Central Pulse goal attack Donna Wilkins might have been "battered" by Northern Mystics defender Julie Corletto but, thankfully, she isn't broken.
The ferocity of the head-to-head confrontation between Wilkins and Corletto was a feature of the Pulse's 63-48 win over the Mystics. It, largely, looked like one-way traffic, as Corletto caused collision after collision and Wilkins did her best to stay upright.
Late in the game it looked like one bump might have caused a break to the knuckle Wilkins broke last year, while playing for the Southern Steel.
"She said it was the same pain and said 'please God, no'. But we've had it checked out and it's not broken, just bruised," relieved Pulse coach Robyn Broughton said yesterday.
Corletto is known for her hard man-on defence, as many Australians are, and the way she played on Monday added credence to the suggestion that if you take out Wilkins, then you eliminate her team too.
Wilkins didn't look overjoyed by Corletto's extra attention, but at least she didn't yield to it.
"Somebody, when I was walking out [of Te Rauparaha Arena] said 'she is like the Richie McCaw of netball, because no matter how hard she's battered she just keeps going'," said Broughton.
The coach thought Corletto, effectively, eliminated herself from the game by being so focused on Wilkins, although she understands why the Mystics employed the tactic.
"They're going to pick on the player they think's the playmaker and certainly, down that end, she [Wilkins] wants it and she wants the ball and she wants to shoot."
Broughton spent yesterday morning watching tape of the Pulse's upcoming opponent - the West Coast Fever - and, in particular, their home win over the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic. The Fever did a sterling defensive job on the Magic's Irene van Dyk in that match and Broughton knows Wilkins and fellow shooter Caitlin Thwaites will have to be brave at TSB Bank Arena on Sunday.
"They play a spoiling type of defence and really hard-on. So we've got to make sure we're in the space and we take it," Broughton said.
The Fever, Pulse, Magic and Southern Steel are all in a very competitive little contest to claim the last trans-Tasman Netball League semi-final spot, which means Sunday's match will definitely be for keeps.
The Fever finish their season with games against the Pulse, Queensland Firebirds, Steel and Melbourne Vixens and Broughton believes they'll regard her team as being the easiest to beat of the four.
But the Pulse are buoyed by the fact they beat the Mystics for the first time ever on Monday, and that wing defence Joline Henry got through the full 60 minutes.
"You could see the difference. She was a bit rusty on some of the passes she threw away and that'll probably annoy her more than it annoyed me, but that'll certainly get put right," said Broughton.
- © Fairfax NZ News