If the last few years have been the end of the innocence, 2011 needs to be the end of the excuses.

It is time for the New Zealand teams to stand up and be counted in the ANZ Championship. We've heard the reasons for the imbalance: Australian umpires, the travel factor, the greater depth across the Tasman; but there's the feeling they won't be tolerated next year.

Over the three seasons, every Australian team (except the West Coast Fever) have made the playoffs at least once and the trophy has never resided on this side of the Tasman. In contrast, the Mystics, Tactix and Pulse have not come close to making the final four. The Magic are the only New Zealand franchise who have won a semifinal.

"It's time for results," agrees Fastnet Ferns and Southern Steel coach Robyn Broughton. "We need to all take personal and collective responsibility. We need to respect the opposition but not play their game. The Australian teams are very good at establishing dominance."

The forward-thinking Broughton suggests it might be time for the local franchises to start working together - up to a point. Broughton and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic coach Noeline Taurua exchanged notes at the close of last season.

"We just compared experiences; this is what happened to us in Perth - what happened to you?" says the Steel coach, adding there is room for proper dialogue. "It would be good to have some formal chats; without giving away secrets, we can help each other. It can only be good for the game in this country."

Obviously not all teams can make the playoffs but taking some pointers from Kiwi teams can only be positive.

The Magic - with their core of Silver Ferns in the spine of the team (Casey Williams, Laura Langman, Irene van Dyk) will be as strong as ever and probably steeled by their chastening late-season mini-collapse this year.

Taurua endured a severe examination of her methods and knows that 2011 is time to deliver.

The Southern Steel timed their run perfectly and did well to make the top four, though the final was probably a step too far. They will miss the influential Megan Dahn but have gained another hard-working Australian in Natasha Chokljat.

The Northern Mystics welcome Anna Scarlett and Dahn to probably the strongest roster in the entire league, with more options off the bench than any other team. Their consistently underwhelming performances over the last three seasons (sixth, eighth, seventh) are hard to explain.

Perhaps there have been too many voices, too many strong personalities among the leadership group.

On paper, they should be title contenders and a debut semifinals appearance seems a minimum requirement.

The Tactix's woeful 2010 (last place; one win from 13 matches) remains a head scratcher, even with the benefit of hindsight. Their erratic shooting was often exposed, as was their lack of height at the defensive end.

With a resurgent Anna Thompson and youngsters such as Ellen Halfpenny and Charlotte Kight having another season under their belts, they will definitely improve on their last campaign - though a finish in the top half of the table will be a bonus.

The Pulse played their part in some close contests this year but still did nothing to shrug off their title as New Zealand's worst sporting franchise, having now won just twice in 39 matches across three seasons.

Whether you are being beaten by 15 goals or lose in the last minute, in professional sport, a defeat is a defeat and losing becomes a habit. The Wellington-based team remain unpredictable and have the least obvious game plan of any New Zealand franchise.

The element of surprise works occasionally and can lead to success but over a long season in a tough competition, weaknesses and flaws will always be found out.