Diamonds hint at lifting tricks of their own
World champions Australia are apparently toying with an offensive ploy that mimics the rugby lifting manoeuvre showcased by the Northern Mystics defenders in this year's trans-Tasman netball championship.
Anna Harrison provided one of the enduring images of the title race - won by the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic - when she was hoisted by her defensive partner to bat away net-bound attempts by the Melbourne Vixens shooter Karyn Howarth during their regular season clash in May.
The technique propelled netball coverage to new heights and the opening test of the three-match Constellation Cup series in Melbourne on Sunday might be the forum for shooter's to exact revenge.
Australian coach Lisa Alexander has added an element of intrigue to the build-up for first clash between the world's leading netball nations in 2012 by suggesting her shooting duo could incorporate the "chairlift" into their attacking strategies.
"There could be some surprises out there, you never know. There could be a lift in the attack end,'' revealed Alexander, who said innovations were required to counter much-improved defensive alignments.
"People are really playing defence and playing it well, so now we've got to have a bit of a breakthrough with our attacking play,'' Alexander told Fairfax Media.
"So we've got a few plans in place for that, for the 'Aussie style', I guess, that we're looking at, and we're really looking at defining ourselves quite differently to New Zealand."
Alexander, who succeeded Norma Plummer after Australia won the 2011 world championships in Singapore by beating New Zealand in extra time, hinted Catherine Cox, Caitlin Bassett, Natalie Medhurst, Susan Pratley and Erin Bell had been giving each other a lift during training camps.
"It could have been practised at the Australian Institute of Sport. It could have been practised at Australian squad training.
"It's within the rules, we can do it, as long as we're not interfering with anybody else."
Bassett, who broke the Silver Ferns heats by sinking the world championship-winning goal, played along with her coach by not ruling out giving Cox a boost, or vice-versa.
"Why not? Why can't I lift Cath," the 1.92-metre goal shoot asked.
"I might surprise her and decide to lift her in the game, you never know. I'll make sure I tell her to keep on her toes and not eat so much before the game just in case," she laughed after the Australian squad trained yesterday.
Bassett was never subjected to the "Harrison hoist" during the trans-Tasman league and doubted the Silver Ferns would employ it although Harrison and her lifter Kayla Cullen should see court time at Hisense Arena - although Cullen is likely to feature in the midcourt, not the goal circle.
"It was fantastic to see our game evolving," Bassett said.
"It brought a lot of attention to the game but we'll have to wait and see if they bust it out there. I haven't seen it used much since (the Mystics played the Vixens)."
The Silver Ferns arrived in Melbourne yesterday as Australian debutant-in-waiting Ashleigh Brazill returned to Perth to nurse a pre-existing knee injury.
Midcourter Brazill's international debut was put on ice although she could be available for next month's Quad Series featuring the trans-Tasman rivals, England and South Africa.
"It's extremely disappointing, especially actually being here in camp and not knowing how my knee would hold up," she said.
"I think I've made the right decision, though it's hard to accept now, to take the extra time and get myself right."
"It's really disappointing because everyone was excited about her making her international debut but it will come, we just need to get this right first," added Alexander.
Brazill has been replaced in the 15-member squad by 26-test veteran Renae Hallinan although it could be a short-term arrangement as Alexander trims her group to 12 after training tomorrow.