Sam Winders (centre) showed enough during the Cadbury Series to receive a place in the team for the England series. Photo / Photosport
The long wait is over for the Silver Ferns to get back onto the international test court.
New Zealand takes on England in the first of three tests in the Taini Jamison series in Hamilton. The Ferns come off a quad series win where they faced the New Zealand men, the New Zealand under 21’s and the New Zealand A, coming away with three wins out of four.
The final of those was by far the sweetest – an historic win over the men, their first ever, which will offer an injection of welcomed confidence.
Midcourter Sam Winders, who has been recalled into the squad after a 21 month absence, says for she didn’t think they would be facing a fellow international heavyweight so soon.
“I think a few months ago I would’ve thought, internationally was it going to be happening, I would’ve thought no way, especially not England… maybe Australia,” she says.
The Silver Ferns have little in the way of preparation having not played an international in over nine months, the last coming in the form of a Vitality Nations Cup match against Jamaica in London.
On top of that, they have not been able to get a look at the England team yet, as the Roses’ warm-up games in New Zealand have been behind closed doors.
“We’ll be going in pretty blind,” Winders says. “First game is going to be the big one, and then we can sit down and have a look at stuff.”
Winders is set to don the black skirt for the first time since January 2019, but admits had she not been selected, it wasn’t the end of the world.
“I am very stoked to be here and I think a lot of it comes back to my process and just enjoying the journey itself and not getting too wrapped up in whether I made it or not,” she says.
“Regardless of that I would be happy and proud of the shift I’ve made and just enjoying my netball in general. I guess it’s just that little bit more exciting I get to enjoy some test matches.”
Thankfully New Zealand will head into the series with some form of competition under their belt, albeit against exhibition sides. While the work has been gruelling, Winders says the group is delighted to be playing again.
“It kind of felt like a few weeks ago that ‘here we go, it’s going to be a long slog’. But it’s just been awesome, and obviously time flies when you’re having fun because suddenly we’re here and we’re about to play some international netball.
“The last week especially was probably the best preparation we could have had.
“The fact we had the couple of camps beforehand, we’ve definitely laid a really strong foundation. We don’t have to think about game plans or structures; we’ve tested it in real time.”
Following tonight’s opening match the two sides play again on Friday before the series finale on Sunday. All three games take place at Hamilton’s Claudelands Events Centre.