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Silver Ferns newcomers stalk success

Published: 5:01PM Monday September 12, 2011 Source: NZN

  • Mystics' Kayla Cullen in action (Source: Photosport)
    Mystics' Kayla Cullen in action - Source: Photosport

Rookie Silver Ferns Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick and Kayla Cullen can't seem to make up their minds who's stalking who.

Both 19-year-old netballers were named today in Ruth Aitken's 12-strong squad to contest two tests against England in Auckland and Invercargill early next month.

Their selection continues an eight-year association that began when they were at intermediate school together, widened to take in basketball and netball, and hasn't been shaken since.

"We've been stuck together since Year 7," Tone-Fitzpatrick said.

"I've never been in a team without her ... I just can't seem to get rid of her.

"She's the quiet one, and I'm the loudmouth."

There have been a few changes over the years though, most notably when Tone-Fitzpatrick signed for Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in the trans-Tasman league while Cullen opted for the Northern Mystics.

But at secondary school and under-21 level, the pair have never been too far apart.

Cullen's initial role as a shooter is gone, her reinvention as a defender has been so successful she was named best young player in the trans-Tasman league, catching Aitken's eye.

Both players have abundant natural talent, with Cullen's dogged defensive skills backed up by an ability to force vital turnovers and feed the circle from almost anywhere.

Tone-Fitzpatrick gets through a power of work off the ball, and impresses as an explosive defender with great anticipation backed up with a powerful on-court presence.

New Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman, who made her international debut as a 19-year-old back in 2005, says both teenagers have special skills.

"They can pull off that uncanny intercept just when you need it - they both strike me as having that X-factor."

Silver Ferns: Leana de Bruin, Kayla Cullen*, Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick*, Paula Griffin, Joline Henry, Laura Langman (c), Cathrine Latu*, Liana Leota, Anna Scarlett, Anna Thompson, Maria Tutaia, Irene van Dyk (vice-captain)