Central Pulse well tuned for clash with the Steel
The ace conductor is hopeful the orchestra have come right.
Robyn Broughton's Central Pulse team have hit a few bum notes to start the trans-Tasman Netball League season.
Soaring one minute, then out of sync the next, there's been little harmony about the Pulse's play.
They saved their best netball of the season until the extra time period of last Monday's eventual 56-53 win over the previously unbeaten Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
Things can often get ragged at that point of a match, but the Pulse looked composed and in no danger of losing.
There is an assumption that the team should play like that all the time. They're awash with Silver Ferns and boast an enviable degree of experience.
But if Broughton has said one thing consistently over the last couple of years, it's that "a team of champions doesn't make a champion team."
For those extra 14 minutes last Monday the Pulse looked less like a group of talented individuals than they have at any time in Broughton's coaching tenure.
She's not saying they'll be pitch perfect when they meet the Southern Steel in Invercargill tonight but, at long last, the individual parts are starting to come together.
"The reason is their skills are so finely tuned – and their own particular ways – that to put those really good skills together like a musical composition is not as easy as it looks. It doesn't happen straight off," Broughton said.
"It's getting used to body angles, language, eye contact. It's all the little things.
"Really elite players like to go on their own a bit. They don't like to make the changes, they expect other people to make the changes."
Were the Pulse to make it to the grand final, goal shoot Irene van Dyk would be 42. Her circle partner Donna Wilkins is 36 in a fortnight. If ever there were players for whom change could be a distant memory, it's those two.
Both are outstanding, highly-decorated athletes with established methods and, having not played together for 12 years, they weren't suddenly going to be the best shooting combination in the league. But they're now on their way to becoming that, which is Broughton's point.
"I said to Irene from the beginning 'expect the unexpected' [from Wilkins] and the unexpected is things like that little bounce pass Donna does. When she first did it I thought, 'oh my God' but now Irene snaps that up really well and it puts her in a really good shooting position," said Broughton.
"But that doesn't happen overnight and probably the biggest improvement has been their circle movement together. There looks as if there's space in the circle, so there shouldn't be mistakes throwing into them now because their circle movement's very good.
"It's found a rhythm."
The challenge tonight, and for the rest of the season, is making sure the ball gets to van Dyk and Wilkins. It's been the weakest part of the Pulse's game, with the possible exception of their 67-56 win over the Steel in round two.