World Ranking: 2nd
Previous Commonwealth Games results: 1998 (Silver), 2002 (Silver), 2006 (Gold), 2010 (Gold), 2014 (Silver)
Commonwealth Games win/loss record: 31 wins, 3 losses
New Zealand’s chances of success at the Commonwealth Games are hard to predict.
The Silver Ferns of 2014 were written off before the Glasgow games. They entered that campaign under a cloud of injuries, poor form and uncertainty in selections. Expectations were low, but those who underestimated them were misguided.
Resilience, determination and the leadership of a fearless captain and vice-captain (Casey Kopua and Laura Langman) led them through to the gold medal match, against all odds. They were thrashed by a superior Australian side, but the foundations appeared to have been laid for a new era of success after Irene van Dyk’s retirement.
The current Silver Ferns are in a similar predicament on the eve of the 2018 Games. They again enter the tournament carrying injuries, poor form and uncertainty in selections. However, unlike 2014, they lack top-class leadership throughout the court.
Their recent form in the international arena is dire, having lost 8 of their last 11 matches. The progress that was made in 2015-16 seems to have withered away. A host of shooters have been used over the past four years, but none of the combinations have gelled for a substantial period. No one has come close to filling the gaping hole in the midcourt left by the baffling non-selection of Langman. The defence end hasn’t been able to replace the legendary Kopua, Leana de Bruin or Anna Harrison.
The 2018 Silver Ferns project the impression of inexperience, but this lies more in the combinations than in the individuals. The team has an average of 41 caps, and five players with more than 50 caps. By comparison, Australia have an average of 36 caps, and five players with more than 50 caps.
There has been a revolving door of selections since Janine Southby took over as coach. Twenty eight players have come in and out of the Silver Ferns team since 2015. Only three of those team members have played in every test match since 2015.
Champion Maria Folau has a precarious knee injury, but she has been a game-changer for her entire career and has the ability to drag her team over the line. Individually, the team is talented all over the court, but their challenge is to play collectively well as a team.
In the last year they have lost to Australia by increasing margins, England and Jamaica. South Africa came within a few goals. They face England and Malawi in Pool B round matches. If they finish top two after the rounds, they will likely face Australia or Jamaica in the semi-finals.
Missing out on a medal is a real possibility, but underestimate them at your own risk.
Their final placing may be unpredictable; but the Silver Ferns are always proud, always dangerous.
Commonwealth Games team
Ameliaranne Ekenasio GA/GS 16 caps
Bailey Mes GS/GA 57 caps
Claire Kersten WD/C 3 caps
Grace Kara WA/C 56 caps
Katrina Grant (c) GD/GK 111 caps
Kelly Jury GK 18 caps
Maria Folau GA/GS 121 caps
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson WD/GD 3 caps
Samantha Sinclair WD/C 19 caps
Shannon Francois C/WA 52 caps
Te Paea Selby-Rickit GS/GA 24 caps
Temalisi Fakahokotau GK/GD 15 caps
Coach: Janine Southby
Assistant coach: Yvette McCausland-Durie
Last five international results
New Zealand lost to Jamaica 53-59 (2018)
New Zealand beat Fiji 88-27 (2018)
New Zealand lost to Jamaica 51-59 (2018)
New Zealand beat Malawi 75-42 (2018)
New Zealand lost to Australia 48-67 (2018)