Netball: How Latu shot to top of scoring statistics

By Dana Johannsen

Catherine Latu. Photo / Getty Images
Catherine Latu. Photo / Getty Images

It is one of the most striking statistics of the 2012 transtasman league.

Seven rounds into the competition and Northern Mystics shooter Cathrine Latu has missed just three shots at goal. Three!

After putting up 176 attempts, the Silver Fern is still shooting at 98.3 per cent - a level of accuracy never before seen in the competition.

Her impressive statistics come courtesy of four perfect games this season, including a 35-from-35 shooting effort against the Southern Steel in Dunedin last week. In Latu's three other appearances, she has missed just one shot in each game.

Such consistency is a remarkable feat considering the calibre of defenders Latu comes up against week-in, week-out.

Her performances have earned her high praise from many quarters, but perhaps the strongest endorsement has come from Waimarama Taumaunu.

The Silver Ferns coach is not known for hyperbole, so when she describes Latu's numbers as "absolutely phenomenal" she is stating it as fact.

Taumaunu has been equally impressed with the form of Irene van Dyk. The Magic shooter, who has long set the benchmark in terms of shooting accuracy, has also been outstanding over the first half of the competition, converting 201 of her 211 shots for a 95 per cent strike rate.

The two Silver Ferns shooters are well above the rest of the league in accuracy, with the Steel's Donna Wilkins the next best on 89.7 per cent.

In light of her statistics, you would expect Latu would be delighted with her form over the first half of the season. Not so.

"I think that's all well and good, but I need to up my volume," she said.

Perhaps Latu is being overly hard on herself, but she does have a point. She is averaging 24 goals a game, well down on the numbers posted by some of the supershooters in the Australian teams.

The Fever's Caitlin Bassett leads the competition in goals scored, with 240, while Jamaican shooter Carla Borrego is the next best with 236 goals for the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

The two shooters have each put up nearly 100 more attempts than Latu this season - and when you compare the shot charts of the respective players, it is clear why.

In her seven outings so far this season, Latu has only attempted one shot from long range, which was unsuccessful. Bassett meanwhile, has put up 26 shots from distance, converting 14 of those. Borrego has attempted a more modest 13, netting seven of those.

Latu's lack of long-range attempts is partly as a result of her ability to find good space under the goal.

But Latu's shot chart also suggests an unwillingness to put up shots from range. The 1.89m shooter has a tendency to off-load the ball and try and inch closer to the post when she is outside her deadly 'strike zone' under the goal. This conservative approach can lead to turnovers.

Taumaunu said it is also important to look at the input from their partners in the shooting circle.

Mystics goal attack Maria Tutaia has an extremely high work rate over the first half of the season, with the long-range specialist stepping up for more of the shooting responsibilities than previous years.

"[Latu] has a goal attack who shares a much bigger shooting load than others, so to compare herself to other shooters where the goal attack plays a more feeding role is not that useful," said Taumaunu.

"Maria is a fantastic long shooter, so if she gets in [the circle] and she's got the ball and she's unmarked the best option is for Maria to take the shot," she said.

"Maria is one of the best long-range shooters, she gets like 2cm into the circle and will turn and shoot it. So I think it's a good balance between her and I," said Latu.

Tutaia's shot chart backs up Latu's analysis.

The Silver Ferns star is shooting at 76 per cent for the season, successfully slotting 154 of her 201 shots.

A startling 125 of Tutaia's attempts have been from long range, with 90 on target. Her record from close range is 64/76.

Tutaia and Latu's shooting combination will come under pressure tomorrow, when the Mystics take on the Vixens in Melbourne in their round-8 transtasman league clash.

The Vixens have one of the most formidable defensive lines in the competition, led by English import Geva Mentor and star Australian defender Julie Corletto.

ANZ Championship

Round 8

Today: 4.20pm Canterbury Tactix v Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic, Christchurch.
Tomorrow: 2.10pm Melbourne Vixens v Northern Mystics, Melbourne; 4.20pm NSW Swifts v West Coast Fever, Newcastle; Southern Steel v Queensland Firebirds, Invercargill.
Monday: 7.40pm Central Pulse v Adelaide Thunderbirds, Wellington.

- NZ Herald

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