Newsroom.co.nz representative Suzanne McFadden looks at six rising stars who could help New Zealand retain their title at the Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana.
MONICA FALKNER – Shooter, Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
Falkner stamped her mark on last year’s second-tier Beko League, winning five MVP awards, after coming under the wing of coach Margaret Forsyth – one of the great shooters in New Zealand netball history. Forsyth took her to the Magic this season, and continues to teach her the nuances of goal attack.
Having already played for New Zealand A, Falkner should be a shoe-in for the national under-21 team to play at this year’s World Youth Cup in Botswana.
Although both newbies, Falkner has already built a strong rapport with South African goal shoot Lenize Potgeiter. In seven games so far, she has an impressive shooting success rate of 83 percent.
At 181cm, she’s not exceedingly tall for a shooter, but she has a strong presence in the circle, with athleticism and a sure-fire shot. Her cool head under the post has already seen her become a game-clincher this season.
TIANA METUARAU – shooter, Central Pulse
Metuarau got a taste for top-level netball last season at 15, playing for Central in the Beko League, before being called into the Pulse this season to replace Silver Fern Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
It’s taken little time for her to take ownership of the goal attack role – shooting, feeding and rebounding with confidence and a high work-rate. In her last game against the table-topping Steel, she took the lion’s share of shooting from Tuivaiti, one of the most prolific shooters in the league. She could win further accolades this year if she retains her place in the NZU21 team bound for Botswana.
WHITNEY SOUNESS – midcourt, Central Pulse
Souness was a stand-out midcourter at St Mary’s College in Wellington, when she came under the mentorship of former Pulse and Samoa captain, Frances Solia. With improved fitness and sharper footwork, she was chosen for the New Zealand Secondary Schools side, where she became one of the stars.
But her progress came to a cruel halt in 2015 while playing in the final of the national provincial championships for Wellington. Trying to stop the ball from going out of court, Souness ruptured her ACL – the trademark netball injury. It would take her out of the Silver Ferns trials, and banish her to the sidelines for much of 2016.
Now, the 21-year-old from Porirua has worked her way into the Pulse side and made up for lost time. The lay-off has taught her patience, which is reflected in her game, while she’s also learning how to best use her speed and quick reactions.
ARIANA CABLE-DIXON – midcourt, Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
You won’t find her name in the Magic team biographies – Ariana Cable-Dixon wasn’t even in the playing squad at the start of this year. A training partner, she was promoted into the Magic side to replace injured teenager Sydney Fraser, and is now a stunning weapon in their arsenal.
A product of Te Awamutu, 23-year-old Cable-Dixon is another player who was shaped by Margaret Forsyth in last year’s Beko League. As co-captain of the WBOP team she made her mark as a quiet leader, and a fit, quick-thinking midcourter.
This season, she’s been starting at centre for the Magic, making the most of her speed and agility, and proving quick to make connections with her new team-mates.
She puts her commitment to training down to one of her netball idols, Laura Langman; they did early-morning training sessions together before Langman moved to Australia.
MICHAELA SOKOLICH-BEATSON – defender, Northern Mystics
In 2014, she was spotted and selected for the New Zealand schools side, and turned out to be the star performer at the international schoolgirls’ netball challenge across the Tasman – even while nursing a back injury from a collision with a goalpost.
A health and physical education degree student at the University of Auckland, Sokolich-Beatson made her debut for the Mystics in the Trans-Tasman league last year, but also played in the second-tier Beko League.
This year, she’s earned a regular spot in the starting seven for the Mystics; her fast, mobile style complimenting the hugely experienced Anna Harrison in the defence circle. So far this season, Sokolich-Beatson has made seven intercepts and 13 deflections. She’s another player in contention for the World Youth Cup in Gaborone in July.
ABBY ERWOOD – defender, Southern Steel
The grand-daughter of one of the original Silver Ferns, and one half of identical netballing twins, Abby Erwood is making her own name in her second season with the Steel.
20-year-old Erwood returned to cement her place in the strong Steel line-up as a tough, fearless defender, with six intercepts and 13 deflections on her scorecard this season.
Her twin sister Sophie is a promising shooter. Together they helped South win the inaugural Beko League last season. Growing up in tiny South Otago town of Waitahuna West, the twins’ netball careers were inspired by their late grandmother, Shirley Annan – Silver Fern #28 who played for New Zealand in 1960.
A commerce student at Otago University, Abby Erwood is likely to be recalled into the New Zealand under-21 team for the World Youth Cup.
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