Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: The moment that proved the ANZ Championship will be missed

Cathrine Tuivaiti. photo / Getty
Cathrine Tuivaiti. photo / Getty

Few people would have noticed it.

It was just a fleeting moment at the end of a regular season transtasman league game.

But in that moment Mystics shooter Cathrine Tuivaiti and her Swifts' opposite Sharni Layton provided a reminder of what we'll be missing out on once the ANZ Championship winds up at the end of the season.

Last night's round 13 clash between the Mystics and visiting NSW Swifts side produced absorbing match-ups right across the court. The showdown between Tuivaiti and Layton was easily the highlight.

Tuivaiti sent out a strong statement to the national selectors as she chases a Silver Ferns recall following her heart-breaking omission from the World Cup team last year, producing her best performance of the season against one of the stand-out defenders in the competition.

The crafty shooter was at her dynamic best, masterfully conducting the play around the shooting circle with her clever passing and ability to think two or three plays ahead.


Rather than simply relying on the hold, Tuivaiti offered a variety of movement, at times confounding the Swifts defenders with her fancy footwork.

Throughout it all, Layton did what she does best: hustle. The Diamonds star niggled and needled, scrapping for every ball. When she was beaten, she gave herself a gee-up. When she won a prized turnover, she saluted her teammates.

But the best part came at the end.

After a bruising and at times heated battle, Tuivaiti and Layton immediately embraced when the whistle sounded, sharing a quiet word before walking up the court back to their respective teams with their arms draped around one another.

That interaction between the pair, who are regarded as two of the game's characters, summed up what the transtasman league is about - fierce rivalry on the court, friendship and respect off it.

"I guess there is a respect there, and while yes, we were trying to take each others' heads off throughout the game, it's in the game. The one thing I know about [Layton] it is all ball, all game, end," said Tuivaiti.

"It's good that netball can evolve like that and we can be fierce competitors and then just people when the whistle goes."

For the record the Swifts won the match, pulling away in the dying stages of the game to notch up a 59-53 win - just another win by an Australian franchise in a competition they have dominated from the outset.

What the record will fail to reflect is the at-times fascinating clash of styles in those games, the battles within the battles between top name Australian players and star Silver Ferns, and the camaraderie that has developed between players from each side of the Tasman.

But that is what will be most keenly missed when the two countries go their separate ways in a month's time.

- NZ Herald

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