Netball: Newlook Silver Ferns stumble to Australia in opening match of Nations Cup tournament

Georgia Heffernan shoots for goal against Australia at Nations Cup.
Georgia Heffernan shoots for goal against Australia at Nations Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Silver Ferns have faded badly over the final quarter, falling to a 63-50 defeat against world champions Australia in the opening match of the Nations Cup at London.

Off to a slow start, allowing the Diamons seven unanswered goals early, the newlook New Zealand line-up fell eight behind during the second quarter, but closed within three midway through the third and trailled by only five entering the final stanza.

Australia dominated the closing phase 19-11, including a telling 6-1 run that extinguished the Ferns' hopes of an upset to open their campaign.

Without the experience of Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Te Paea Selby-Rickit or Maia Wilson - all left home in New Zealand - coach Dame Noeline Taurua awarded debutant Georgia Heffernan for her first appearance in the black dress, as attack partner to shooter Grace Nweke.

Heffernan became Silver Ferns No.185 and joined twin sister Kate (wing defence) in the starting line-up, playing the entire game for a baptism of fire and acquitting herself well, with a shooting return of 9/11 (82 percent).

Nweke missed just one attempt at goal (41/42), as the New Zealand shooters actually showed greater accuracy than their counterparts, but they attempted 20 shots less, as their teammates struggled to crack the Aussies' midcourt defence. 

Keeping her attack end intact throughout, Taurua rotated midcourt Whitney Souness and defender Phoenix Karaka in and out of the game, trying to find an answer to to their shortcomings.

By contrast, Australian coach Stacey Marinkovich gave her entire squad a taste of the action, with Sophie Garbin (17/18) proving the most accurate under goal.  

Maddy Gordon looks for a way past the Australian defence.
Maddy Gordon looks for a way past the Australian defence. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It was disappointing how that last quarter ended, but overall, it was not too bad," said Dame Noeline. "Our ability, once again, to hold right through, our ability not to turn over ball and probably our fitness levels let us down a bit, but it’s a start.

"We know where we’re at, so know the gaps and what we need to improve on."

The Silver Ferns have a chance to regroup against newcomers Uganda on Monday morning (NZ time), but shouldn't underestimate the African underdogs, who pushing hosts England all the way in their opening match, before falling 62-56.

Australia 63 (Koenen 23, Garbin 17, Austin 16, Dwyer 7) Silver Ferns 50 (Nweke 41, G Heffernan 9)