Inner circle: Pressure on as losses pile up

By Dana Johannsen

Catherine Latu is back in shooting form for the Mystics. Photo / Getty Images
Catherine Latu is back in shooting form for the Mystics. Photo / Getty Images

Mystics

The much-hyped Mystics' revival could be over before the halfway point in the season.

The Auckland side racked up their fourth loss in five outings last weekend, leaving no room for error in their remaining matches. In previous years, four losses has typically been the cut-off point for the playoffs.

The good news for the Mystics is their attacking issues seem to be coming right with the feeders providing better ball into the shooting circle. Cathrine Latu is also returning to top form, shooting 100 per cent against the Firebirds last weekend.

The Auckland side still have the most profligate shooting circle in the league in terms of errors though, Maria Tutaia leading the turnover count and Latu second.

Magic

Her name has been mentioned a lot in the illustrious pages of Inner Circle, but the performances of Grace Rasmussen once again demand special recognition.

The former Silver Fern again picked up the golden bib award for the competition's top midcourter at the weekend, making it four awards in five rounds.

It has been suggested the scoring system for the golden bib - a new initiative in the ANZ Championship - does not favour certain positions.

Unloved and always under-appreciated wing defences are being left out in the cold, with their ability to score points significantly less than wing attacks, whom they are competing against for the midcourter award, as their impact isn't as easily measured by traditional statistical metrics.

Pulse

They may be the most experienced team in the league (although having a shooting circle with a combined age of 76 does tend to skew the numbers), but the Pulse's problems on the road don't appear to be improving.

The Wellington side have never won a match across the Tasman, their average losing margin over the first six seasons being a hefty 18.2 goals.

That statistic doesn't look likely to improve any this season if Monday night's performance against the NSW Swifts is anything to go by, with the Pulse copping an 18-goal battering in Sydney. While other teams appear to be getting to grips with the challenges of playing in Australia, the question has to be asked why the Pulse, a side stacked with top talent, are still struggling?

Tactix

It is bye week for the Tactix - Oh thank you, merciful netball gods.

Steel

After getting frustratingly close against the Firebirds last year, the Southern Steel got that koala off their back, notching up their first win on Aussie soil in a close-fought battle with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Steel spies told Inner Circle a few of the veterans shed a tear over the breakthrough result, although the staunch southern lasses have since blamed the humidity in the stadium.

There could have been tears of a different kind in the commentary box, with Anne Sargeant no doubt disappointed her girls in pink couldn't deliver. Sargeant tweeted her support for the Thunderbirds before the match - not the best look for a commentator employed to give an objective and impartial view.

Across the ditch ...

Match of the round

After an unhappy two-week road trip to New Zealand (not helped by the threat of an unhinged fan) the West Coast Fever are back home in Perth, where they'll meet the Adelaide Thunderbirds, who have also been upstaged by Kiwi teams over the past two weeks. With both sides in desperate need of a win, this is likely to be the match of the round across the Tasman.

Sydneysiders satisfied

The Swifts head into their bye weekend satisfied with the way they're tracking. Despite losing three midcourters to injury in the first three rounds, the Swifts sit in outright second position on the ladder and look dangerous.

A material girl

You can always bank on Swifts defender Sharni Layton to deliver a good one-liner. Asked in the pre-match interview how she felt about taking on Pulse shooter Irene van Dyk, Layton said the Silver Ferns shooter was always difficult to mark as "she is like Madonna; she keeps reinventing herself".

Swift romance

There was an interesting spectator in the crowd at the Swifts match in Sydney, with Mystics shooter Maria Tutaia spotted in the stands. Tutaia, who played in Brisbane the previous day, was in town visiting boyfriend Kurt Tippett, who is apparently a big deal AFL star. He is the brother of Swifts shooter Gretel, who introduced the pair at the Fast5 World Series in Auckland late last year.

Vixens just foxing

After two straight losses the Vixens appear back on track following a 24-goal hammering of the Mainland Tactix. But the Tactix aren't the best yardstick to use in the competition. The Fever also demolished the Tactix and haven't won a game since.

Injuries limit T'birds

Losing Leigh Waddington to a season-ending knee injury has limited the Thunderbirds' midcourt options. Starting Renae Hallinan at centre and moving her into wing defence for the second half had been working well but with fewer attacking midcourt players, Hallinan has been required at centre for the full game. The defending champions desperately need wing attack Emily Beaton back to fitness soon.

- NZ Herald

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