When the format for New Zealand's new elite domestic league was first unveiled, the concept of "Super Sunday" divided some netball fans.
"Ooohh I don't know if I would be able to sit and watch three games of netball back-to-back," said one colleague, who I will refer to here as Ms Forest to protect her identity.
I tended to agree. Six hours of netball did seem like a tough ask of viewers.
I was at the first Super Sunday event in Hamilton, which kicked off the ANZ Premiership season, but in between writing match reports, doing interviews and eating media bench lollies there were plenty of distractions.
This time, due to budget constraints and my irrational fear of wide streets I was unable to travel to Invercargill for the round six contests, so it was the perfect opportunity to test my netball viewing stamina.
This is a retrospective diary of spending quarter of a day watching netball.
It must be noted this concept was pioneered by my colleague Dylan Cleaver in his seminal work"What happens when you watch 480 minutes of Super Rugby". He gave me his blessing* to replicate the idea in netball.
The rules are simple: I must watch all games in real time, no pausing or recording.
* He actually flat out said no and threatened me with trademark proceedings. My knowledge of trademark law is admittedly patchy, but I think it'll still be sweet.
GAME 1: MAGIC v PULSE
It's starting! Cue opening shots of ladies wearing funny wigs piling into Stadium Southland for the second of the Super Sunday rounds. I know they are local celebrities, but I feel like the grand old dames get way too much face time on the coverage, they are the Sonny Shaw of netball.
2.05pm Much of the pre-match chat is focused on the Pulse's Cathrine Tuivaiti, who has had a cracker of a start to the season. Mel Robinson wonders aloud if Tuivaiti has done enough for Silver Ferns re-selection and Jodi Brown dances around the question. Here's a more direct answer: no. Don't get me wrong, Tuivaiti is a netballing genius of the highest order. She is absolute magic to watch. But in her career revival at the Pulse she still hasn't managed to address the concerns of the selectors: consistency and conditioning.
2.14pm The players are called onto the court, which means we have to endure the strangely choreographed introductions. The two opposing players in each position are called out, they high-five on the sideline before taking their place in their respective area of the court. The organisers wanted to do something different this year for the new competition. It is that. Different.
2.15pm Aaawww wee Max the ball deliverer knows how to make an entrance. Adorable spectacles. 11/10 please use him again.
2.18pm Tuivaiti is going to the bag of tricks early and delivers a cheeky over the shoulder no-look pass to Tiana Metuarau. It is an outlandish move and one you expect she will not get away with too often with Casey Kopua patrolling the circle.
2.23pm With the exception of an early flurry of goals from the Pulse, it is the defenders dominating the match early on. The last meeting between the Magic and Pulse turned into a battle of the defensive ends with Kopua and her Pulse counterpart Katrina Grant basically trading intercepts in the final quarter. While some of the mistakes coming from the two sides are fairly ordinary, there is something compelling watching a defensive chess match unfold.
2.27pm It is only 13 minutes into the match and the commentators remind us for a third time Tiana Metuarau is just 16 years old. This is not a criticism, I feel like that point cannot be made enough.
2.30pm COACH KILLER ALERT: Poor discipline costs the Pulse in the final few seconds of the quarter as their efforts to slow the Magic through court and prevent a late goal results in two players being cautioned and the ball being advanced into the goal third. The Magic score right on the hooter and take a 12-11 lead at the first break. That was really silly from the Pulse. I bet their coach, Yvette McCausland-Durie (aka the nicest woman in netball), is going to tell them she's not angry, she's just disappointed (which is worse, by the way). Don't disappoint Yvette.
I really like the way the umpires are cracking down on deliberate infringements this
2.42pm The Pulse get on a little bit of a roll in the second quarter and Kopua is not happy. "Come on now, that's too many" she growls at her young defensive partner Kelly Jury after she is pinged for a soft penalty. Kopua is right, Jury had picked up a couple of needless penalties for contact on the ball, but sometimes I feel Jury is penalised just for being tall.
2.43pm Woah...speaking of growlings, Kersten cops a major one from the umpire for accidental but dangerous contact after contesting a high ball to Rasmussen in the pocket. There didn't appear to be anything in it to be honest. I had to break the rules and rewind it to try and see what the umpire was talking about, and I'm still not even sure after a second and third viewing. Even Rasmussen looked shocked by the threat of suspension for that. But I'd still rather a growling from the umpire than from Kopua to be honest.
2.47pm The Magic appear to have snuck out to a four-goal lead. I can't quite figure out how.
2.50pm Tuivaiti enlightens me on how during her halftime interview with Jodi Brown ..."We're making rubbish individual decisions". Got it, ta.
The halftime analysis predictably focuses on the impact of the two defensive ends, with Phoenix Karaka drawing a lot of plaudits. Karaka had a poor 2016 season as was probably lucky to be reselected in the Silver Ferns, but she did slip down the pecking order, with newcomer Jane Watson getting a lot more court time than the incumbent. This year the battle for the defensive bibs is going to be tight.
3.06pm When the Magic get the ball moving and midcourters Grace Rasmussen and Ariana Cable-Dixon is are combining well, they Waikato-Bay of Plenty side look impressive. But they are prone to patches where the attack end becomes static and they shutdown. This is happening now and the Pulse draw level at 28-all midway through the spell. It's going to be a tight finish.
3.13pm Alex MacLeod-Smith takes court at goal keep for Jury. MacLeod-Smith is a great tale of perseverance. At 28, the versatile defender earned her first franchise contract this year after a stand-out season with the Mainland Beko team last season.
3.18pm Magic manage to reclaim a narrow one-point lead heading into the final spell. Full points to Cable-Dixon for delaying getting the ball back to the centre circle long enough to ensure the Magic get the first centre pass at the resumption. I love how the centres always know who's pass it is right up until the final few seconds of the quarter when a strange "oh it is my pass?" pantomime plays out.
3.39pm An absorbing final quarter. The Pulse take charge early in the quarter, courtesy of two Grant intercepts which came in the exact same spot within about a minute of one another. The Magic's shooters Lenize Potgeiter and Monica Falkner just can't seem to get their hands on the ball, when they do, they are reluctant to shoot. Falkner finally breaks through with a great settler of a shot, and it seems to give the attack end the resolve it needs. The Magic emerge 50-49 winners.
3.44pm Falkner is named player of the match, it seems a strange choice given the match was dominated by the defenders, but the youngster showed impressive composure down the stretch
3.50pm I use the break to put on a load of washing, being careful to separate my colours.
GAME 2: STEEL v MYSTICS
I'm really looking forward to this next game. The first meeting between the Steel and Mystics delivered a free-flowing goal-fest, with the Auckland side able to match the scoring power of the Steel (ie Jhaniele Fowler-Reid) for 57 minutes, before the southerners ran away with the match in the dying stages.
4.13pm The hometown court announcer takes great pleasure in drawing out the names of the Steel players like he is a ringside caller at the boxing. He somehow manages to extract extra syllables in the name Jane Watson (Jah-yaaaaaannnneeee Watttt-sssoonnnn) that simply aren't there. It's not about you, buddy.
4.15pm 45 seconds in, 3 goals scored. Yep, she's going to be a goal-fest.
4.20pm What has happened to the Steel juggernaut?? The Mystics are leading 8-1 after five minutes as the Steel struggle to get the ball to Fowler-Reid. She's 1.98m for goodness sake! How can you not find her!?
4.25pm And just like that, the Steel are back. They tie it up at 10-all and you can sense the Mystics' heads begin to drop. It's not often you're going to get a seven-goal headstart against the Steel and they blew it almost immediately.
4.30pm The Steel continue on their merry way and take a 16-12 lead at the first break. Just outrageous.
4.35pm I miss the start of the second quarter as my neighbour knocked on the door asking if I have a ladder he could borrow. As his luck would have it, I have somehow inherited three ladders. An embarrassment of ladder riches. I am happy to help, but can't help but feel given he is a builder he should really have his own.
4.38pm Okay, confession time: I seem to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Gina Crampton. The rookie Silver Fern has received plenty of accolades over the past couple of seasons, but I'm ashamed to say I don't really notice her. I'm making an effort to notice her now.
Wow. Crampton has an impressive change of pace. At one point she drifts around the transverse line and then puts the foot down and charges through a gap, collecting a well-timed pass from Shannon Francois and hitting the top of the circle. At other times, she fires in the long ball to Fowler-Reid from 3-4m off the circle edge. Crampton is constantly changing it up to keep the defenders guessing.
4.47pm While I have been watching Crampton obsessively, the Mystics have had a complete meltdown and got themselves in a 10-goal hole. Tutaia is having another quiet afternoon with her shooting. I like the way Tutaia is still confident to go to the post after a few wobbly shots, but there are times when the quick off-load to Mes under the goal would be a better option.
4.50pm Halftime. Thank heavens. Energy levels waning. I really need some refreshments.
4.58pm I arrive back in front of the telly to catch the end of the weirdest halftime act ever. It involves small men squeezing themselves into plastic tubes. Commentator Rikki Swannell is somewhat lost for words, and that never happens.
The third quarter is all the Steel show. I'm getting a bit bored now and seriously contemplating going over and offering to help the neighbour pull down a ceiling.
5.15pm There's a lot of players yelling directions at the umpires in this game, with appeals for held ball coming virtually every third pass. There appears to be a lot of very poor time keepers out on court. It's like, one-mississippi, two-missi- HELD!
5.17pm The Steel lead by 19 goals at three quarter time and I'm struggling to find a reason to watch the final quarter.
5.24pm I persist, only because I don't want to fail at my experiment so early in the piece.
5.31pm The Steel attack end gets talked about a lot, but their defensive unit work is also pretty impressive. Watson clearly has the measure of the Mystics shooters in this game. She's got quite different style to your typical New Zealand defender. She doesn't get a lot of clean intercepts, but she has good hustle and can be extremely disruptive.
5.40pm The Steel clear their bench over the final 15 minutes, but the most popular change is the introduction of 17-year-old shooter Aliyah Dunn, who makes her ANZ Premiership debut in the final three minutes of the match. I'm heartened by the number of young shooters coming through after a fairly dry production period over the past few years.
5.43pm It's over. I rejoice.
5.45pm I feel really bad for Mystics co-captain Anna Harrison. The ultra-competitive defender gives her all in every match for her side, and today is no different. She is bitterly disappointed by her side's performance. Belinda Colling tries to cheer her up by reminding her that the Mystics face the Tactix next up on Wednesday night.
Skin Deep with Anna Harrison
GAME 3: STARS v TACTIX
This is the one I'm dreading. The Tactix have been awful this season, the Stars not much better. But I really want to be there for the Tactix, they've had a tough week after their coach Sue Hawkins resigned five games into the season. I don't have the heart to abandon them as well.
6.25pm This contest is actually strangely entertaining. Sure, there are some pretty soft turnovers from both sides, but it is shaping up to be an arm wrestle of a battle.
6.30pm After every Tactix goal the camera cuts to their skipper Jess Moulds on the team bench. No matter what position her team are in, Moulds always seems to remain a picture of energy and enthusiasm. That she can stay so upbeat while she endures a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a serious knee injury is a credit to her resilience.
6.31pm There's just one goal in it at the first break, and amazingly, neither side has made any changes to their line-ups. The new rules which allow for rolling substitutions have been used liberally by both sides throughout the opening five rounds. In one game Julie Hoornweg made changes to all but one position on court after just seven minutes of play. I think sometimes there's a lot to be said for just allowing a line-up to settle.
6.50pm The score is locked at 22-all at halftime and the commentators have already declared this a triumph for the Tactix ... "whatever happens from here, they've played well".
7.09pm The Tactix return from the break in a buoyant mood and creep out to a four-goal lead early on in the third period. I think it is the first time the Canterbury side have led for a sustained period of time in this competition. It will be interesting to see how they go in the unfamiliar position of defending a lead.
7.17pm Not that well, as it turns out. Their run lasted about 10 minutes before the Stars got their noses back in front thanks to some typically gutsy defensive work from Leana de Bruin. You have to wonder where the Stars would be this season without their inspirational skipper. The Auckland side managed to stretch their lead out to 36-31 lead and you sense the Tactix fight has gone out of them.
7.24pm Tactix defender Temalisi Fakahokotau keeps getting penalised for counting out loud as the shooters are lining up a shot. The umpire rules it intimidation. What? Is Maia Wilson numerically dyslexic or something? Does she get freaked out by numbers?
Kayla Cullen is suspended for two minutes for persistent deliberate obstruction, earning the dubious honour of being the first player sent off in ANZ Premiership history. Fakahokotau is in danger of joining her if she keeps up with these counting violations. The Stars are down to six players for two minutes but there seems to be no sense in urgency from the Tactix to try and take advantage. You have to wonder about the leadership in the team.
7.39pm The Tactix go down by five, but seem inexplicably pleased by the result. I guess it is their first point of the season, but they were in control for much of the third quarter. "Onwards and upwards" says new coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek and I take it as my cue to bow out.