Tactix shooter Ellen Halpenny is keeping her feet firmly on the ground this week, realising she has yet to face the best defenders in netball's trans-Tasman league.
The 19-year-old netballer stood up to her first challenge in the ANZ Championship, helping the Tactix to a first-round victory over the Central Pulse earlier this week.
The new-look red-and-black unit was expected to come under scrutiny in the shooting circle after the loss of former Silver Fern Jodi Brown.
Brown's departure opened the door for Halpenny, who spent much of her first two championship seasons on the Tactix bench.
"I know that this is my opportunity," the teenager said.
With that comes more pressure to perform.
However, Halpenny, who has been playing as a shooter since she was seven, is not shying away from the responsibility.
"Shooters love the pressure; we wouldn't shoot otherwise," Halpenny said.
"For those that know me though, they would have seen that I was really nervous, especially in those first quarters," she said about the opening game against the Pulse. "It took me a while to settle in.
"But it was just such a good team effort, and we probably proved a few critics wrong," she said.
The players hope to do more of the same on Monday night when the Tactix head to Perth to play the West Coast Fever, who boast one of the tallest defenders in the game – 1.96-metre goal-keep Susan Fuhrmann.
"I haven't played a defender that tall before, but she's just like anyone else, just a bit taller," Halpenny said.
"It's just another defender, another player in a dress that you've got to play against.
"There are some great defenders in this competition, like Sonia [Mkoloma], Geva [Mentor] and Mo'onia [Gerrard], who will be exciting but tough to play against."
The physical aspect of the high-level league has not been lost on Halpenny, who is expecting it to be "full-on" throughout the competition.
"You've definitely got to hold your own in the circle," Halpenny said.
"I remember my first NPC [national championship] training and they were holding my hand, holding me back; all those sneaky things that happen in the circle.
"You think you've got your space and then you get nudged out, so you've got to stand up in there," she said.
Halpenny knows consistency will be key to a season where she hopes to cement her spot in the playing seven, and also earn a place on the national under-21 tour to Canberra in July.
"I still have to prove myself at every training," she said.
"Nothing is a certainty at this level and the bib is not just going to be given to me."
Coach Helen Mahon-Stroud said it was pleasing to see some of last season's bench players step up in the season opener, including Halpenny.
"They've been progressive in their development; they've been within the training environment and they've developed over those couple of years," Mahon-Stroud said.
"If we talk about Ellen Halpenny, she's had two years on the bench and now she has an opportunity to really stake her claim in the shooting circle and she certainly did that [against the Pulse]."
Age: 19. Birthplace: Napier. Height: 1.85m. Positions: GS, GA.ANZ CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY Tactix: 2008-2010. Current national squad: NZ under-21
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