Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Netball: New strategies break van Dyk's winning rhythm

Irene van Dyk's record is diminishing. Photo / Getty Images
Irene van Dyk's record is diminishing. Photo / Getty Images

As well as trying to inspire a surprise victory, Irene van Dyk needs to avoid a rare personal hat-trick tonight against the Diamonds.

Throughout her long career, van Dyk has been a model of consistency. It's not usually a question of whether she will dominate in a game but more by what degree.

However, she had a relatively quiet match in the second test in Auckland, struggling for sustained periods under the choke hold of Laura Geitz. She was then completely overshadowed in Adelaide, only managing 19 attempts across three quarters before being replaced by Cathrine Latu.

"Up until halftime [in Adelaide] she was doing her job well but we had some ball unexpectedly taken off us for those stepping calls and breaks," said Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu.

"I felt then we got a bit anxious. There was some lost ball, some errors and it was at that point that we decided to get somebody different out there."

A third poor game in succession tonight just can't happen. It would not only be highly unusual for the 41-year-old, it would also spell the end of any hopes the Ferns have of staying alive in the Constellation Cup.

"There have been some issues but we can't get carried away," said Taumaunu. "In Invercargill [two tests ago] Irene was very dominant against all the defenders. Two tests is not a trend but it has been an issue for her in the last couple of games so we have to look at how we fix that for her."

The Ferns' stifled attack and lack of combinations in the mid court haven't helped. Often last Friday van Dyk was set up to receive but the ball didn't come. She would reset, all the while getting buffeted by the brutal Australian defence, but would struggle to find space once again.

"Sometimes the ball was slow to come but I did play right into their hands with my holding game and there wasn't enough variety," said van Dyk. "You do need four attackers and you can't have a shooter just standing under the goalpost."

Van Dyk said she had been "overthinking" things in the past two games, as new shooting coach Vicki Wilson introduced new strategies.

"There is a lot of new things that Vicki is bringing in now that I am trying to perfect but [they are] just not working for me at the moment," added Van Dyk. "I have no reason to lose confidence. My shooting stats are still up there. My volume is down a bit but I just played dumb."

Van Dyk's relatively poor output may open the door for Latu, who was meant to be the heir apparent in the goal shoot bib after her breakout Mystics season in 2011.

She was used by Taumaunu against Australia at the end of that year but hasn't really been seen at international level since.

She offers a point of difference to van Dyk and it would not surprise to see her employed at some stage tonight, as Taumaunu looks to find a way around the seemingly impregnable Australian defensive wall.

Silver Ferns v Australia
Melbourne, 10 tonight

- NZ Herald

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