Despite showing remarkable form early on in her comeback from a serious knee injury, versatile Mystics attacker Grace Rasmussen believes the transtasman league will get only harder.
After having her 2011 season cut short when she ruptured her ACL just a few weeks out from the ANZ Championship playoffs, Rasmussen has returned to the court in 2012 with not only a new knee, but a new resolve.
The 24-year-old has impressed with her speed and creativity at wing attack, but it has been her ability to slot into the shooting circle under pressure that saw Rasmussen singled out for special praise from Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu.
Rasmussen replaced Ferns frontliner Maria Tutaia in the final quarter of the Mystics' wins over the Central Pulse (round 1) and the West Coast Fever (round 3). On both those occasions she was injected into the game when the match was in the balance, and looked almost immune to the pressure.
While Tutaia has been in good touch early on in the season, the ability to change up the pace and style in the Mystics shooting circle has proved one of the key factors behind the Auckland side's early success.
But Rasmussen said she will soon lose one of her most powerful weapons: the element of surprise.
The change-up to the Mystics shooting circle is something the opposition will become wise to and Rasmussen said the challenge for her was to keep developing her game.
"I do think the opposition will be ready for it and do their homework on the different combinations," she said.
"But it's a case of us having to keep working to improve our combinations and gaining more skills and adding more things to our bag of tricks."
The Pulse will certainly be prepared for the possibility of a re-jig to the Mystics shooting end in tomorrow's re-match between the two sides, after being caught off guard by the move in their round one loss.
The Pulse's defensive trio of Katrina Grant, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Joline Henry have been stand-outs for the Wellington-based side this year and will be eager to cause more havoc when they meet the world-class Mystics shooting line-up.
Round five kicks off tomorrow in Perth, where the West Coast Fever and Adelaide Thunderbirds will hit the court at the unusual time of 10.10am (2.10pm NZT).
After upstaging the Mystics at home last week, the Thunderbirds are looking to repeat the dose against the Fever.
Adelaide coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson said while the Fever claim to be a rookie side, with three Australian Diamonds and an England international in their line-up, they don't appear to have too many rookies on the court.
"They like to play the 'we're the new guys' card, but we're not buying any of that," she said.
Another big all-Aussie clash will follow the morning game, with the unbeaten Melbourne Vixens taking on the Queensland Firebirds for the second time this season. Thought by many to be untouchable this season, the defending champions suffered a shock loss to the Vixens in their opening game, and have continued to struggle over the early rounds, with their only win coming against the Pulse in Brisbane.
On Monday night, the luckless Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic will be desperate to notch up their first win of the season when they meet the Canterbury Tactix in Rotorua.
Tomorrow: 2.10pm West Coast Fever v Adelaide Thunderbirds, Perth; 4.20pm Melbourne Vixens v Queensland Firebirds, Melbourne; 7.20pm Central Pulse v Northern Mystics, Palmerston North.
Monday: 7.40pm Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic v Canterbury Tactix, Rotorua.
Bye: Southern Steel/NSW Swifts