'She's a pretty down-to-earth girl' - Silver Ferns coach praises Commonwealth Games rookie

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Michaela Sokolich-Beatson has been anointed as the future of the Silver Ferns' goal defence after her surprise Commonwealth Games selection.

Michaele Sokolic-Beatson, 21, was the shock selection in the 12-strong squad for the Gold Coast.
Source: 1 NEWS

The 21-year-old Sokolich-Beatson was named as coach Janine Southby's bolter for the Games, fresh off a solid domestic season with Northern Mystics.

She'll be joined on the Gold Coast by the returning Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who last played for New Zealand in 2016 before going on maternity leave.

Elsewhere, the 12-strong squad remains unchanged from that which relinquished the Quad Series in abysmal fashion last month, with Whitney Souness, Maia Wilson, Jane Watson and and Phoenix Karaka going unselected.

Capable of playing goal defence or wing defence, Sokolich-Beatson is highly regarded by Southby, who said she was keen to develop depth at goal defence.

The under-21 World Cup-winning defender would remain behind captain Katrina Grant in the pecking order for now, but was a star in the making.

She had overcome a niggling back injury which kept her out of international selection for much of late 2017 and would be fit by Games time.

"Certainly been on the radar for us for a long time, the last couple of years, and we're looking forward to bringing her into our program," Southby said.

"She's got a huge work ethic both on and off the court, I know she's really driven and determined and I know she's very organised and well-planned.

"She's a pretty down-to-earth girl."

Ekenasio, meanwhile, would seek to inject offensive guile into a Silver Ferns team that crumpled in last fortnight's 67-48 loss to Australia.

Finding Australian midcourters Liz Watson and Kim Ravaillion in a vicious mood, the Kiwis turned the ball over again and again and were duly punished.

The Australian-born Ekenasio could play both shooting-circle roles and had acquitted herself well in last October's Fast5 netball tournament.

"She showed she hadn't lost the touch," Southby said.

"It was just a matter of getting her conditioning back to a standard that was acceptable for us to put her back into the Ferns program."

The Ferns will spend four of the next eight weeks in camp before using an impromptu four-way Taini Jamison series - involving Jamaica, Malawi and Fiji - as a springboard into their Gold Coast gold-medal tilt.

They've won two of the past three Commonwealth Games titles, in Melbourne in 2006 and New Delhi in 2010, but finished second in Glasgow in 2014.

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