Central Pulse coach Robyn Broughton made no attempt to mask her side's deficiencies after an opportunity to record a historic ANZ Championship victory in Australia against the out-of-sorts defending champions culminated in a 58-32 hammering in Brisbane yesterday.
Supposedly vulnerable after starting their title defence with back-to-back losses, the Queensland Firebirds finally reproduced glimpses of the form that propelled them to their inaugural title by dominating the Pulse across the court at the Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre.
The Firebirds were in control throughout despite a wayward beginning by marquee import Romelda Aiken, whose yips under the hoop were unfortunately mirrored by Silver Ferns shooter Paula Griffin.
The ineffectual goal attack was finally dragged by Broughton at halftime when the Firebirds led by 13, a move which spared her more suffering at the hands of a physical defensive unit headed by Australian international Laura Geitz.
Griffin missed six of eight attempts in the first quarter and finally exited with an unflattering analysis of four from 12. "We were really poor in our shooting stats and that had a huge influence on the game," Broughton said.
In hindsight the veteran coach conceded she might have replaced Griffin before the main break, but opted to persevere. "I thought she'd pick up. She'd be disappointed in her stats; they haven't been good."
Griffin's accuracy has been a concern since the opening round loss to the Northern Mystics where she scored 15/24. The Pulse's win over the Southern Steel in the previous round was also achieved despite her missing eight of her 26 attempts.
"She probably thought there were a few calls she would have got, over-the-ball-type stuff, but she has to get over that," said Broughton when appraising Griffin's latest contribution.
Collectively the Pulse failed to get to grips with the Firebirds' abrasive approach, despite the man-on-man-style defence being employed by the Australian franchises since the competition began in 2008. "It was much more physical than we are used to. It was relentless man-to-man [marking] and we have to get used to it," Broughton said.
Griffin's opening quarter jitters were arguably eclipsed by Aiken, the competition's most prolific goal-scorer in 2011. The normally dead-eye Jamaican produced a bizarre sequence of four consecutive misses in her prime position under the post to baffle the crowd, her team-mates, coach Roselee Jencke – and herself.
She was so frazzled by her inaccuracy she turned down one usually straightforward attempt in a bid to get into an even better position – then missed anyway.
Aiken was astray with seven attempts before quarter time but the Pulse were unable to take advantage because Griffin was experiencing her own horrors under the hoop and offered little tactical support to Australian import Caitlin Thwaites.
Natalie Medhurst compensated for Aiken's initial sloppiness, the international landing 20 of her 22 attempts.
Aiken atoned to lead the scorers with 38 from 48, missing just three more shots.
Pulse debutante Katarina Cooper endured a tough initiation at wing attack, an error-ridden opening half blighted by five turnovers.
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- © Fairfax NZ News
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