Karyn Howarth's learning curve was steep enough before Anna Harrison chose to torment the trans-Tasman netball competition newcomer with a defensive strategy even a seasoned campaigner would struggle to combat.
So it's no surprise the Melbourne Vixens goal shoot is relieved the Northern Mystics are already thinking about next year, and not preparing for tomorrow's grand final at the Hisense Arena.
“The good old chairlift,” she said, laughing.
Howarth can smile about it now but, when Harrison was hoisted by her defensive partner - rugby lineout style - to bat away net-bound shots when the teams first met in May, it was a far from uplifting experience.
The Silver Ferns defender successfully deflected Howarth's attempts twice, her confidence suffered as a result and the Mystics won the round-robin contest by five goals.
“I'm looking forward to fact we're not playing the Mystics for that reason alone,” she said.
Not that Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin will give the late developer an armchair ride as the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic strive to become the first New Zealand franchise to win the ANZ Championship.
“While the Magic don't do the chairlift, they've still got players with a huge jump and long reach,” Howarth admitted.
Howarth, who had to wait until the fifth edition of the championship before she was added to a roster, also fell victim to Harrison's extra height advantage in the major semifinal on July 8, though the tactic was responsible for only one of her six misses in a difficult opening half.
Nerves were actually her biggest obstacle before the Vixens eventually took the direct route to the title decider and, at halftime, Howarth feared the GS bib could be transferred to 16-cap Australian international Kate Beveridge.
Instead Julie Hoornweg and her assistant, Eloise Southby-Halbish, kept faith in the 25-year-old rookie - and the duo were vindicated when Howarth recovered to become the match's most prolific shooter ahead of Cathrine Latu, Maria Tutaia and team-mate Tegan Caldwell.
- © Fairfax NZ News