Liz Ellis blasts mentally soft Tactix after rout

BAD START: Keshia Grant has her head in her hands after a turnover in their first match against the Magic this season.
BAD START: Keshia Grant has her head in her hands after a turnover in their first match against the Magic this season.

Former Australian captain Liz Ellis has criticised the mental toughness of the Tactix, believing they had lost Sunday's contest before stepping on to the court.

The trans-Tasman netball league battlers were annihilated 79-43 by the West Coast Fever in Perth, which was their second heaviest loss in franchise history.

The Tactix had never won in Australia from 15 attempts leading into the game and Ellis said they appeared soft mentally - folding far too easily in the first half.

In the opening 30 minutes, they leaked a staggering 42 goals, while turning the ball over 21 times.

The team struggled to adapt to the Fever's physical, man-on-man defence and Ellis suggested they were intimidated by the opposition.

"They looked to me like a lot of New Zealand teams do when they get here. It's almost like they run on to the court thinking they're 10 or 20 goals down. They looked overawed," Ellis said.

"They can all catch and pass, so is it a mental thing? Are they confident enough? Your confidence comes through in your physical fitness base."

The Tactix have lost their opening three games of the new season and will be doing well to avoid a fourth wooden spoon in five years. They have lost 10 straight games dating back to last year, with victory not being tasted since May 5, 2013.

Ironically, their slogan this season is, "We're coming out fighting", a trait which has been severely lacking.

Ellis said imports Mwai Kumwenda and Jade Clarke were the only players who would possibly start for an Australian team. They simply did not have enough quality in their squad to challenge the majority of sides in the competition, she said.

"I don't think they've got the personnel. You can talk about structure and set-up as much as you like, but if you haven't got a ball-winner you can't do much about that."

Ellis felt for coach Leigh Gibbs, who was "tactically and technically really good", but did not have the firepower at her disposal.

The Tactix are stuck in a vicious cycle.

The franchise tried hard to recruit Silver Ferns Leana de Bruin and Casey Kopua during the off-season, but they wanted to remain close to family in the North Island. Their terrible winning record over the past four years - they've lost 49 of their last 55 games - and post-earthquake Christchurch had also made it difficult to attract star players.

Ellis believed it would take a marquee Silver Fern signing to add respectability to the Tactix and entice other players to join them.

"To me, the Tactix need a fresh start. They need a [Silver Fern player] to come in and lead the way, but I don't know who that is.

"Given their constraints, the Tactix are going to have to think very carefully about how they recruit."

When pressed on whether the Tactix deserved to be in the competition, Ellis defended the red-and-blacks. She said Australia could easily support another franchise in cities like Newcastle or Townsville, but the league needed five teams from each country to work viably.

"Rather than get rid of the Tactix, they're better off asking why are they struggling so badly? They've never had the match-winners like the other teams have had. You've got to ask why is that the case?"

Ellis stressed New Zealand franchises needed to look closely at their development programmes and how they were bringing through the next wave of talent.

She said young Australian players got an early taste of the high performance environment and when they eventually gained contracts and played at the elite level, they knew what to expect.

The Press