Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Corletto loss guts Mystics' defence

Injury claims final defender of original squad, leaving tail-end team vulnerable to high-flying Thunderbirds

Julie Corletto has been ruled out of the Mystics' final two matches with a foot injury. Photo / Getty Images
Julie Corletto has been ruled out of the Mystics' final two matches with a foot injury. Photo / Getty Images

The cupboard is officially bare in the Northern Mystics' defensive department, with Australian import Julie Corletto - the last remaining defender from their original squad - scratched for the remainder of the season.

Corletto has been ruled out of the Mystics' final two matches with a foot injury believed to have flared up in the past two weeks. The severity of the injury, and whether it will rule the star Australian defender out for any of the international season, is unknown at this stage with Corletto still being assessed by medical staff.

Having announced just last week that young defender Jess Moulds would miss the rest of the season with a back injury, the hapless Mystics face another cruel blow in losing Corletto as they face the daunting challenge of taking on top-of-the-table Adelaide Thunderbirds at home tomorrow.

With Anna Harrison (pregnant) and Charlotte Kight (torn Achilles) withdrawing before the start of the season, Corletto was the only one of the Auckland side's original defensive unit remaining.

The Mystics have called in former Pulse defender Hannah Broederlow, now based in Auckland, to cover Corletto while Annie Rasmussen (sister of Mystics midcourter Grace and the Steel's Rachel) will also travel to Adelaide after joining the squad last week in place of Moulds.

But unless further disaster occurs, neither player is likely to see any court time, with rookie defender Jessica Bourke, who had her development contract upgraded to a fulltime one when Harrison withdrew from the squad, and the highly versatile Kayla Cullen expected to team up in the defensive end.

Young shooter Malia Paseka (yes, shooter) will provide back-up in the defensive end.

The Mystics' injury tally would almost be comical were it not so disappointing for the individuals involved. You have to feel particularly sorry for Corletto, who has battled chronic knee problems for most of her career.

Without their most experienced defender, the bottom-of-the-table Mystics look headed for an ugly loss in Adelaide, having been well beaten in their two matches in Australia against the Fever (27 goals) and Swifts (19 goals).

Tomorrow's late game between the Magic and the Vixens - a rematch of last year's grand final - is expected to be a much tighter affair, with the game likely to have a strong bearing on the final finishing order of the top four.

A win would give the fourth-placed Magic a fighting chance of securing an extra life in the playoffs.

Still searching for their first win on Australian soil after six seasons, the Southern Steel face the tall order of needing to beat a wounded Fever side at home on Monday night if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.

Round 13

ANZ Championship

Tomorrow: 2.10pm Queensland Firebirds v NSW Swifts, Brisbane; 4.10pm Adelaide Thunderbirds v Northern Mystics, Adelaide; 7.20pm Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic v Melbourne Vixens, Hamilton.

Monday: 7.40pm Central Pulse v Mainland Tactix, Porirua; 9.40pm West Coast Fever v Southern Steel, Perth.

- NZ Herald

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