Central Pulse paid the penalty last Monday too

UNDER PRESSURE: Irene van Dyk of the Pulse tries to get a pass away.
UNDER PRESSURE: Irene van Dyk of the Pulse tries to get a pass away.

It wasn't only on the scoreboard where the Adelaide Thunderbirds were winners.

In beating the Central Pulse 45-44 on Monday, the defending trans-Tasman Netball League champions handsomely won the penalty count too.

The Thunderbirds gave away 78 to the Pulse's 47, as infringements rained down at a rate of more than two a minute.

The Pulse lost Monday's game - no-one disputes that. But the cynicism of the victors deserves scrutiny too.

Depending on what level they're playing, basketballers are ejected from games after picking up five fouls, or six when it comes to the NBA. Thunderbirds goal keep Kate Shimmin conceded 23 penalties on Monday night. Three other Thunderbirds were in double figures.

Those numbers speak for themselves and, on this occasion, they'll have to speak for Pulse coach Robyn Broughton too.

"It's very difficult to say something in netball," Broughton said yesterday.

"We just have to look forward to the next game and put this one behind us. I was very disappointed not to win. We led all the way and should have been able to kill that game off."

Broughton has reviewed the tape several times. The players did their individual analysis too and they all sat down and dissected it together late yesterday afternoon.

There was a common theme in what Broughton saw but, as she indicated, saying what that was would see the league's governing body come down on her like a tonne of bricks.

Looking on from the outside, it's evident defenders can infringe with impunity. There is provision in the rules for those that transgress in a persistent fashion to be suspended, or stood off court, for a period of play. But that step is so sparingly used by umpires that players basically disregard its existence.

Which leaves the Pulse with wounded bodies and pride, heading into Saturday's clash with the Southern Steel at TSB Bank Arena.

Broughton was happy with the way wing defence Joline Henry and goal attack Donna Wilkins played against the Thunderbirds and some of the composure shown by new centre Elias Shadrock. The quality of the passing out of defence was another aspect that impressed her, but there remains work to do at the other end.

Mind you, given the hard ride Irene van Dyk and Wilkins were getting from Shimmin and Rebecca Bulley it would have been hard for any feeders to find them.

The Steel were 60-44 losers to the Queensland Firebirds and won't present quite the same test of the Pulse's courage.

Fairfax Media