How to fix the Tactix to be future contenders
While the trans-Tasman netball league finals get underway tomorrow the Tactix are mulling over another dismal campaign. BRENDON EGAN investigates what the franchise needs to do to get out of the doldrums.
Former Silver Fern defender Belinda Charteris is worried about the future of the Tactix franchise, unless they can become more competitive.
The Tactix again struggled this year, finishing second last, after winning just two of their 13 games. In eight of those outings, they were thrashed by 15 or more goals. During the past four years, the Tactix have been cannon fodder, winning just six of their past 52 games (12 per cent), and finishing bottom of the league in three consecutive years from 2010 to 2012.
There have been frequent calls for Australia to be awarded another team, as a New Zealand side has finished last in all six years of the competition. Charteris, a Canterbury Flames stalwart in the former domestic league, believed it was imperative the Tactix started to regain some respectability for their own survival.
"We need to do something, because if [the trans-Tasman netball league] say ‘they're looking at cutting a team, who would they look at first?' That scares me, because [Canterbury] is such a big catchment area for girls in netball.
"Canterbury netball has such a great history. It would be sad to see it disappear." Charteris always expected the young Tactix squad would find the going tough this season, but was concerned with their inconsistent performances. She said, at times, they failed to play like a unit, which the constant losing could be responsible for.
"I think it's been very average ... Throughout the competition, you haven't seen them starting off steady and building their way up, they've been all over the place, and that's been really sad.
"You can lay all the excuses on the line, but at the end of the day, a loss isn't a win." Former Canterbury provincial coach Tania Hoffman, who guided the team to national titles in 2010 and 2011, could not see the Tactix's woes improving any time soon. She said it was a "vicious cycle", where their terrible record would make it difficult to attract talented players and gain sponsors.
"If you don't get results, you don't get the money and you're less of a drawcard for your experienced or marquee players," Hoffman said.
"For these girls, it's going to be two or three seasons away before you actually see the benefits of taking them young and keeping them together." Young players in the Tactix side like Jane Watson, Zoe Walker, Kirsten Hurley and Sophia Fenwick made encouraging progress this year, but are a long way from the finished product. The team desperately needs more experienced players around them to help them grow, and to lead the way on court.
Charteris and Hoffman both agreed the Tactix needed to bolster their squad during the off-season.
"I do think serious questions need to be asked about why we're not performing, and why we haven't got players coming here," Charteris said.
"I'm a firm believer you need to look after your homegrown talent, but when you're in a bit of lull like this, over a long period, you need to start thinking ‘How can we move towards getting back on top?" During the past two seasons, the Tactix have been granted two imports, as a result of the 2011 earthquake. That luxury could be revoked next year, meaning the franchise may have to make an astute decision about what area of the court they most need assistance in.
Charteris felt the Tactix needed to look around the country and see what players could be interested in a move to Christchurch. She was in favour of having a solid shooter, midcourter and defender to form the "spine" of the team.
Former Silver Ferns shooter Tania Dalton stressed the Tactix needed to think outside the square with player recruitment.
She said targeting a disgruntled Australian player, who was not getting regular court-time, could be the way to go for their import slot. They could also spread the net as far as Jamaica, South Africa or Malawi, who all have strong individual talent.
"They don't want to be staring down the same barrel again next year, thinking ‘here we go again'," Dalton said.
"I'd be pushing for a name defender. A team player, who can bring some young ones through around her." Jamaica's 1.85m defender Malysha Kelly, who has never previously played in the trans-Tasman league, could loom as an option for the Tactix.
With Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic coach Noeline Taurua leaving at the end of the season, some players may consider a change of allegiance over the off-season. The Central Pulse could potentially be broken up, if coach Robyn Broughton decides to step away next season.
Charteris and Hoffman believed the Tactix needed to use the Christchurch rebuild as a marketing ploy to entice players to the city.
"We use the earthquake so often as an excuse. There's so many cool things going on here," Charteris said. "I think you can use it as a positive experience now." Franchises are allowed to start approaching players from other teams on July 15 - the day after the grand final. The salary cap for each team is $380,000, with teams able to contract up to 14 players.
Trans-tasman league play-offs tomorrow: In Adelaide - Thunderbird v Vixens 2.20pm. In Hamilton - Magic v Firebirds 7.20pm.