Tactix need to recruit wisely to boost ailing team

COACH: Tactix netball coach Leigh Gibbs needs to recruit wisely in the off-season.
COACH: Tactix netball coach Leigh Gibbs needs to recruit wisely in the off-season.

The Tactix need only to glance over at the Southern Steel to see how much a team's fortunes can change with the addition of one or two smart signings.

Last season, the Steel won two games, the same as the Tactix, but have turned things around dramatically this season. They have increased their win tally to six, and were in the hunt for a finals spot until Monday night's loss to the West Coast Fever.

A key factor in the Steel's turnaround has been the outstanding play of new Jamaican import Jhaniele Fowler, who has taken the competition by storm in her first year in the league. Their squad is not too dissimilar from last season, but Fowler's presence seems to have reinvigorated the squad and lifted everyone's play.

The Central Pulse, who were the whipping girls of the competition in the early years of the league, have also restored their respectability in recent seasons.

The franchise snapped up Silver Fern defender Katrina Grant three years ago, and have also managed to recruit New Zealand internationals like Joline Henry, Liana Leota and former Fern Donna Wilkins, who have boosted their prospects.

Hopefully, the Tactix can take heed.

If they are to break free from their mediocre history in the trans-Tasman netball league they desperately need an infusion of talent.

The Tactix have a solid core in their squad, but they lack experience, and a player with X-factor, who can turn a game when the result hangs in the balance.

Young Tactix defenders Jane Watson and Zoe Walker have made positive progress this season, in their first full year in the league, but the reality is they would be on the bench for any other side in the competition.

Players like Watson and Walker are the future of the franchise and would benefit immensely from training and playing with an international defender.

Looking at the Tactix squad, the team is probably two or three quality players away from winning on a regular basis.

The challenge for coach Leigh Gibbs over the off-season will be trying to entice players from rival franchises to head to the Tactix.

The team's horrible winning record, and the fact Christchurch is in rebuild mode following the earthquakes, make it difficult to entice big-name signings to the franchise.

Gibbs will probably look to target players on the fringes at the other four Kiwi franchises.

Former Silver Fern Paula Griffin, who has sat on the pine all season for the Pulse, starred in Monday night's victory over the Tactix, landing 50 goals from 58 attempts. She would walk into the Tactix lineup but could be wanted at the Pulse if Wilkins retires over the off-season.

Other players in the Tactix sights might include someone like Mystics defender Jess Moulds, who will be relegated to the bench next season when Silver Fern Anna Harrison returns from the birth of her child.

Down at the Steel, New Zealand under-21 internationals Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Storm Purvis have seen limited game time in 2013, and could be open to an attractive offer and more court time elsewhere. The problem confronting the Tactix is that most players are pretty loyal to their franchises and are reluctant to move away from their home provinces, or where they are studying.

The Tactix have some tough calls to make around personnel for next season. Several members of this year's team have struggled for consistency and will face a nervous wait over the next month or so, to see whether they are in Gibbs' plans for 2014.

Next season will be make or break for Gibbs.

The franchise must climb its way up the ladder, and gain more victories, if she is to retain her job.

The first step in that process starts with some wise decisions around off-season recruitment.

Who should the Tactix look to sign over the off-season? Are Jo Harten and Jo Clarke the right fit as the team's import players?

The Press