Netball: Eastern hit back, albeit a little late

By Anendra Singh

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The great divide between the East and the West is well-documented.

From the NBA conferences in basketball to the hip-hop cultures of LA to the political history of East and West Germany - all have stirred up their share of energetic and emotional debate.

Just as the Western conference have dominated basketball in the United States, so it seems the Western netballers have had a stranglehold on their PlusRehab Eastern counterparts.

Yesterday was no exception as Western asserted dominance to the tune of 66-39 over Eastern during their second Lion Foundation National Netball Championship division 2 match in Napier.

If you weren't among the 30-odd spectators at the Pettigrew-Green Arena then it's quite understandable to draw the conclusion that Eastern ... well, remain the flogging girls of netball.

Western substitute goal shoot Rebecca Jury was prematurely stifling a yawn on the bench just before halftime as the visitors, smiling and sipping at the bench with coach John Atkins as their focal point, comfortably powered to a 51-27 lead when the buzzer went off.

But closer scrutiny suggests Eastern shouldn't have to play second fiddle to a composite outfit that embraces players from Manawatu to New Plymouth.

How the Berlin Wall developed between Eastern and Western netball in the past few decades pricks one's conscience and is definitely worthy of research, even though it is the last time the two sides will compete as New Zealand Netball is on the cusp of finalising new boundaries under the ANZ Transtasman Championship catchment areas.

It's not so much what the opposition are doing that is a nagging point but more a case of the hosts controlling the controllables yesterday.

Did the Jewels Falcon-coached Eastern start with their best seven players? You don't have to be netball savvy or mathematically sound to realise the answer is an emphatic no, based purely on what Eastern served up in the second half, although the coaching stable may be working on combos towards the final tournament playoffs in Tauranga after the fifth round.

Western pipped Eastern 28-25 - the Candis Cardie-captained hosts strung a rash of changes at halftime to draw the third quarter 13-13 and lost the last spell 15-12.

A three-goal difference in the last two quarters to a staggering 24-goal one in the first two quarters.

Fundamentally, the Eastern women can play and, overall, the results need not be a flogging.

While the round-one game away against North Harbour was a 71-26 humiliation, yesterday's 27-goal defeat is an improvement.

More importantly, Falcon has something to fine tune further at training before their game against Tasman in Nelson this Sunday.

The difference for Eastern yesterday was the injection of substitutes Ellie Bird and MAC centre Rhandell Tuala-Fata.

Lanky goal shoot Bird, 19, who could become a nightmare for most oppositions if she moves in the circle a bit more, shot 94 per cent. while fellow HGHSOG Huias goal attack Millie Ironside, a second quarter substitute, shot 72 per cent wearing both bibs in her three spells.

Starting Physique GS Pania Rowe managed 50 per cent in the first quarter, while veteran goal attack Cheleme Smiler Ah-Kiong scored 22 per cent as the other starter.

Western goal shoot Chantelle Ngaia top scored with 96 per cent, while substitute goal attack Miriama Selby-Rickit shot 80 per cent and starter Amber Bellringer and substitute Jury managed 77 per cent each.

In fairness to the starting centre, schoolgirl Taylor Greening, she may have fed the ball to Bird and Ironside with equal aplomb as Tuala-Fata but that remains to be seen and is something for Falcon to try out at their next training.

Furthermore, Western also made a rash of substitutions in the third quarter before bringing some of the starters back for the last quarter, including goal defence and Central Pulse player Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, after a rattling 15 minutes.

Cardie was outstanding at wing defence, making crucial intercepts to put Eastern on the front foot although umpires pinged her for held ball with fellow PIC player and wing attack Bianca Lloyd-Jones in the second quarter.

Greening's Hastings Girls' High School teammate, Leykin Rowlands-Huriama, came on in the third quarter for Rhiarna Ferris (Otane Force) at goal keep and soon had Otane goal defence Briar Chalmers humming.

Teenager Kataraina Rowe, who replaced Chalmers in the only change in the last quarter, also showed vision.

Cardie revealed she and Lloyd-Jones were still trying to find some team cohesiveness, considering they were not training while living and working in Wellington.

The PIC pair were granted dispensation to play for Eastern after failing to make the cut for the Pulse-heavy Wellington squad.

"Western were quite physical and tall so we were still finding ourselves," said Cardie, still hopeful of making the Pulse.

She agreed the second-half changes made an impact and they needed to start strongly but also convert possession into goals.

"We certainly stepped it up and it was good to watch," the Transport Works employee said, adding Tasman was a game they would tick in the win box.

Western captain Erika Maifea (nee Burgess) said they were always going to roll on their bench for some court time, but Eastern's second-half tweaks had them rattled as they smartly reinstated tall goal keep Jenna O'Sullivan in the final spell.

Maifea said Bird was a handful, especially when the outside players fed her nicely, although they contained the goal shoot better in the final quarter.

"I thought their second-half team was stronger than their first one," she said.

Western beat Southland by 10 goals the previous Saturday.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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