After years as the cellar-dwellers of New Zealand netball, the Mainland Tactix went into the 2021 season as favourites for the first time.
Two weeks later, they find themselves in a far more familiar position.
Through two rounds of the 2021 campaign, the Tactix are the only winless team, following their surprise 18-goal thrashing to the Southern Steel with a more predictable but no less dispiriting 14-goal defeat to the Northern Stars tody.
Having added Silver Ferns standout Karin Berger to a squad that already contained Jane Watson, Kimiora Poi, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird, the Tactix weren't supposed to start their season like this, but the loss of Selby-Rickit to an ankle injury has proven significantly impactful.
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A bizarre case could be made for Selby-Rickit as the competition's MVP, as her absence has shown her immense value, with the Tactix have struggled to find any of the fluency that saw them as beaten finalists in 2020.
With Bird struggling for support under the hoop and yet to find her best form, the Tactix mustered just 50 shots to the Stars' 65, with the Stars building a 23-20 halftime lead before surging away with a dominant second half as Maia Wilson slotted 40 goals.
The Tactix's 27 turnovers was a symptom of the midcourt being unable to link with the attack, while the Stars were smoother, sealing their status as the only unbeaten side left in the competition after the Central Pulse beat the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Hamilton.
The 59-47 victory was sealed by a superb first quarter which saw the Pulse produce 20 goals and take an eight-goal lead. From 8-8 halfway through the first period, the Pulse went on an 18-4 run to end the game as a contest early in the second quarter.
The Magic's Australian star Caitlin Bassett was kept quiet, with just 25 attempts, and although the Magic shooters converted fantastically when given the opportunity (47 from 52), they did not create enough opportunities, with the Pulse shutting down the Magic's link-up play.
That led to them hoisting 17 more shots than the hosts, and Aliyah Dunn was no slouch either when it comes to accuracy, sinking 41 of 46 shots as the Pulse bounced back from their first-round defeat.