Looking good on paper didn't make much difference on the court for the Central Pulse in their trans-Tasman Netball League opener.
Bolstered by the off-season signings of former Southern Steel stars Donna Wilkins and Liana Leota, the Pulse have been talked up as one of the teams to watch in this year's competition.
Well, on the strength of this afternoon's 49-42 loss to the Adelaide Thunderbirds, that talk was pretty cheap.
Having been up by five goals during the second quarter the Pulse lost all momentum, following a Thunderbirds, time-out and never regained it.
The slick early combination between Leota and Millie Lees in the midcourt and shooters Wilkins and Caitlin Thwaites quickly became ragged and the Thunderbirds basically did as they pleased.
The Pulse have had a limited pre-season and the connection to the shooting circle will only improve. But that'll need to happen quickly if the Pulse want to be a creditable force this year.
The hometown umpiring in Adelaide didn't aid the visitors' cause, although good teams find a way to rise above that. The Pulse certainly weren't poor in this match, but they were hardly outstanding either.
They will get better though, particularly once defender Joline Henry is fit. Aside from simply being a formidable player, Henry would've helped keep the umpires honest and probably tickled up a few of the Thunderbirds as well.
Sometimes you have to knock a few opposition players over and Henry has no problem doing that.
Without that sort of physical presence at the Pulse's defensive end, the Thunderbirds had few problems feeding shooters Carla Borrego and Erin Bell. The latter began a little shakily, but soon had her percentages up despite the best efforts of circle defenders Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.
Down by 10 goals, come the start of the fourth quarter, the Pulse did manage a late rally, as desperation took hold. But wasn't enough to make up for a poor 20 minutes in the middle of the match.
Their next match is at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena on Easter Monday, against the Queensland Firebirds.
- Fairfax Media