Pulse must push for playoffs
It's entirely conceivable that the Central Pulse won't win a game for the rest of the trans-Tasman netball league season.
If pretty much everything went right in their campaign, then sixth would've been a very respectable finish. The Pulse are seventh and after tomorrow night's clash with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Tauranga, they have a bye before hosting the Melbourne Vixens and playing the West Coast Fever in Perth.
The one thing, and it truly is one thing, that gives you optimism about their chances of winning again, is that they beat the Adelaide Thunderbirds three rounds ago. Otherwise the Pulse's season has run to its anticipated course.
They are better than the Southern Steel and Canterbury Tactix and have a brace of wins against both to prove it. The rest of the time, bar the Thunderbirds, the teams that are better than the Pulse have beaten them.
There are two echelons in this competition and, for the time being, the Pulse remain in the bottom sector. If they can muster a win over the Magic, then that might change.
Having not recorded a victory until round five, the Magic have won five on the trot.
They beat the Pulse 56-46 along the way and might have won by 15 or 20 goals had they shown a more ruthless streak.
But the Magic remain, along with the New South Wales Swifts, Queensland Firebirds, Thunderbirds, Northern Mystics and Vixens, in a class that's above the rest. The Steel, Fever and Tactix can all play well for periods, but simply don't have the ability to sustain it over 60 minutes.
Which kind of leaves the Pulse in a little group of their own.
They're clearly not an also-ran and even looked a team of genuine quality in beating the Thunderbirds. But they were also embarrassed by the Firebirds and Magic and faded badly in close losses to the Mystics (twice) and Swifts.
All of those defeats came before Joline Henry's move from wing defence to centre and the Pulse have been a better team since.
But they're a tired team too and coach Robyn Broughton kept court time to an absolute minimum this week, in an effort to coax one last big performance from her players ahead of the bye.
Despite the fatigue and a ready acknowledgement that her team "played badly" in the last Magic clash, Broughton feels confident ahead of this one. "I can tell from how much effort's gone in at training and how few mistakes they're making – that's really improved. They're hard on themselves now, which is what I like to see."
The fact that both teams still have a mathematical chance of making the semifinals should make for a lively match, she said.
In tomorrow's other games, Thunderbirds and Firebirds meet in Adelaide, before the Fever host the Swifts. The Mystics are at home to the Steel on Monday night, while the Vixens and Tactix have the bye.
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: Trans-Tasman netball league round 11
Who: Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic v Central Pulse
Where and when: TECT Arena, Tauranga and Sky Sport 2, 7.20pm tomorrow
Magic (from): Leana de Bruin, Casey Williams, Elias Shadrock, Laura Langman (c), Khao Watts, Julianna Naoupu, Irene van Dyk, Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, Jessica Tuki, Jess Waitapu.
Pulse (from): Katrina Grant (c), Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Katarina Cooper, Joline Henry, Camilla Lees, Paula Griffin, Caitlin Thwaites, Victoria Smith, Daya Wiffen, Ngarama Milner-Olsen, Jamilah Gupwell, Amber Bellringer
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The Dominion Post