Craighead falter but remain a top team
OPINION: For any other secondary school sports team in South Canterbury, third place at a South Island tournament would be a fantastic result, for Craighead's previously all-conquering netball team, it was an uncomfortable pass mark.
Sounds harsh doesn't it? They set high standards and therefore should be held to them.
The two-time defending South Island champions seized up when the pressure came on, conceding the last four goals in their semifinal against eventual winners Waimea College, to lose 37-36, in Dunedin, on Thursday.
The top-five finish had secured Craighead a spot at the National Secondary School's tournament in Timaru next month, which was the first target for the week.
But this team is used to winning, so where did it go wrong?
Coach Barry Tucker would have you believe a fair chunk of blame should be directed to the umpiring.
His comments after the effort felt as if he was taking the easy way out.
His team underperformed and put themselves in a position where they could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, even if the rub of the green went against them.
Craighead's midcourt struggled to get their ball into their shooters, especially Alice Eddington, who does the bulk of the shooting.
Hopefully Tucker's lack of objective analysis of his team's play was just a smokescreen for the Herald's benefit.
Having said that, Tucker is not afforded all favours to succeed.
The Craighead netball team has outgrown the South Canterbury premier competition.
They are too good, have been for some years, and with Harlequins falling back to the pack in 2012, it looks like Craighead's reign could continue for a few more years yet.
Their 42-16 final win last month against Mackenzie Old Girls was a poor spectacle for what should have showcased the best netball players in the province.
If Craighead want a successful programme they need two things: the first is a shift away from the South Canterbury competition and a move to Christchurch for more challenging games, at a higher intensity, on a more regular basis; the second is that they need Tucker himself.
What he is able to do year after year with the schoolgirls is quite extraordinary.
It's tough to remain at the top of secondary school sport with the constant coming-and-going of players, but Tucker has done it for the best part of a decade.
Yes, there has been some "poaching" of players this year, namely two from Geraldine High School, but the reality is that it is common practice these days.
This 2012 Craighead netball team cannot be a finished product.
With the nationals a month away, the team have a chance to captivate their home town as long as Tucker and his team still have the desire to improve between now and then while people aren't watching.
- © Fairfax NZ News