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Cullen looks to fill NZ leadership role

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/10/2016 Angelo Risso

The loss of midcourt general Laura Langman is a bitter blow for the Silver Ferns but wing defender Kayla Cullen hopes she can step into the breach.

Langman, 30, played an extraordinary 141 consecutive Test for New Zealand but is no longer eligible for selection after joining Australian team Sunshine Coast Lightning.

The Hamilton-born centre won two Commonwealth Games golds for her country, as well as a pair of World Cup runners-up medals.

The loss of Langman poses a quandary for Silver Ferns boss Janine Southby, who loses her most experienced and influential midcourter.

But Cullen, 24, says she has what it takes to step into Langman's shoes as midcourt general.

The new Northern Stars recruit is currently recuperating from a stress fracture in her foot but expects to be fully fit for the start of the newly established ANZ Premiership in March.

"There's no replacing Laura, she's such a leader, leads by example and offers so much knowledge and wisdom," Cullen told NZ Newswire.

"But it'll open an opportunity for me to step up and, especially on court, take more of a leadership role."

Cullen, who lines up at wing defence or goal defence, has made 35 appearances for New Zealand, including in last year's World Cup final defeat to the Diamonds.

She joins New Zealand's newest netball franchise as one of the most accomplished players in the squad, alongside former Silver Ferns stalwart Leana de Bruin.

The Aucklander said her decision to defect from the Mystics to the Stars was a simple one, as the new group looks to build familiarity under coach Julie Hoornweg.

"I'd been with them for six years and I just felt I really needed a change, it was getting a little stale," Cullen said.

"It's not just going to be us, but we're going to have a few months before we really find our feet and combinations that work."

Hoornweg, a former coach of the Melbourne Vixens and England, couldn't speak highly enough of Cullen.

"She's a defender but as soon as she gets the ball, it's in transition and she's gone, powerfully driving through the midcourt," Hoornweg said.

"If we can get seven of those out on the court, we're doing fine."

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