Netball: Promising shooters share role

By Suzanne McFaddenJ

Jamilah Gupwell. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Jamilah Gupwell. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Jamilah or Julianna - who will it be?

Frankly, coach Noeline Taurua says, neither will get the nod as the regular goal attack in the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic side at this point in the ANZ Championship.

Instead the promising shooters - Julianna Naoupu and Jamilah Gupwell - will share the role, alternating in tonight's much-hyped match with the unbeaten Northern Mystics.

They share, too, the pressure of living up to Taurua's expectations in a game many believe will be the Mystics' finest chance in four years to finally topple the Magic.

"It's something that's been very rare for the Magic since we've been in the competition, to have two different options. It's a strength of ours strategically," Taurua said.

"And with double-header rounds, like this weekend, and a more condensed season, you can't rely on a top seven to get you through."

Finding more than one option under the hoop to support Irene van Dyk has perplexed Taurua in the past. But now she is confident she has the answer, even if the pair are relative greenhorns on the frontline.

"They both provide a different chemistry to the team when they're on court and they both feed Irene well and in different ways. Julianna has a harder pass, while Jamilah has a softer touch which changes the tempo of the game," Taurua said.

"Both are green, but with huge potential. Julianna hasn't played at goal attack at this level, and even though she was with the Steel for three years, her court time was pretty limited. Jamilah was with the Pulse since the start but, no disrespect to the franchise, it's different when you come into a team with expectations of being finalists."

The goal attack rotation seemed to pay off in the Magic's first-up 15-goal win over the Steel last weekend.

Whoever starts at goal attack tonight - the first game of the seven-match "Super Round" - will find herself in the difficult position of trying to get around the frantic arms of Silver Fern Anna Scarlett.

There will be colossal match-ups all over the court at Auckland's Trusts Stadium. Among them, captains Laura Langman and Temepara George will face off in centre-court, while Casey Williams will guard against Mystics goal shoot Cathrine Latu - hoping to continue the 100 per cent accurate form in their 10-goal win over the Pulse last weekend.

Taurua is keenly aware this is being billed as the clash to determine New Zealand's top team.

"It will be an absolutely huge game, but for us it's still only our second game of the competition and just another opportunity to get out on court," she said.

"It just happens to be against the Mystics who, in their last two games, started slow but still came out with big wins."

Whatever happens tonight, the Magic will take lessons learned to training on Saturday for their Monday night game against the Pulse in Wellington. The Mystics will only play once - their game against the Tactix has been postponed because of the earthquake.

- NZ Herald

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