulse), Phoenix Karaka (Mystics), Grace Nweke (Mystics), Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Tactix), Whitney Souness (Pulse), Jane Watson (Tactix), Maia Wilson (Stars).

Travelling Reserves: Tiana Metuarau, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Sulu Fitzpatrick.

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