You know it's been a strange weekend of ANZ Championship netball when the only Kiwi side pleased with the way things went is the Mainland Tactix.
The Canterbury side pulled off an unlikely draw against the Southern Steel - a team that has dealt the Tactix some of their heaviest defeats over the past couple of seasons. While disappointed they didn't take the full points from the match, having been in a position to snatch the win, the Tactix were delighted their efforts over the off-season are beginning to pay off on court.
One of the stars for the Tactix was zippy midcourter Nicola Mackle, who was named the match MVP. Mackle was identified as a teenager as a talent to watch, but the youngster missed the New Zealand under-21 side's 2013 World Youth Cup campaign due to health problems. If she can secure consistent court time, Mackle could well be in the reckoning for more national squads down the track.
The Steel were filthy on themselves for blowing an opportunity to record back-to-back wins, but with the only other round one winner, the Pulse, suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of the Queensland Firebirds last night, the Southern franchise still lead the way in the New Zealand conference.
The Pulse weren't the only side to stumble across the Tasman, with the injury-depleted Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic suffering their heaviest defeat in the franchise's history in their 78-50 loss to the NSW Swifts.
The Mystics matched, and at times outshone, the Fever for three quarters of last night's clash in Auckland only to capitulate in the final spell, crashing to a 54-44 loss.
The news ANZ Championship general manager Andy Crook has quit the organisation to take up a role with the Australian NBL suggests a split in the transtasman league next season is now inevitable.
Netball NZ boss Hilary Poole told the Herald back in February the role of the league's governing body, Trans-Tasman Netball Limited, is being reviewed as part of the competition restructure for 2017, with the likely split (btw how are those broadcast negotiations going, Netball Australia?) eliminating the need for TTNL. It appears Crook has seen the writing on the wall (or classified documents).
From next season it is likely both countries will run their own domestic competitions centrally, with any transtasman crossover matches handled through a collaborative approach.
Fowler the shining light
Teenage star Holly Fowler was one of the few bright spots for the Mystics in their 10-goal loss to the Fever.
Fowler, matching up on Australian Diamonds shooter Natalie Medhurst, upstaged her experienced opponent, limiting the typically dominant play-maker's influence on the match. Medhurst's haul of 14 goals was low, but not unusually so with Caitlin Bassett the team's key shooter. But it was Medhurst's tally of just seven goal assists that tells the story of Fowler's impact, with the 18-year-old able to shut down the interplay between Bassett and Medhurst, through her speed of the mark and quick reflexes.
Former rival coach on Mystics bench
There was a familiar face in the coaching hot-seat for the Northern Mystics last night, with former Adelaide Thunderbirds coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson joining the Auckland side for the first time this season.
The two-time ANZ Championship-winning coach spent a chunk of time with the Mystics in the preseason and will continue to have input throughout the year, joining the Auckland team in camp ahead of each of their clashes against Australian teams.
Woodlands-Thompson's role is that of part technical advisor for the team, part mentor for Mystics coach Debbie Fuller, who is completing High Performance Sport's coach accelerator programme.
Bad year for goal attacks
Woodlands-Thompson's former team has not fared well in the opening rounds of the competition, suffering heavy defeats to the Swifts and Vixens. Adding to the Thunderbirds' woes over the weekend was the distressing sight of shooter Cody Lange collapsing to the court in pain after suffering a serious knee injury. Lange's knee gave way moments after coming onto the court in the second quarter against the Vixens.
The Thunderbirds confirmed this afternoon Lange had ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament and had been ruled out for the season, confirming what most would have already suspected from the young shooter's pained screams when she went down.
Lange is the third player to suffer a ruptured ACL this year - all of them goal attacks.
Vixens shooter Tegan Philip damaged her knee in a practice game early last month, while former Silver Fern Jodi Brown is awaiting surgery after injuring her knee in the preseason shootout in Sydney. Brown not only ruptured her ACL, but also suffered a partial tear to her medial ligament and will be in a knee brace for at least another month before she can undergo a knee reconstruction.