Signs point to Thwaite's return to the Pulse

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 27/10/2012
Caitlin Thwaite
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
FLYING START: Caitlin Thwaites shot 23 from 23 on debut for the Australian Diamonds as they beat South Africa 68-36 in Wellington.

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Australian coach Lisa Alexander has dropped the best hint yet that goal shoot Caitlin Thwaites will return to the Central Pulse next year.

Alexander handed the 25-year-old Thwaites her test debut on Thursday night on a TSB Bank Arena court that the Pulse often call home.

Thwaites' halftime introduction against South Africa was greeted with hearty applause by the 3400-strong crowd and their admiration wasn't lost on Alexander.

The Diamonds coach has made plain her desire for Thwaites to sign with an Australian franchise after two seasons at the Pulse. But there was a resignation to her answer when asked where the goal shoot might end up next year.

"I think she's going to play here, by the sound of the crowd.

"I think they're attracting her here," Alexander said, before adopting a more serious tone.

"I mean, we've talked about it a lot.

"We'd love her to be in Australia but we understand it's a professional game now and we've just got to work with what she decides."

Other than the retention of coach Robyn Broughton, the Pulse have not announced any signings for next year. The protracted negotiations between Trans-Tasman Netball League Ltd, Netball New Zealand, the New Zealand Netball Players Association and the five New Zealand franchises over a new collective agreement have seen to that.

As well, the Silver Ferns players have not been allowed to negotiate with their franchises during the Quad Series. That finishes on Thursday night, giving the franchises until the following Monday to name squads of 12 to 14 players.

In the Pulse's case, their desire has been to confirm the signing of captain and Silver Fern Katrina Grant first and they won't deviate from that. Or speculate on the likelihood that Thwaites might return.

"No, it is important that we send a consistent message," Pulse chairman Ian Collier said.

"That message is that we're committed to signing our captain and announcing that, as we said we would. Nothing's changed."

Collier was also adamant none of the franchise's other prospective targets were becoming anxious about the lack of activity.

"I don't sense any shift in the level of confidence that the players have in the franchise and what we're doing to secure them," he said.

For that reason, Collier believes he and the franchise's management will unveil a squad on November 5 which can challenge for the trans-Tasman league title, despite the challenge created by waiting for Grant to sign.

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"Our principal focus is to ensure that we deliver the team that the coach is asking for and is entitled to and one that is competitive and that delivers both on and off the court," he said.

On top of securing Grant late next week, the franchise is also expected to confirm Haier has agreed terms to a new deal as naming rights sponsor.

- Wellington

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