Harby-Williams: NZ needs to cut a netball team
It's a new season but the same old story as the New Zealand teams competing in the trans-Tasman netball competition struggle to record a win over the ditch.
With the competition moving into round seven and the midpoint of the regular season, none of the five Kiwi teams have managed to win in Australia.
As hard as it may be, it seems the time might have come to listen to the Aussies.
In 2010 as the competition entered its third season, then Australian coach Norma Plummer called for New Zealand to cut a team.
Now, with the Kiwi teams still struggling, former Diamonds captain Kathryn Harby-Williams is singing the same tune.
"I think in New Zealand you need four sides. [To cut one side] is hard to do and people will dislike that but over time if those four teams then become successful then people will forget about the heartache that occurred making that transition," said the former goal and wing defence.
"This is the fifth year and you really need a New Zealand side to win this competition."
Harby-Williams, who now lives in New Zealand and is part of Sky's netball commentary team, said travel can no longer be used as an excuse.
"That travel aspect, they still for some reason or another can't cope with that.
"A lot of those players have come across those hurdles before but it's still happening, you can't use it as an excuse. Going from Auckland to Invercargill is almost no different than going from Auckland to Sydney."
The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic have come closest to breaking the drought, losing to the top-of-the-table Vixens in Melbourne by a solitary point. But the Mystics 13-point hiding at the hands of the Queensland Firebirds last weekend has Harby-Williams mystified.
"It always comes down to depth, there are a lot of issues and some teams have been in form and others out of form. But you look at the Mystics who have been having a good run then they head over to Australia and they get annihilated against the Firebirds.
"They've got a lot of Silver Ferns in their side and they headed to Brisbane to play a team that has been struggling for form, they would have been confident going into that game but they just couldn't perform. I don't think it's a mental thing, I don't know what it is."
The Mystics, Magic, Central Pulse, Canterbury Tactix and Southern Steel are a collective zero from seven this season when playing across the Tasman, while the Australian teams have managed three wins from six games in New Zealand.
With the business end of the season approaching and four out of the top five teams currently Australian, it would seem the team who can break the hoodoo has the greatest chance of becoming the first New Zealand side to win the championship.
While the Vixens are currently the only unbeaten team in the competition, Harby-Williams is just "waiting for their bubble to burst" and expects the Firebirds and Adelaide Thunderbirds to thrive in the second half of the season.
Despite the Mystics drubbing in Queensland, Harby-Williams still backs them as the New Zealand team most capable of winning the title.
"The Mystics have to be up there because of their talent base but I think if they're to make the top four they need the finals here [in Auckland] to give them a chance. They can still win in Australia because they've got the talent but they don't do it all that regularly.
"But all you need is one good game [in a finals situation] and they've got the players who can put in that kind of performance."