Saturday, 25 April 2015

Pulse pull out stops in last minute for draw

Central Pulse retrieved a 47-47 draw in the face of defeat in yesterday afternoon's thriller match with the New South Wales Swifts.

Five minutes from the last whistle, Pulse were still five goals down. In the last quarter captain and defender Katrina Grant gained valuable ball for her team but failed to capitalise. The first went straight back into opposition hands and the second intended for Te Huinga Selby Rickit went directly outside. The team need to own these actions as much as Grant because on occasions there were too few players presenting for passes and eyes were not on the ball.  Maybe that is why Liz Ellis thinks there is a problem with New Zealand teams' fitness.

However Pulse retrieved ball from Swifts' errors in the five minutes remaining. Even another goal and outright victory was possible but in the end not achievable. However the fight to equalise showed courage and determination.

Player of the match was the Pulse's Ameliaranne Wells who was on 89% after three quarters of netball. Wells and the canny Jodi Brown made exceptional use of circle space. Tight marking by Swifts' goal keep Sharni Layton helped Pulse as penalties incurred by Layton meant shots were taken close to the post. Swifts' goal defence Julie Corletto played a sound game before leaving the match with calf problems. Wells' shooting became more inaccurate in the last quarter ending with a 79% accuracy rate as pressure from Layton and Corletto's replacement Micaela Wilson persisted, . However Wells' understanding with Brown and ability to pass vital ball to her in the face of defenders while the crowd held their breath, turned out to be sound logic. Brown - despite being pushed and shoved to extremes - had an overall accuracy of 84%.

Extreme physicality contributed to a total of 150 penalties for the game with the Pulse earning 60 of these. It was not that the game was over-whistled but rather that competency and ball skill was upheld.

At the other end of the court Susan Pettitt and former Pulse player Caitlin Thwaites conversion rates for the match were in the mid 80s. They shared the shooting load with Thwaites converting just three more shots.

The Swifts' centre court of captain Kim Green as wing attack (replaced in the last quarter by Stephanie Wood), Paige Hadley and Abbey McCulloch pressed the Pulse hard. McCulloch attempted to close the Pulse's Liana Leota out. Jolene Henry tried to do the same to Green and her replacement Wood. Henry's ability to intercept and/or deflect gained valuable ball and her eye for swift, accurate ball directly to the shooter was impressive.

Elias Shadrock continued to grow in her centre role passing crisply and placing herself well on the circle edge.

Te Huinga Selby Rickit as goal keep was impressive, calmly picking up ball and dispatching it efficiently.

All the Pulse need to do now to continue their progress would be defeating an Australian side. They came very close to it last night.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Central Pulse team up well for 49-38 victory over Magic

Pulse gave supporters a welcome lift last night in their 49-38 victory over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.

Pulse have risen to the occasion before with Magic and it was a true team effort last night (Monday). The line-up was traditional rather than innovative but Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Reo Selby Rickit showed flair in defence along with wing defence Joline Henry who was brilliant in restricting ball to Magic goalers. Selby Rickit too not only picked up valuable ball but conveyed it with accuracy to centre court players.

Centre Elias Shadrock and wing attack Liana Leota were also impressively sharp and rapidly responsive in the mid court. Although both sides incurred many turnovers, Pulse's ability to get ball to the shooters Irene van Dyk and Jodi Brown enabled 60 shots to be taken at goal with a highly satisfactory 82% conversion rate.

Individuals fronted up impressively as a team, but it should be kept in mind that Magic is a relatively young team sorely missing their captain Casey Kopua in the defence line. However the Magic's Leana de Bruin was a very effective defender. Magic goal shooter Jo Harten stepped up urging her team on and centre court players Samantha Sinclair, Jamie-Lee Price and Grace Rasmussen were sharp on attack. However, the Pulse's defence all over court was extraordinarily effective, throttling passage to the Magic goal.

Magic did not hesitate to call in their bench players but the Pulse momentum allowed them to triumph by 11 goals.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Central Pulse attack options too narrow against Northern Mystics' onslaught

Pulse need to concentrate on craftier midcourt play to succeed in the ANZ championships.

It's easy looking at the goal scores to say that the problem is goaler accuracy. But as commentators have pointed out, Pulse often lack a "second phase" . Too swift centre passes after the whistle are part of this. Centre Elias Shadrock continues to play these passes and she is a  promising player (although not necessarily just as centre). The opposition are too close and attackers are often within hand or elbow reach of defenders. Attackers must find space. On Monday the ball teetered in small narrow passes down to the goal. Temepara Bailey observed that Pulse often had just one option on attack. 

The shooters have already been tormented into an eye of the needle scenario making desperate sorties to try to find space to launch a goal. The whole thing is frantic and frenetic and psychologically undermining. What follows swiftly deflates the hopes of great defenders like Joline Henry. Adept defenders Katrina Grant and Ama Agbeze then watch the ball at the other end being tossed around some more. A goal might be tried and possibly lost. Shooters, whipped into a frenzy, lose accuracy.

This match was more frustrating than most because shooter Ameliaranne Wells shooting at 78 per cent accuracy was shunted off for Irene van Dyk. When a player like Wells who will shoot from most places in the circle was so close to optimal 80 per cent shooting, putting her off was a bad idea. Van Dyk came on briefly but that particular duo did not work and the reinstated Wells had lost her composure and accuracy. Her partner Jodi Brown is a competent feinter and dodger but prefers to shoot further in especially when surrounded by defenders like Temalisi Fakahokotau and Kayla Cullen. Despite some difficulty converting in the last quarter, Wells fed Brown with superb timing.

Contrast the movement of the Pulse with the Mystics. Despite both sides making many errors causing frequent turnovers, Mystics deployed time effectively to set up first and second phase. Players found space comfortably apart from the opposition around centre court. Defenders from both ends could disrupt things in and around the circle, but Mystics' passes were generally longer and more accurate. Procession to the goal was swift and efficient and less claustrophobic than the Pulse's torturous route. 

Liana Leota projected fatigue rather than her usual flair and enjoyment.  Playing alongside Serena Guthrie full of energy, flair and crafty play was always going to be difficult. No Whitney Sounness came out to relieve Leota when the fourth quarter started. Sounness might lack big match experience but she has so far proved to have a great jump, feeds cleverly and comes on well as an impact player. Sounness is capable and crafty on the circle edge. A ball or two might have been lost in transition but her previous impact performances should have earned her a place in the last quarter or last half.

Both Mystics' Fakahokotau and Cullen were superb in defence although Fakahokotau needs to stay off the body more. Laura Langman and Nadia Loveday in the Mystics centre court had a good court flow to the maestros Cathryn Latu and Maria Tutaia in the goal circle. Joline Henry's game was masterful with the ability to save and gather ball and look long.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Pulse defeated by fiery Firebirds in very physical match

Queensland Firebirds enjoyed a 52-46 victory over the Central Pulse at Te Rauparaha Arena last night in a thrilling tussle.

The Pulse managed to keep within a couple of goals against the Firebirds until three-quarter time. But their shooters failed to match the 16 goals put in by Firebirds' Romelda Aiken and Amorette Wild in the final quarter. Pulse coach Robyn Broughton stuck with her starting seven throughout and centre courters Leana Leota and Elias Shadrock did not disappoint with aerial dynamism and slick passing. I heard the game being described as "Bullrush" and certainly both of these centre courters had to put up with Firebirds pretty much in their face. Firebirds' wing defence Gabi Simpson was sinbinned for three goals' duration for repeated deliberate contact offences in the third quarter.

Jolene Henry was always dangerous at wing defence but the force and velocity of the ball thrown at her colleagues on a few occasions meant it went out and possession was squandered. Katrina Grant began brilliantly by intercepting the Firebirds' first centre pass and remained a defensive force to reckon with. Ama Agbeze starting for the injured Te Huinga Reo Selby Rickit did some outstanding defence work on the very tall 1.96m Romelda Aiken. Aiken though was by far the most prolific of the Firebirds' shooters landing 37 from 45 shots and it was difficult to do anything about the bolt shots delivered straight to her.

Whitney Sounness was not used but could have been used to spell Shadrock or Leota. Perhaps inserting impact players for a spell or two might have given the Firebirds something to think about and adjust to. Using the same seven gives the future opposition lots of information and makes the Pulse strategy predictable. However, undoubtedly the Firebirds are one of the toughest Australian sides so the decision to use the same seven was probably made with that in mind.

Kim Ravaillion and Verity Simmonds at centre court for the Firebirds played with flair. Simmonds fell on, and injured her wrist just before full time when she collided with Jolene Henry and appeared to be in considerable pain. Pulse redoubled their efforts and managed to add to their score but it was too late and the Firebirds coasted to a comfortable win.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Pulse falter while Magic sparkle

Mojo Pulse's abysmal result of 64-40 against the Melbourne Vixens yesterday at Margaret Court stadium in Melbourne was about the whole team.

While captain Katrina Grant played a sterling game, many Pulse senior players - and Pulse is the most experienced team in the league with eight players having over 50 ANZ matches - performed as nervous individuals.

The slickness and even the confidence in their own fitness exemplified in their pre-season game against the Vixens vanished. It is too easy to blame goalers for the result. The Pulse's first goal took nearly four minutes. Ameliaranne Wells was penalised for the shortest three seconds I have known which would not have settled nerves. But the centre court of Liana Leota, Joline Henry and Elias Shadrock have to take responsibility. As Sky commentator Sue Gaudion noted when Whitney Souness came on in the fourth quarter and attempted to deliver to the circle, better lead-ins were required. Although Souness's attempt was unsuccessful Gaudion applauded the effort which she thought was overdue. Souness's error rate was no worse than much more senior players and her circle edge approaches skilful. 

The Pulse should have been warned in pre-season play against the Southern Steel in Otaki. In their first quarter before recovering to comfortably take the game they were at one stage ten goals down. This is not the hallmark of an experienced and match-ready team and the Steel do not boast anything like the experience of the Pulse. The ANZ is a class competition. You cannot expect to run such deficits and win.

Henry needed to step up to the challenge of the Vixens' Madi Robinson who seemed to have the freedom of the court. Leota can feed adeptly but she was not up to the challenge yesterday. Part of the problem might have been Kate Moloney who was all over everything including Leota. Leota like many Pulse players projected weariness but standing tall against Moloney's incursions might have yielded the odd contact penalty.

Liz Watson, Moloney and Robinson as Vixens' centre, wing defence and wing attack were a formidable frontline. Perhaps this was an occasion to call on Henry as a centre, so that Shadrock could have utilised her effective wing defence skills. Perhaps Leota could have been relieved for at least a quarter (by Souness) to recover. Van Dyk too should have come on earlier, either with Jodi Brown (as actually occurred) or with Ameliaranne Wells, a combination which seemed to work in pre-season games. Coach Broughton does have options, but struggling players - experienced or otherwise - should not be left to flounder.

The Pulse's issue is not with goalers as such but with a whole team effort bringing the ball to the edge of the circle rather than throwing and hoping. At three quarter time the Pulse had only 37 attempts at goal compared with the Vixens 52. Shooters cannot perform without adequate ball supply. The Pulse did not pass swiftly enough, creating situations where circle entry became difficult if not impossible.

Van Dyk provided an excellent target for shooters but should resist the temptation to throw out again if not immediately underneath the posts as Geva Mentor and Bianca Chatfield are not to be toyed with. Neither were Tegan Philip, who was excellent as Vixens' goal attack - player of the match -  and Karyn Bailey as goal shooter. 

Positives to take from the weekend were:
  • Magic's victory over the Thunderbirds in Adelaide.
  • Magic's victory despite Casey Kopua's absence with a young team that had self belief
  • Magic's recipe of supporting each other and playing as a team.
  • Steel's youngish team performing well against highly favoured New South Wales Swifts 
  • For the Pulse Souness's debut was creditable, Katrina Grant defended skilfully and at least they got the score to 40.
  • The victory of Perth's Fever over more highly rated Queensland Firebirds. It all had to do with belief in each other and great team-work. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Pulse 52-45 prelims against Melbourne Vixens promising!

The Pulse performance tonight (Saturday) shows much promise for the season ahead with a fit Pulse contingent playing like a real team to secure a pre-season 52-45 win over the Melbourne Vixens.

Shining stars included Te Huinga Reo Selby Rickit as fit as I have ever seen her and at the opposite end of the court goal attack Ameliaranne Wells. Wells didn’t hesitate to take shots from distance with satisfying accuracy, combining well with Jodi Brown. A noticeable change in styles occurred once Irene van Dyk came on in the fourth quarter. The older shooters chose to throw the ball around more in the circle and outside of it. Within the circle though some of the catches by van Dyk were impressive.

Whitney Souness came on in the last quarter as centre and proved herself a player of real quality threading the needle with skill to pass into the circle. Elias Shadrock went from centre to wing defence, having the difficult task of filling Joline Henry’s fast and fiery shoes. Shadrock was a skilful and excellent defender. Liana Leota fed ball with precision and the Pulse’s teamwork and morale are obviously high.

The Vixens' Madi Robinson showed her skills in the centre court along with Kate Moloney. Geva Mentor skilfully intercepted and deflected Pulse passes. The primary issue for the Vixens was supply of ball to the shooters rather than accuracy. Karyn Bailey, Tegan Caldwell and in the fourth quarter, Carla Dziwoki usually found their targets apart from a couple of brief periods where shooters struggled.. Stringent Pulse defence all over the court made things difficult for the shooters.

The ASB sports centre crowd lifted the Pulse performance when things faltered in the third quarter, enabling the Pulse to spin out to their well deserved win.

Joline Henry happy in her game

Ameliaranne Wells is all concentration lining up the shot

Tegan Caldwell lining up her shot

Te Huinga Reo Selby Rickit attempts to deflect Caldwell's shot

Irene van Dyk happy to be shooting from under the post

Kate Moloney about to pass

Whitney Souness leaps high for the pass

Whitney Souness secures her pass

Monday, 26 May 2014

Mystics' amazing leap to form in ANZ Round 13

Northern Mystics' 63-51 victory over West Coast Fever at Trusts Arena in Auckland showed great team-work, inspirational and athletic defence and precision on attack.

Their performance was a shot in the arm for New Zealand netball after Magic's defeat by the Swifts and Pulse's embarrassing heavy loss to the Queensland Firebirds.

Although Mystics were slow to start, down 15-17 at the first quarter, new starting combinations such as Temilisi Fakahokotau and Julie Corletto on defence and Bailey Mes at wing attack teamed with centre Laura Langman and wing defence Anna Harrison, provided fast-moving and often technically astute play.

Cathrin Latu's accuracy was at last reinforced by volume. Latu shot 39 from 43 attempts with captain Maria Tutaia scoring 24 from 35. Latu was irresistibly all brilliant technique and precision enabling herself to receive shots by leaps, precise turns, sure hands and brilliant athleticism. Pulse and Magic could learn a lot from her play and that of the centre court who managed to infiltrate defences of classy players like Shae Bolton at wing defence and Eboni Beckford Chambers in the circle. Bailey Mes was a strongly defensive wing attack picking up ball with dexterity and finding circle edge while Laura Langman provided some beautiful aerial and rapid passages of play both defensively and on attack. Langman's form is decisively back!

Fakahokotau's speed and ability to read the game and  pluck intercepts was stunning, paired with the competent Corletto. No wonder Fakahokotau is attending sessions with the Silver Ferns trialists. With Harrison's help,  Caitlin Bassett and Natalie Medhurst faced formidable defence and Medhurst was removed at three-quarter time.

Captain Maria Tutaia celebrating her hundredth game took shots from anywhere in the goal circle. Magic and Pulse have good reason to rue not having done the same thing this week. Pulse particularly need to turn and shoot.

National selector Wai Taumaunu must have been thrilled with what was put out on court last night which shows such promising combinations and technique from both experienced and younger players bearing fruit at last!