Anendra Singh
The height of the netballers and their distinctive uniforms were ways you could tell one team apart from another in the Flyers' crushing defeat in the National Bank Cup match at Taradale on Saturday night.
But there were two other contrasting factors that stood out like a sore thumb to the 80 percent-packed Pettigrew-Green Arena - the number of walking wounded in the Flyers' line-up and the squeaky clean bandage-free Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic team, after only three rounds of competition, and the absence of a major sponsorship on the Flyers' uniform.
Flip through the pages of the competition media guide booklet and it speaks volumes - in fact, it screams: Why are the Flyers the only team in the competition who have no medical support team profiled next to their coaches and manager?
Tell me why are the Eastern/Western team the only ones not to have a sponsorship, such as 'Full o' Beans Watties'-sponsored Flyers emblazoned above their bibs?
For the record, the "Sleepyhead"-sponsored Magic have a physiotherapist and a fitness trainer but "The Trusts" Diamonds head that department with a team doctor and two physiotherapists, while the "Fujifilm" Force have a physio and a massage therapist to boot, and the snazzy "Ascot Park Hotel" Southern Sting have a sports scientist for good measure.
Okay, so Magic coach Noeline Taurua confesses to having a few asthmatics but says it's nothing a few puffs from an inhaler, courtesy of physio Fiona Goddard on the bench, can't fix.
No doubt, Flyers physio Gay Montieth, of Havelock North, must need some therapy herself after patching up the players week in and week out, but it appears a major sponsor would definitely go a long way to healing the Flyers' mental and physical wounds.
Nevertheless, few would argue that improved Flyers fitness would have wiped the smirk off Magic's face following their overwhelming 68-36 result. After all, the fitter Flyers did win the respect of the Sting in the first round.
Skipper/wing attack Amigene Metcalfe, clinching her first National Bank Cup player of the match title, masterminded the Magic's third quarter demolition job, as goal shoot Irene van Dyk and goal attack Kiri Adams slotted 19 goals and stifled Flyers draft player from Auckland, goal shoot Julie Kelman-Poto, and New Zealand Under-21 goal attack Jessica Tuki, of New Plymouth, to a miserly four.
While the visitors also dominated the first and last quarters (17-9, 15-8 respectively) with centre Louise Moffat linking well with Metcalfe to feed their shooting pair, they didn't have it all their way in the second (17-15 to Magic).
Outstanding shooting efforts from Kelman-Poto, who remarkably sank some long-range shots, and a thigh-strapped Tuki, who was also everywhere on rebounds, kept the second quarter competitive.
The Hawke's Bay pair of wing attack Becky Kupa, her left ankle strapped up, and defenders Jodi Tod and New Plymouth's Erika Burgess had a blinder, although the inevitable resting of a knee-troubled Tod in the third quarter led to the sorry statistics. How a fit Tod could have added some respectability!
Hawke's Bay's co-coach, Eliza Falcon, said: "We had to make a change (Tod) at halftime. People are asking why we made that change but what they don't know is that we have injuries to manage. There were people strapped up on the bench, too."
To add salt to the wound, coach Taurua rested 1.9m van Dyk, who became a New Zealand citizen on Wednesday, and an equally tall goal keep, Karla Sutton, in the last quarter to blood her younger players, Anna Senio, Casey Williams and Rebecca Gabel.
Waipukurau-born Kupa, the shortest player on court at 1.64m, showed you don't have to be tall timber to turn the tide as she had some royal battles with Moffat and wing defence Laura Langman (and sometimes both of them) for possession. The ruffled visitors, regularly resorting to long-range speculators to van Dyk in their predictable game plan, were often guilty of unforced errors.
A solid Flyers and NZ U21 centre, Liana Barrett-Chase, of Taihape, deftly made herself available and forfeited few turnovers in a match where pressure was evident just about anywhere on the court.
Despite a fan's grumbling that umpires Pauline Sciascia (Hawke's Bay) and Yvonne Morgan (North) missed substitute Magic goal keep Casey Williams' foot over the line, the writing was conclusively on the wall for the Flyers, left pondering that dreadful third quarter.