Inner Circle: Langman starting to show her worth

By Dana Johannsen

Mystics centre shows her mettle in victory over Steel, while Magic are still looking pretty after loss.

Liana Leota is just back from Britain, with a baby daughter in tow. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Liana Leota is just back from Britain, with a baby daughter in tow. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Mystics

After struggling to slot into her new team earlier in the season, Silver Ferns star Laura Langman has looked a lot more comfortable in the Auckland set-up in recent weeks. Her performance against the Steel in her side's 67-61 win was her best to date, with Langman picking up the round-six golden bib award in the midcourt.

Langman did a colossal amount of work in the high-scoring and fast-paced match. As well as being the Mystics' go-to girl on attack, she played a huge role defensively, picking up four deflections and three intercepts to scoop the weekly award.

It's the first time the midcourt golden bib award has gone to a centre, the prize being awarded to wing attacks for the first five weeks of the competition.

Inner Circle highlighted last week that the scoring system for the golden bib award doesn't favour certain positions, in particular wing defence.

So we have decided to start our own wing defence of the year award*. See our round-six nomination below.

*We're still seeking a sponsor for these motherless foals.

Magic

Despite their unbeaten run coming to an end against the Pulse, the Magic are still sitting at the top of the ANZ Championship table. But with a bye this weekend they will soon lose their position as outright leaders as the two teams immediately below them on the ladder - the Vixens and the Swifts - will do battle this weekend, both sides just two points off the Magic.

Although the loss took some of the sheen off the Magic's season start and gave them a bit to think about in their week off, they will be pretty pleased with the way things have panned out. The national selectors will also be pretty pleased with the consistency and form of the Magic players.

A lot has been spoken about midcourters Grace Rasmussen and Courtney Tairi, but shooter Ellen Halpenny also has to be in the selection mix. Halpenny's speed and movement around the court have been impressive this season, as has her shooting consistency.

However, as Halpenny hasn't previously been in the Ferns set-up it would be a big gamble to pick her for the Commonwealth Games, but the selectors may look to bring her into the side for the Constellation Cup series later this year.

Pulse

The Pulse's forgotten signing, former Silver Fern Liana Leota, has finally joined the Wellington franchise this week after arriving back from Britain with a baby in tow.

Leota has been based in Manchester with her rugby-playing husband Johnny and their two children since the end of last season. They recently welcomed a daughter, Karney.

The Pulse, who signed Leota when she was pregnant, have danced around mentioning when the midcourter gave birth, saying only it was "earlier this year". Inner Circle understands the baby was born last month, and well after the season had started.

Leota famously played club netball the week after giving birth to her son Torres in 2012, but she is facing a tough ask to get match-fit at this level. The franchise has confirmed Leota won't take the court against the Steel this weekend, and with a bye the following week the earliest we'll see the diminutive midcourter in action is round nine - and that is being ambitious.

Having been named in their original squad, Leota doesn't have to take the court during the regular season to be eligible to play in the finals, should the Pulse make the top four.

Tactix

Bye week in the ANZ Championship is a good opportunity for the players to have a bit of downtime in between their intense trainings, without the worry of travelling or match play. So how did Tactix midcourter Keshia Grant spend her week off? Enjoying the relaxing pursuit of hunting stag, of course. Grant, the shortest player in the league at 1.64m, landed an eight-point stag while deer hunting for the first time.

A former national javelin champion, Grant is known as an all-round athlete. She took to charity boxing last year in the Fight for Christchurch event, impressing with her technical knock-out win over cyclist Natasha Hansen.

Her performance caught the eye of leading New Zealand heavyweight boxer Shane Cameron, who said she had enough ability to beat some of the country's top female amateur boxers.

Steel

Who would have thought it would be the New Zealand sides that proved to be the undoing of the Steel this season? After following up their tense one-goal win against the Fever with a breakthrough victory over the Adelaide Thunderbirds across the Tasman - their first win on Australian soil - a win against the Mystics would have put the Steel within touch of the top four. But in a high-scoring shoot-out between Steel import Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and Silver Fern Cathrine Latu, it was the Mystics who triumphed.

After six rounds the Steel are 0-3 in their games against New Zealand sides and 2-3 in their encounters with Australian sides. One of the theories as to why the Steel haven't had the same success against Kiwi teams this year is that the one-and-a-half round draw system has given the New Zealand defenders more opportunity to play against the 1.98m Fowler-Reid and develop strategies to limit her impact.

- NZ Herald

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