NS EXCLUSIVE: View from the bench with Tamsin Greenway

NS EXCLUSIVE: View from the bench with Tamsin Greenway

By |2021-09-23T11:16:16+10:00September 23rd, 2021|Categories: Exclusive Interview, International, NZ, UK|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Have you ever wondered what an elite coach is thinking as a game unfolds? For match two of the 2021 Taini Jamison series, Netball Scoop is delighted to share the insights of Tamsin Greenway.

A former English international, Greenway won a remarkable seven Superleague titles as player and/or coach. Originally taking the court for Team Bath, she then played for the Queensland Firebirds, and was a player and Director of Netball for Surrey Storm and then Wasps. In February 2020, Greenway was appointed as the head coach of Scotland.

Greenway continues to work as netball analyst for Sky Sport, sharing her profound tactical knowledge during broadcasts.

 

The Roses had a convincing victory against a new-look Silver Ferns, but took until the last quarter to really seal their win. Image Steve McLeod

 

 

England Roses 55 d New Zealand Silver Ferns 45

 

 This was a game of two halves, with New Zealand stronger in the first half, and then England winning a dominant second half by 13 goals. However it felt very classic Dame Noeline – go steady in game one, expose players in game two, and then put the foot down in game three.

What was impressive was that England gained in confidence as the game went on, and continued to build their lead to the final whistle.

 

KEY STRATEGIES

 

England

England’s use of the back up ball really helped to break down the New Zealand zone. The Roses did it really smartly and as a first option, whereas in the first test it was used more as a last resort when going forwards wasn’t available.

In attack, Imogen Allison got to the third line, which made such a difference when releasing ball into the goal third. It helped England to play an extra three or four phases, to open up the middle and break the zone. As a result, the New Zealand defenders weren’t sure what passes to go on and when they did, they were caught out of position which opened the circle up.

England’s through court defence was good in game one – they picked eight balls off the Silver Ferns in transition through court. It was also a feature in this match, and I think the Silver Ferns would still be disappointed with how they handled their transitions into the end third.

Players like Layla Gusgoth, Serena Guthrie and Imogen Allison sat in front of their opponents, tracked them well, and recovered smoothly to get back into position. They were also supported by the great work rate of attacking players Laura Malcom and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis. Malcs is a natural wing defence, so the pressure she adds to defence is quality. Sophie is so fit and quick, she tracks her player very well, and doesn’t allow an easy pass either. That caused the Ferns a lot of issues in this match.

The Kiwis didn’t looked comfortable giving ball when they had someone on their shoulder running hard with them, and they will need to address that, because the Diamonds will do the same thing.

 

The Roses attacking unit was far more effective in breaking down the Silver Ferns’ zone in match two. Image Steve McLeod

 

Silver Ferns

The shooting circle was interesting and offered three completely different options from their talls. Maia Wilson bodies up to her opponent completely, Te Paea Selby-Rickit has more movement and uses the back space well, while Nweke holds under the post. That variety is going to be a challenge for teams to match up against, but is also a challenge for the midcourters to change their feeds accordingly.

In this game the feeding wasn’t a big issue until the end when they were chasing – the Ferns tended to lose the ball coming through the court. Their centre pass conversion rate in the third quarter dropped to a low of 46%.

The change in the short pass rule has played the power right back into the goal shooter’s hands, and because Noeline is such a tactical genius, New Zealand have adapted to it well. They use it massively to their advantage, playing a very short, sharp game around the circle, almost body to body at times, rather than swinging the ball across the circle. In the first match, they lost just three feeds in the entire match.

To combat it, more work has to be done against the feeders’ landing position out the front, and that’s where England were slightly more effective today. They used a strong front body position to keep the Silver Ferns midcourters off the circle edge for longer, allowing the Roses’ goal defence and goal keeper time to get around their opponents.

Defenders are going to have to become more creative as the Ferns will continue that style of play. I think they particularly need to look at switching earlier in the circle. At the moment the goal defence and goal keeper fight so hard to stay on the body they miss that short pass.

If they switch earlier, it will give them a bit more space to run at the pass. We saw Guscoth and Williams attempt it at times, but it’s very difficult, needs a good combination and total trust between the defenders.

New Zealand have had the edge in pickups too – in this match they were 14 – 9, and in the first game they were 15 – 9. It’s another advantage of the zone. Australia and England have such a dominant stand point on the ball when applying hands over pressure, that if it breaks and goes over their head, they aren’t always in a position to pick up anything that’s loose.

 

The Silver Ferns play a particularly short game around the circle, which is challenging to have an impact against. Image Steve McLeod

 

THE ATHLETES

A holding shooter will usually play into the back space, but George Fisher has movement as well as the hold. She’s quite prepared to pop forwards onto the ball, and her timing is spot on with that, but she will also roll and hold the back space. So she gives more than one style of play. George is really good at understanding how to pick off the back defender, and then gives a clear space for the goal attack to run into. She was so strong on the ball in this game, and her shooting percentage (45/47 at 96%) was insane.

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis was able to play her cut and drive, quick game, release out the top, and hit the gaps. Sophie is so fast and quick there is a danger that she can get into a running game, but her movement has become more purposeful. Today, the back up ball gave her more time so when she did drive and release it was through the middle, so she was able to break the zone, and then pick her cut and angle. It’s far more effective against a zone than just sweeping sides.

Laura Malcolm looked more comfortable with Sophie in front of her, and Jade Clarke behind her. I believe it’s more difficult for the Roses when they have Laura and Serena Guthrie in wing attack and centre, because both are traditionally wing defences. They each have flair, but a wing attack does have limited space to work in, so their attacking game is critical. Laura’s release into the circle was so much better today – she gave the shooters three seconds to pull through.

In centre, Serena plays more of the long deep drives, whereas Jade Clarke will hang out of the play a little bit more. She’s had a new lease of life playing at Rhinos working with a very creative wing attack and goal attack this year. So she’s adjusted to come into the attack a little later offering some different timing, and she’s also coming in at different angles, which helped Laura find room to move.

Jade looks happy and confident at the moment. As an older player you have to keep evolving to keep the young players at bay. She’s now had three seasons at centre, and it’s made such a difference in the balls she’s prepared to give and the way she’s playing the game. She’s allowing other players to use their strengths, and just did her job.

The English side is defence heavy, and we saw three wing defences used today. Each has different strengths, and it’s going to come down to who partners best with each other. Imogen Allison had another excellent outing, and she and Serena Guthrie play very well together, particularly the defensive pressure they applied. Beth Cobden’s extra height and range is also effective, and she matched up well against Peta Toeava.

Layla Gusgoth has been great in both games. Her work rate out the front is important, and in this match she came further off the body, and didn’t allow Tiana to set up on her as much. The partnership with her and Geva Mentor is really starting to grow. Fran Williams also impacted nicely. She does the early switches very well, whereas Gusgoth stays with her player more, so it’s great to have that level of variety.

While Geva picked up six gains today, England still need to consider how to get the circle defence coming out with more ball. What else can the wing defence and centre do, which not only shuts players down but creates turn over ball too?

The defenders might have to release some of the players, let someone land with the ball, and attack the next pass, rather than try and shut everybody down, and then get beaten.

New Zealand didn’t play badly – it took England until the last nine minutes of the game to pull away. However, I don’t think there were any stand out players like Tiana Metuarau or Karin Burger in the first match.

In today’s game they were unable to push on when they had the lead, and also missed seven shots today that they didn’t rebound. That’s huge in the tight periods of the game.

England were playing the ball around more as they attempted to break the zone, and I don’t believe the Silver Ferns unit had enough confidence to let the ball land but still keep to their structures. They will need more patience in that defensive end to remind players to keep the zone going until a clear option arises.

In the centre, Claire Kersten was steady, but I think they missed Sam Winders grittiness. Even when Toeava came on, she was safe, but I felt just a little bit more magic was needed today in both ends especially when they were chasing.

Grace Nweke’s shot was a little bit off today, but she’s going to be incredible, and the ball that she can take – wow! There haven’t been too many really tall defenders against her in the ANZ Competition, but once all her feeders adapt to the height of someone like Mentor, she will be so tough to manage, and she is only going to get better and better.

 

George Fisher was MVP in game two, following a polished and accurate game in the shooting circle. Image Steve McLeod

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO TEST THREE

The match ups are going to be key. Karin Burger really needs to play on Drakeford-Lewis. If Crampton is back that will be huge for the Silver Ferns. If not, Winders needs to go back into the middle, with Saunders in wing attack to give them some more spark.

For the Ferns, they will have to look at their through court attack. They are turning over ball in defence, but are not transitioning comfortably into the end third. They will also need to look at their defensive zone, and maintain their patience when England are playing the ball around.

England need to create and win more of the loose balls. They also need to work at keeping players off the circle edge for longer so they can’t do the short body ball feed, and look at ways to have a crack at ball in the circle, especially if Maia Wilson is back on.

In their attack end, it’s reacting to what the Silver Ferns will throw at them. New Zealand will make changes, so can the Roses do the same patient build up, going to the back up player early, opening it out, allowing Drakeford-Lewis through the middle. If they can do that under pressure with Burger, Gordon and Winders who are quicker – they should do well.

That’s going to be an important process, and we saw today, when England took an extra pass or two to cut the ball into the circle, the Silver Ferns found it much harder to play to their strengths and come on to the ball.

Will we see changes in the squad? It depends how much teams want to win the series versus what’s important for their development.

Noeline has been brave and she has been prepared to give a number of her squad a real go. England are between a rock and a hard place now, because if you bring a new attacker into game three, when they haven’t yet played the zone and it’s a tight match, it could be challenging. I’m not sure England will make many changes –I believe they will aim to try and win the last game for their confidence going forwards.

 

Tamsin Greenway believes that Grace Nweke will be a star, given time and experience, although the Silver Ferns midcourters will have to adapt to feeding her in the circle. Image Steve McLeod

About the Author:

Physiotherapist, writer and netball enthusiast. Feature articles, editorials and co-author of "Shine: the making of the Australian Netball Diamonds". Everyone has a story to tell, and I'm privileged to put some of them on paper. Thank you to the phenomenal athletes, coaches and people in the netball world who open a door to their lives, and let me tiptoe in.