Injuries keep key Tactix players from play

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013
Hayley Saunders
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
RISING STAR: Hayley Saunders has joined the Northern Mystics.

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The Canterbury Tactix will be without two key players when they travel to Australia next weekend for a pre-season tournament.

Both Julianna Naoupu and Bessie Manu will miss the seven-team, trans-Tasman tournament hosted by the Melbourne Vixens because of "niggling injuries".

Naoupu is still recovering from off-season surgery which she underwent to fix knee problems while Manu has tweaked a hamstring.

The pair will be replaced for the Tactix' two-day, four-game schedule by the franchise's accelerant squad players Gemma Hazeldine and Hayley Saunders.

Coach Leigh Gibbs said both Naoupu and Manu's recoveries were going well and the decision to miss the Melbourne matches was precautionary.

"We just don't think they're quite ready," she said.

"They're coming along well, but with the intensity that we'll face we don't want to risk them at this stage."

Gibbs insisted both would be fit in time for the Tactix' season opener against the defending champion Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Nelson on March 24.

She also expected the duo to play in the Tactix' next pre-season outing, a one-day, six-team tournament in Timaru on March 9.

The move to replace Manu with former Southern Steel midcourter Saunders confirms Manu will move out of the defensive circle and be predominantly a wing defence this season.

Manu's doggedness was one of only a few Tactix' highlights last season, though her lack of height was targeted by several teams able to pass high balls in to tall shooters.

The 2013 Tactix have more height, but less experience in the defensive circle.

Anna Galvan's retirement and Manu's move leaves 22-year-old Jo Trip as the defenders' most experienced player.

She will be joined by Jane Watson, who played a handful of games last year as an injury replacement, New Zealand under-21 player Zoe Walker and Louise Thayer who made her trans-Tasman debut last year for the Southern Steel.

Gibbs said the pre-season had gone well so far and many of the squad had been working since November.

"But we've had everyone together only for a couple of weeks now," she said.

"Jo Harten was away [playing for England] and a number of players have been away with New Zealand squads."

The Tactix are yet to name a captain for the 2013 competition.

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