Central Pulse ready to up the tempo

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012
Katrina Grant
Photosport
KATRINA GRANT: Leading from the front for the Central Pulse.

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With so many confusing, even frightening, things happening in the world, there's some comfort to be gained from knowing that certain things will never change.

Water will be wet, the sky will be blue and the Central Pulse will forever be the worst franchise in New Zealand sport.

Haemorrhaging goals on the court, and money off it, the Pulse were beyond an embarrassment. They were so bad, in fact, that it felt cruel to be critical of them.

But at least you could be sure that if you were horrible about them, it would never come back to bite you.

Only, to the astonishment of many, everything did improve. Debts started to be re-paid, better players recruited and the odd person in the Pulse organisation was even prepared to concede that they hadn't been doing a very good job.

How doing those things hadn't occurred to anyone sooner, is hard to imagine. Thankfully they eventually did.

Progress wasn't marked. By the end of the the Pulse's third season they'd still only ever won two games and were still hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red.

Last year it was three wins, this year five. In 2013, the team are already talking about making the trans-Tasman Netball League playoffs for the first time.

Ian Collier has been on the Pulse's board for just over two years and became chairman when Nigel Kirkpatrick walked the plank 11 months ago.

Collier will definitely leave the organisation in better shape than he found it. But he won't take any credit for it and doesn't believe his emergence on the board coincided with the Pulse becoming a credible outfit.

"I'm not interested, really, in examining the history - rather learning from it," Collier said.

"I'm interested in ensuring that what we say we will do, we do."

The compiling of next year's squad is indicative of that. Six internationals, plus wider Silver Ferns squad member Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, will occupy the seven starting berths, giving the Pulse their first genuinely competitive line-up yet.

Assembling the team wasn't easy, given Collier's insistence that Grant had to be the player that was signed first. It gave the franchise just four days to secure the remaining 11 players, but Collier never considered budging on the commitment he'd made to Grant.

"Katrina is incredibly passionate and loyal - and has been loyal - to the franchise and it was important to send that signal back and to show her the respect that she's earned and deserved," he said. "There's a balance between driving a franchise as a business and recognising that that business comes from the grassroots and has a loyal and passionate base of supporters. Those supporters deserve to know what's going to happen and then expect it to happen. It's important for us to deliver on our promises."

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Collier made a similar pledge to coach Robyn Broughton. By the time she was named to succeed Yvette McCausland-Durie last year, the bulk of the 2012 squad had been signed.

Broughton was expected to make do, but told she would get the squad she wanted for next year.

The fact that that's now happened, isn't remarkable in itself. But, then, having ambition and fulfilling promises haven't, until recently, been hallmarks of the Pulse.

In Grant, Joline Henry, Liana Leota and Donna Wilkins, the Pulse will have four absolutely world-class players. Others like Caitlin Thwaites, Camilla Lees and Selby-Rickit are striving to get into that bracket.

It's the support cast, though, that determines your real strength. Paula Griffin, Amber Bellringer, Daya Wiffen and Victoria Smith have all been starting players in previous seasons and will be fine fill-ins when required.

Without wanting to upset anyone, by naming names, many of the bench players from seasons of yore were not remotely up to trans-Tasman level.

"It's our time to shine," Grant said. "We've been building and building and I'm hoping 2013 is the year that we've built enough to take the big step and move into the semifinals."

2008 Wins: 0 Losses: 12. One no-result Finishing position: Last

2009 Wins: 1 Losses: 12 Finishing position: Last

2010 Wins: 1 Losses: 12 Finishing poistion: Second-last

2011 Wins: 3 Losses: 10 Finishing position: Eighth

2012 Wins: 5 Losses: 8 Finishing position: Seventh

- The Dominion Post

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