Photo: Elly McNerney

Photo: Elly McNerney

Defender Michaela Sokolich-Beatson will make her long awaited return to the Silver Ferns squad ahead of the Nations Cup.

Dame Noeline Taurua and the national selectors named a squad of 11, along with three training partners for the upcoming series. The 14 athletes were selected after a three-day camp in Auckland, which included three trial matches.

There are only three shooters named, with one who can play goal attack in potential debutant Amorangi Malesala. Grace Nweke and Amelia Walmsley were also named.

The mid-court remains unchanged from the Constellation Cup last month with the exception of Sokolich-Beatson, who replaces Jane Watson who is unavailable for the England tour due to planned leave.

Sokolich-Beatson debuted against Malawi at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and was last in the squad as a replacement player for the 2019 World Cup. Within nine months, she tore both achilles tendons playing 11 tests for the Silver Ferns.

Taurua is excited to see what the young side can do against the top nations coming up next month.

“I’m really excited to give these athletes who have hit all our performance goals the chance to make the most of their time with the Silver Ferns at the Nations Cup,” Taurua said. 

“Amorangi has worked hard this year and has stood out in the Silver Ferns Development Squad.  We are looking forward to bringing her into the Ferns environment and competing against some of the best netballers in the world. 

“Michaela will bring another level of leadership to our group, and I’m delighted with how she has been playing following what has been a tough road back from injury.  She put her hand up at trials and it will be exciting to have her back in the Silver Ferns.” 

Phoenix Karaka was named captain for the test series as Ameliaranne Ekenasio requested to sit out this series. Young talent Nweke and Kate Heffernan have been named Karaka’s vice-captains.

“Phoenix has represented the Ferns at three Netball World Cups and leads by example with her play on court and her work ethic off the court.  She is fiercely proud of wearing the black dress and the mana that it holds,” she explained. 

“To bring both Kate and Grace into the leadership group is something we have wanted to do as we consider what lies ahead in our four-year cycle.”

Shooter Georgia Heffernan, midcourter Tayla Earle and defender Kate Burley were named as training partners for the series. They are able to be called into the game day squad to replace an injured player.

Assistant coach Debbie Fuller is unavailable to travel to England, she will be replaced by Briony Akle. Akle is the head coach of the NSW Swifts and part of Tonga’s coaching panel.

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Maia Wilson, Tiana Metuaru and Peta Toeava failed to meet fitness requirements, therefore missing selection for the Nation Cup squad.

Squad: Karin Burger, Maddy Gordon, Kate Heffernan, Kelly Jury, Phoenix Karaka, Amorangi Malesala, Grace Nweke, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, Whitney Souness, Amelia Walmsley, Kate Burley (TP), Tayla Earle (TP), Georgia Heffernan (TP).

The games will take place in London and Leeds on 21, 22, 28 and 29 January against Australia, England and Uganda.

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