The Sky Sport Tall Ferns Selection Camp concluded earlier this week with the 18 players in attendance all vying for selection for the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup later this year.
Coach Molloy has now returned to Australia to find Melbourne in extended lockdown after a recent re-emergence of COVID-19 cases.
Such as the case with international basketball right now, COVID-19 continues to challenge international sports and teams. It’s certainly challenged Molloy’s time in the main job as he tries to build on the fantastic 2019 year wear the Tall Ferns but South Korea in the Olympic qualifiers.
“We had gathered extreme momentum by end-2019 but then COVID happened,” reflected Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy.
“So this recent camp has been our first real chance to reacquaint many players and coaches,” said Molloy after having an international squad of players together in New Zealand for the first time in 18 months.
Despite the hiatus, Molloy believes the five-day camp at Pulman Arena in South Auckland was a success at every level.
“The players worked hard and most passed more rigorous fitness standards, we identified some excellent new talent, we built upon our cultural values, and we made some good adjustments to our style of play.”
This was a young squad. No fewer than 10 of the 18 players were uncapped with a number of them still teenagers including Mount Maunganui College student Melika Samia.
“They all turned up with a great attitude and work ethic. Obviously, at tender ages, gaps often present which must be improved upon to become Tall Ferns, but that is all part of the experience,” said Molloy.
The culture of the Tall Ferns has always been critical to their success and Molloy was enthusiastic about creating a deeper connection between the Tall Ferns and the values and traditions of Aotearoa.
“The introduction of Mel Bennett as a facilitator to connect players in Australia and New Zealand, and to add a stronger element of Māori culture, spirituality and language to our core values was extremely beneficial,” said Molloy.
For her part, Bennett said the theme of the Camp was whanaungatanga (connectedness).
“The ultimate purpose is to have the Tall Ferns play for a reason much larger than themselves, which connects them to their whakapapa and whenua. The culture will provide an opportunity for our wāhine to connect regularly, especially those who are disconnected geographically,” added Bennett.
The players have now begun that geographical spread to continue with conditioning work as they endeavour to be in best possible shape for FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in September.
Ella Bradley, Tayla Dalton, Charlisse and Krystal Leger-Walker and Emme Shearer will enjoy some time with their families before resuming their American collegiate careers, while Mary Goulding and Ash Kelman-Poto head back to their Australian clubs.
The remaining players, all domiciled in New Zealand, will head home and prepare for the Sal’s NBL beginning 12 August.
After a month in New Zealand it’s back to Melbourne for Molloy, and time to reflect on which 12 players to select and represent us against the best that Asia has to offer. A key goal for Coach Guy Molloy and his team will be to finish in the top four nations. Achieve this at the Asia Cup and they will earn a spot at the FIBA Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in February 2022.