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!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Taking things to the brink - Adelaide Thunderbirds v Pulse

Last night's Pulse v Adelaide Thunderbirds game took things to the very brink, and not just the scoreline 45-44 victory to the Thunderbirds.

The game was fast, physical and thrilling despite brilliant defence from both sides. Pulse newcomer Elias Shadrock coped amazingly well with the speed and physicality of the game. Less fortunate was Irene van Dyk whose opposition in Rebecca Bulley and Kate Shimmin rode, bumped and restricted her and Donna Wilkins. It was not a case of a holding goal shoot but holding defenders keeping shooters at bay. Although penalised sometimes, Shimmin continued to cannon into van Dyk and took her body space. Shimmin's intercepts though were stunning and skilful.

Renee Hallinan, Leigh Waddington and Andrea Gilmore for the Thunderbirds' centre court were deft and fast, and the mighty Carla Borrego a real scoring machine capably assisted by Erin Bell.

The Pulse's Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit achieved some clever intercepts, especially considering the difficulties of covering a really tall holding shooter like Borrego, and Bell who has the ability to shoot from distance. Wilkins and Jolene Henry fronted up to the aggression meted out and gave as good as they got, and Camilla Lees tentative at first, was a capable wing attack. Surprisingly experienced Pulse players started out with early unforced errors, when they could have consolidated leads. Van Dyk was unlucky that her goal in the last 70 seconds was not counted as the timing seemed marginal, but more precision and certainty on attack is something the Pulse must work on.

The Pulse'e early tactic of having van Dyk out of the circle and Wilkins within, worked well at first in keeping the Thunderbirds guessing (along probably with many of the crowd at Te Rauparaha).

The Pulse has come a long way, but they need to prove their mettle to themselves as much as anyone.

But did this game represent another step towards a holding, blocking game. Is that the way netball's going?