My daughter gave me tickets to the Monday night Round 8 Pulse v Thunderbirds game, and it was riveting and fantastic. The curtain raiser showed some proficient netball skills with Tu Toa's aerial performance. However, I have never seen the Pulse play with such commitment, deft teamwork and flair.
Centre Jolene Henry led the charge in the centre, along with Camilla Lees (WA) and Katarina Cooper (WD). Henry is an outstanding defender, and the combined efforts of her centre court managed to supply a good flow of ball into the shooting circle. Depth of defence then transformed into tenacious attack, both from the circle perimeter, and even chancy 'long bombs'.
The defensive Te Huinga Selby Rickett and Katrina Grant also showed verve and precision timing, picking up some great ball and intercepts. Grant as usual was sparking on all cylinders, cutting Carla Borrego's shooting scores right down. Erin Bell however, managed to maintain good shooting percentages. However ball supply to the shooters from the usually high-scoring Thunderbirds' midcourt was diminished, despite the skilful play of Natalie von Bertouch.
The second quarter saw a few more sparks. As a spectator within a particularly noisy area of the crowd, we were surprised to see Henry penalised for trying to pass, when Renae Hallinan seemed to directly contact her. This fired up our section of the audience anyway into a very partisan group. The noise was so great it was too hard to tell if that feeling was general, but watching Sky later, perhaps it was.
In the goal circle Caitlin Thwaites was a deft, cool and composed shooter with class, who dodged and evaded the excellent defence from Rebecca Bulley and Sharni Layton. Paula Griffin grew as the game developed. Goal attack is not all about shooting, and Griffin was adept at making and shaping play in the circle with energy and confidence. She consolidated on this vigorous and sustained performance with accurate shooting during the final quarter. Her play was a joy to watch. Well done Paula Griffin!
There were a few silly errors from which no-one on the Court was exempt (except perhaps Grant). But the teamwork was there, with intuitive, deft play and excellent timing. In the last quarter Henry reverted to wing defence, but the strong legacy of her centre play persisted. The Pulse went on to win in the tightest of time margins 47-46. The crowd erupted with joy and stood and high fived and hugged!
Being in the crowd that night was something I'll never forget. The atmosphere was building as the crowd willed all the Pulse players to achieve the potential of which they've always been capable. We roared our encouragement, and they responded with skill, energy and precision. Thanks so much to the team and Robyn Broughton for providing an electrifying and marvellous night out.
Postscript: My daughter handed me the ticket for the match above remarking that the Pulse v Magic game was sold out (and we know who won that.). But any team in the competition would be delighted to achieve what the Pulse managed to do on Monday night!