Central Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie remains confident the trans-Tasman netball league strugglers can finally pose a threat after honing her combinations during a barren run at the final pre-tournament warm-up competition.
The remodelled Pulse occupied a familiar position as Queensland Firebirds were crowned Netball Cup champions today, finishing seventh and last with a 0-6 win-loss record.
However, on a positive note the Pulse, who have finished bottom in both editions of the ANZ Championship, pushed higher rated teams hard during a quickfire series of 40-minute matches.
They suffered one-goal losses to Adelaide Thunderbirds and Melbourne Vixens yesterday and twice battled back from adversity to pressure the international-laden NSW Swifts and unbeaten Firebirds today before losing 25-28 and 31-38.
After conceding nine unanswered goals to the Swifts, the Pulse dominated the final quarter 10-2 as Silver Fern Paula Griffin and rookie shooter Te Amo Amaru-Tibble instigated an unlikely fight back.
"We believe we're capable of competing really well this season," McCausland-Durie said as new recruits Jane Altschwager and Silver Ferns defender Katrina Grant continued to build a rapport with their teammates.
"They've come with a real purpose of making a difference, it's a different psyche to coming just for game time and to look after themselves.
McCausland-Durie and Southern Steel counterpart Robyn Broughton were not overly concerned at the results.
The Steel won two then lost three and had a draw with the Vixens.
The priority was to bed in combinations and also trial new players in a bid to improve their depth before the championship starts on March 20.
"We've been able to play a range of options and all of them have handled it," McCausland-Durie said.
"They've all learned something, especially in terms of the Australian style of play."
McCausland-Durie had no option but to test her defensive resources after Grant missed the final match as she struggled to shake a chest infection.
That left Bessie Manu with the unenviable task of keeping Jamaican goal shoot Romelda Aitken in check, a tall order although Aitken's accuracy rate was a lower than usual 73 per cent.
The Pulse shot a superior 86 percent to the Firebirds 73 percent but the winners put up 21 more attempts as the Wellington-based franchise paid for a high turnover count.
"Scoring off our centre pass was a focus this weekend and it's been a bit marginal," McCausland-Durie said.
The Steel ended their tournament with a heavy 24-37 loss to the Firebirds, with the long-limbed Aitken in sublime touch under the hoop as she missing just two of 21 attempts.
Broughton also had problems in the attacking circle after leading shooter Daneka Wipiiti withdrew after copping a heavy knock in the second quarter, an act indicative of a hustling Queensland defence that saw the Steel hit just 67 per cent of their goal attempts.
Although Wipiiti had mixed results before her injury, Broughton was confident her prime attacking weapon was getting back into the groove after giving birth in December.
"She's still got her shooting eye, we just have to get her in the right physical shape," she said.
Who should play goal shoot for the Silver Ferns?