Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Inner Circle: Mystics had something to smile about

Julie Corletto will play for Australia at the Glasgow Games. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Julie Corletto will play for Australia at the Glasgow Games. Photo / Sarah Ivey

At least one player in the Mystics camp had something to smile about this week despite their early exit from the playoffs race - import Julie Corletto has been recalled into the Australian side for the Commonwealth Games.

It will be Corletto's first Games, as she missed the Delhi tournament through injury - a recurring theme in her career.

The athletic defender was first selected for the Australian senior squad at 17, but her international career has been disrupted by knee injuries, restricting her to only 35 test appearances over that time.

After taking another break from the Diamonds team last year to recover from a foot injury, Corletto has looked fighting fit this year.

Her big concern was whether being based in Auckland with her husband, NZ Breakers shooting guard Darryl, would cost her, as Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander had made it known she would prefer her players to be with Australian franchises.

Pulse

Remember Paula Griffin? You know, the former Silver Fern ... selected when she was just 18, played in the 2007 and 2011 world championships, has about 20-odd tests to her name. No? Us neither, until she briefly took the court for the Pulse in their impressive 10-goal win over the Magic.

Griffin took the court in the final minute of the opening quarter after Donna Wilkins was forced to leave the court to get a cut to her face tended to (she copped a stray finger nail from Leana de Bruin but typically Wilkins didn't make a big deal of it). Griffin had just enough time to slot one goal, before a patched up Wilkins returned in the second quarter.

It was the first time Griffin has taken the court this season, while last year she was also bench-bound playing second fiddle to Wilkins.

Magic

Having fairly much flown under the radar for the first half of the season, the Magic now seem to be finding it harder going as teams wake up to the threat the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side pose. The Magic were lucky to escape with a win over the Thunderbirds in round nine, before last week coming unstuck against a fired-up Central Pulse. The Wellington side are the only team to have beaten the Magic this year; they also beat them in round six.

It was a missed opportunity for the Magic, as a win on Monday night would have given them outright lead on the ANZ Championship table after the Vixens were downed by the Swifts the previous day. The Magic still have a chance snatch the top spot this weekend while the Vixens have their bye round, but they will need to overcome a rejuvenated Southern Steel.

The Steel

The Steel think they may have found the answer to their poor home record this season. The southerners have yet to win a game at their newly rebuilt Stadium Southland, which re-opened this year after the roof collapsed in 2011 following a heavy snowstorm.

One solution still under discussion is to wear their away strip for Monday night's match against the Magic in Invercargill. The Steel were first alerted to the powers of the eye-catching magenta strip in their win over the Mystics last week, with Jodi Brown's side producing one of their best performances of the season to oust their northern rivals from playoffs contention.

Inner Circle was privy to high-level talks following the match, in which senior players raised the possibility of sticking with the magenta dress for the remainder of the season. Now out of the running for a top four spot, if the ploy proves successful, the Steel will be ruing their decision to stick with powder blue for so long.

The Tactix

The Tactix go into their clash with the Pulse this weekend in the rare position of leading the series between the two sides. The Canterbury team had a shock win over the star-studded Pulse lineup in round four - a result that could ultimately cost Robyn Broughton's side a place in the playoffs.

Still hurting from that loss, the Pulse have made no secret of having a score to settle this weekend, but the Tactix may also feel they have to prove their win wasn't a fluke. The Pulse may have played poorly in that match, but it was by no means a perfect performance from the Tactix.

The Canterbury side have shown solid improvement over the past couple of weeks but have not got the results to show for it. With opportunities to add to their "W" column running out, the Tactix will be eager for a strong showing this weekend.

- NZ Herald

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