By Cathy Walshe
Defender Katrina Grant says the Silver Ferns will need to work harder to negate Australian shooter Caitlin Bassett's game-changing potential in Thursday's second netball Test in Auckland.
New Zealand hung on in Melbourne on Sunday for a first-up 54-52 win, after taking a five-goal lead into the final quarter.
But the Silver Ferns struggled to adjust when Australian coach Lisa Alexander benched shooter Catherine Cox for Bassett in the last 15 minutes, and Grant says that's an area they'll be focusing on in the last two games of the three-match Constellation Cup series.
At 1.92m, Bassett's holding game provides a marked contrast to more mobile shooters such as Cox, Natalie Medhurst and Erin Bell.
"It was a completely different dynamic when Caitlin came on," Grant says.
"It definitely changed us a wee bit and we certainly didn't adjust to it as quickly as we would have liked."
New Zealand's defensive depth paid dividends, a re-jigged line-up taking the court when captain Casey Williams was ruled out at late notice after pulling up with a sore knee from Saturday training.
But Grant slotted in smoothly at goal keep, Leana de Bruin dominated at goal defence and tenacious wing defence Anna Harrison's drive on attack proved a real bonus.
New Zealand's midcourt was expected to struggle, but de Bruin and Harrison's punch on transition combined well with experienced centre Laura Langman and rookie wing attack Camilla Lees.
Grant says there's still plenty of room for defensive improvement as the Silver Ferns look to wrap up their first Constellation Cup series with wins in Auckland on Thursday and Christchurch on Sunday.
"Sometimes we'd hold them up, but they'd still get that last pass in. And they got a few too many rebounds for our liking.
"We still have quite a few things to work on, but it was pleasing for a first hit-out."