Who dares wins? Tactix shake up under-performing squad
OPINION: After years in the netball doldrums, the Mainland Tactix finally have reason to believe.
Coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek needed to revamp the squad this off-season and make some bold decisions and she's mostly got it right.
The Tactix won't win next year's national netball premiership, but with the playing group they've assembled there's cause for optimism.
This is the most talented Tactix squad since the early years of the former trans-Tasman league, where the side won five games in each of their first two seasons and were competitive most weeks.
Given their mediocre results over the past decade, talking up the Tactix is fraught with danger.
They have promised improved showings at season launches time and time again, but let themselves and their supporters down.
Bailey Mes and Mwai Kumwenda were thought to be the answer in the shooting end during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The Tactix haemorrhaged goals at the other end of the court, however, winning just three of 26 games in that time.
In previous campaigns, the Tactix have remained loyal to the bulk of their team, vowing they were on the cusp of something special, but dished up the same awful performances.
Delaney-Hoshek, who took over from Sue Hawkins after five games this season, had to shake things up and make changes, which she's done.
Where previous coaches Hawkins and Leigh Gibbs failed to flatter with recruitment and played it safe, she hasn't been afraid to stir the pot.
Not offering a contract to born-and-bred Cantabrian Anna Thompson, a foundation player for the franchise, who played 131 games from 2008-17, was never going to be popular in some parts of the province.
The 31-year-old has been a committed servant through the dark days of the Tactix, sticking by them when she received offers from rivals.
As captain, she had to front for interviews after regular heavy losses, but always remained upbeat, yet perceptive with her analysis.
She never stuck the boot into team-mates and frequently preached the only way was up.
As a proud red-and-black girl, she was determined to see the Tactix win on a regular basis and be a success.
Should the team track upwards in the coming years and play finals netball, Thompson will take comfort in knowing she helped sow the seeds for their progress.
Delaney-Hoshek has opted to head in a different direction and not keeping Thompson is the right call.
Starting midcourters Hayley Saunders and Nicola Mackle were both shown the door, paying the price for too many turnovers and defensive inattention.
Attracting former Tactix defender Jane Watson back to the franchise after three years at the Southern Steel, where she blossomed and cracked the Silver Ferns, was a masterstroke to begin recruitment.
Watson was eager to return to Christchurch for personal reasons and the Tactix can count their lucky stars they've got her back after inexcusably letting her walk in 2015.
Combined with recalled Silver Fern Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jess Moulds, who has recovered from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, the Tactix boast one of the strongest defensive ends on paper.
The signing of New Zealand under-21 midcourter Kimiora Poi is a steal. Poi is regarded as one of the most talented young midcourters in the country and the Tactix did well to snare her away from the Central Pulse.
Whether the Tactix got it right with their import spot on veteran Australian shooter Kate Beveridge remains to be seen.
Beveridge, 32, isn't the same player she was early in her career at the Adelaide Thunderbirds, where she gained selection for the Diamonds between 2008-11.
She does provide versatility, offers handy height at 1.93m, and brings oodles of experience.
Beveridge will be a sounding board for young shooters Ellie Bird and Brooke Leaver, while keeping them on their toes and trying to take their starting spot.
Positivity and the Tactix has been an oxymoron throughout much of their existence. Maybe, just maybe, the tide is beginning to turn.
As the departing Thompson always said, 'The only way is up'.