Improvements to a team's performance don't happen overnight. It takes time to craft combinations, find what works, and achieve small goals on the road to the main prize.
For the Mainland Tactix, the end goal of hoisting the ANZ Premiership trophy looks attainable in 2021.
Since the inaugural season of the competition in 2017, Marianne Delaney-Hoshek has been at the helm and they have been building.
In nine seasons of the ANZ Championship, they didn't make the playoffs once. So far, through four campaigns under Delaney-Hoshek in the all-New Zealand incarnation of the competition, they have reached the post-season twice, finishing as runners-up in 2020.
Now, with the heart of the squad still intact and the addition of Silver Ferns defender Karin Burger, many have the Tactix tipped as favourites to go one step further this season.
While coach Delaney-Hoshek told Newstalk ZB anything can happen over the course of a season, she said there's an added confidence that comes with the tag at the start of the season.
"It's an honour that people think of us that way. But I don't really buy into it too much because the season has so many surprises to it and there's obviously an element of luck. But I'd like to think we'd be in and around — that's an expectation that we have of ourselves as well — but we don't buy into the hype too much."
While pundits are interested to see what the Tactix can do in 2021, there are several contenders. Although the two-time reigning champion Central Pulse saw coach Yvette McCausland-Durie step down at the end of last season, their squad remains one of the strongest in the competition, featuring standouts such as Katrina Rore, Aliyah Dunn and Kelly Jury, while adding a promising defensive prospect in Parris Mason.
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The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have also made moves to bolster their stocks for the season ahead, welcoming in star Australian shooter Caitlin Bassett, Silver Ferns midcourter Grace Kara and livewire defender Temalisi Fakahokotau, while the Northern Stars have made improvements also.
And while the Southern Steel and Northern Mystics aren't expected to stake their claims to the top of the ladder, there will be plenty of competition throughout the season.
The competition gets underway this afternoon, with the Pulse hosting the Stars in Palmerston North before the Tactix meet the Steel in Invercargill. The Mystics host the Magic on Monday to close out round one.
"It's good to get into the games; the good bit," Delaney-Hoshek said.