Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Netball: Pulse still a work in progress

Camilla Lees of the Pulse catches the ball. Photo / Getty Images.
Camilla Lees of the Pulse catches the ball. Photo / Getty Images.

Joline Henry admits progress hasn't been fast, but she insists the Central Pulse are on the improve.

The dynamic Silver Fern was one of the major signings the Pulse made in the off-season after they lured her south from the Northern Mystics, while they also added veteran coach Robyn Broughton and defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit to their roster.

The Pulse have registered two wins and three losses from their opening five games to sit seventh on the table this year, although their defeats have come at the hands of last year's grand finalists.

"It's been a bit of a shaky start to the season," Henry said.

"I think we've had a tough draw in terms of having Mystics twice and Firebirds - the finalists from last year - and we've kind of been on the receiving end of those games. But I think we can take real heart from knowing that we can foot it with them; it's just that we're not quite playing a full 60 minutes and that's what's letting us down.

"I can only take judgement on what I've had this year. I don't know anything about what the team was like last year."

Henry said she thinks the team is definitely making inroads and improving.

"As I said, it's a bit of a snail pace but all good things take time. I know it's a bit of a cliche but it's definitely true. We've set ourselves some foundation goals this year with the intention of reaching the semis and holding the cup the year after that."

The Pulse's next stop on that journey to the playoffs is attempting to pull off their first win in Australia when they meet the sixth-placed NSW Swifts in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.

Claiming victories across the Tasman has been a major issue for Kiwi teams since the ANZ Championship was born in 2008 with a combination of different umpiring interpretations, tighter marking and the travel factor all conspiring against the five New Zealand franchises.

Henry though, in her typically straight-talking style, said the Pulse only had one thing on their minds this weekend.

"I'm going over to Sydney to win and I know that's the philosophy my team-mates are carrying, so I'll be unhappy with anything else."

In other matches in round six, the Northern Mystics meet the Queensland Firebirds on the Gold Coast on Sunday afternoon in what shapes as an important game for the Auckland-based side.

Debbie Fuller's team produced a mixed performance as they beat the Pulse 51-47 last weekend and the coach said after the game she wanted more consistency from the Mystics this week.

The defending champion Firebirds have found the going tough this season and have managed only one win from their opening five games.

Another side who have struggled this season is the Waikato-BOP Magic and they meet the sharp-shooting West Coast Fever in Tauranga on Sunday evening.

The fifth-placed Fever boast one of the competition's most dangerous shooting circles in the form of Caitlin Bassett and Catherine Cox, while they are coached by veteran mentor Norma Plummer.

On Monday night, the bottom-placed Canterbury Tactix host the unbeaten Melbourne Vixens who have been the surprise package of this year's competition.

The two-win two-loss Steel, who have also performed better than expected this year, meet the second-placed Thunderbirds in Adelaide.


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