Pulse showcase growing depth
The rise to Silver Fern in-waiting for dynamic young midcourter Whitney Souness has highlighted the depth of elite netball talent emerging from Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse.
Following a breakthrough year when they made the post-season for the first time in their history, eventually finishing runners-up in the inaugural ANZ Premiership, the Pulse thrived in the new era which was reflected with a strong showing at the recent national trials.
Souness, captain Katrina Grant and her defensive partner Phoenix Karaka, made the cut for the 16-strong Silver Ferns squad while late bloomer Claire Kersten, 28, teenaged shooter Tiana Metuarau, 16, and new mum Ameliaranne Ekenasio, 26, were rewarded with spots in the 10-man Silver Ferns development squad.
``There’s a total of 26 players (across both squads) and we provided six, so you have to be pleased with that. It’s a pretty significant number,’’ Netball Central High Performance Director Wai Taumaunu said.
Souness, 21, who missed all of last year through injury, made up for lost time in style but was still surprised with her rapid elevation to the top echelon. Not so Taumaunu, who has watched her from afar for many years.
``Whitney is where I would have expected her to be,’’ she said. ``The fact that she’s had to overcome some injury issues have probably delayed her progress somewhat but she’s been an outstanding player for some years.
``She’s now starting to realise her potential but in many ways, she’s still very young because a couple of years out with injury means she doesn’t have court time behind her.’’
With Karaka moving back to her home city of Auckland, Taumaunu said the emphasis was now on helping the three development squad members push on while building next year’s team and incorporating the new personnel.
``They’ve clearly all got things they need to work on otherwise they’d be in the Silver Ferns squad -- Ameliaranne is coming back from a baby, there’s Tiana’s youth and Claire’s relative inexperience,’’ she said of the development trio.
``They are all things we can work on in the Pulse next year to help them. They’re knocking on the door and hopefully with some ongoing work we can push them to the next step. It’s great that they’re there because it’s quite a limited number in that squad.’’
For the understated Souness, it’s been a whirlwind year and one she’s still coming to terms with. Named in the Silver Ferns selection for the Quad Series, featuring Australia, England and South Africa starting later this month, she is virtually assured of court time as the team management looks to establish their playing personnel ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games.
``It was a really tough week and I didn’t know what to expect coming into it,’’ she said of the trials. ``It was my first time but the environment was really cool and all the girls were great so it got less scary as the week went on.
``After doing a lot of hard work with my rehab last year, I just wanted to focus on having a good season and seeing what I could actually do and it’s turned out far better than expected.’’
Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie was full of praise for her little pivot and what she has achieved in the space of a year.
``For a long time, she’s been in the wings as one of the most promising players that people have sat and watched and waited to see what was going to happen,’’ she said.
``It wasn’t always easy for her this year. She’s predominantly been a centre in the past and realistically hasn’t had a lot of time at wing attack, so what she has done this year is huge. It’s a tactical position and you’ve got very little time and space to do what you need to do but is critical in terms of setting the attacking plays.’’
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