OPINION: Good on the Central Pulse.
They've spent plenty of time being mocked, criticised and soundly thrashed over the years but, through it all, the women in that team have continued to try and continued to believe that one day things would get better.
The Pulse still aren't the best team in the trans-Tasman netball league. Not by a distance.
But in beating the Canterbury Tactix 50-45, at a sold out Te Rauparaha Arena, the Pulse showed that they are a team worthy of respect.
Last Sunday's 58-32 loss to the Queensland Firebirds was as grim as any in the team's four and a bit years in this competition. That they picked themselves up and won in some style, in front of 2302 ecstatic fans, is a great credit to them all.
They're not the finished article and their next opponents, the Northern Mystics, probably slept pretty soundly last night. But, with two wins in four starts this season, the Pulse are genuinely competitive.
Seventh on competition table might not sound too high, but only the Mystics, Adelaide Thunderbirds and unbeaten Melbourne Vixens can now boast a superior win-loss record.
There had been no doubts about the quality of the Pulse's defensive players, in their opening three matches. Their attack end had been a concern, however.
Thanks to a truly outstanding performance from goal shoot Caitlin Thwaites, those worries eased for a night. Thwaites shot 38 from 40, to compensate for another quiet performance from goal attack Paula Griffin (12 from 16).
"Caity [Thwaites], she definitely stepped up. She stayed really strong, got rebounds, shot amazingly, so I'm pretty happy with that," captain Katrina Grant said.
"Tonight was probably one of her best performances. She stood up and took charge in that attacking end and did the business."
At the other end, Grant and defensive circle partner Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit were also having games to remember. The pressure they put on the Tactix shooters and the rebounds they snaffled, were a big reason why the Pulse were able to prevail.
As was the second quarter introduction of Daya Wiffen, at centre.
Having squandered an early lead, the Pulse were looking flat when Tactix wing defence Finau Pulu went down with an eye injury. Coach Robyn Broughton used the time out to introduce Wiffen and, from 20-16 down, the Pulse suddenly led 27-22 at halftime.
They never relinquished control after that, although Broughton would like to have seen her players be more clinical.
"A win's a win but we were nine up with not too many minutes to go, so we still have to learn to protect a lead," Broughton said.
Ever the taskmaster, for Broughton there remain too many ebbs and flows in the team's performances.
But she took great heart from the way people like Grant, Selby-Rickit and Thwaites made sure the Pulse had the better of the match's most critical moments. Roll on Sunday's clash with the Mystics in Palmerston North, then.
"You've just got to play with a lot of tenacity against the Mystics and you've got keep coming at them, coming at them, coming at them, because they wear you down," Broughton said of the keys to a result at Arena Manawatu.
"We're not really that good at wearing people down, so we need to learn to do that."
- The Dominion Post
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