Vixens target Canterbury Tactix' Jo Harten
If there's one thing Australian Sharelle McMahon knows it's how to play in netball's attacking circle.
So when McMahon, arguably the world's best, heaps praise on a young shooter, it's usually a good thing. But not this time, not for Canterbury Tactix goal shoot Jo Harten.
McMahon said the way English import Harten performed against the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic was "exceptional" and while that praise is likely to be welcomed and is deserved, it's also going to mean special treatment on Monday when Harten's Tactix meet the Melbourne Vixens at CBS Canterbury Arena.
McMahon is on pregnancy leave, but is working with the Vixens in a technical capacity.
She scouts the side the Vixens are playing next before reporting back with the side's strengths and weaknesses. A large part of her side's focus this week, she said, was how to shut down Harten and the three-pronged feeding combination the Tactix used to good effect (albeit in a losing cause) against the Magic on Monday.
"I thought the way Jo Harten stood up and played was exceptional," the Diamonds captain said.
"Especially against Casey [Williams] and Leana [de Bruin]."
While McMahon was sheepish about giving away her side's tactics to beat the Tactix, she did say the key to the red and blacks' success was the feeders and the way Anna Thompson worked so well at the top of the circle.
While the Magic struggled to do anything about it, the Vixens will surely do a better job and their defensive pairing of Julie Corletto and Geva Mentor will be more mobile than the Magic's was.
McMahon said her side had also spent plenty of time working out the best way to shut down the Tactix shorter defensive end.
"The way [Bessie] Manu went against [Irene] van Dyk conceding that much height was good," she said.
"They move well, they're physical, they put a lot of pressure on and it's a style we're perhaps not that used to."
McMahon said the way the Tactix' defenders came out for intercept ball was unpredictable and something her side had to keep in their backs of their minds.
"They come for balls we really wouldn't expect them to."
The Vixens are unbeaten and on top of the ANZ Championship ladder after five rounds, but they've been far from their best.
A last-second goal a week ago against the Queensland Firebirds gave the Vixens their only lead of the match and a week before that they completed a similar comeback to pip the Magic too.
McMahon said the message for the Vixens this week had been pretty simple and along the lines of, "how about we start this week like we've finished the last two weeks".
"It's obviously easier said than done to play like that for the whole game, but the girls know they need to start better.
"But you don't want to be playing your best netball in the sixth round because it's hard to sustain and this is a tough competition."