Both teams came away satisfied with their progress after Te WÄnanga o Raukawa Pulse and the Queensland Firebirds pocketed a win-apiece in the double-header pre-season netball clash held in ÅŒtaki this weekend.
The Pulse were missing lofty defender Kelly Jury from the action while the Firebirds were without stalwart Jamaican shooter Romelda Aiken, both remaining on track to make a return to the court in the next few weeks after recovering from corrective shoulder surgery and a fractured lower leg bone, respectively.
The Pulse welcomed their Nations Cup Silver Ferns Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Karin Burger back to the fold but it was young guns Maddy Gordon, who is continuing to build on her repertoire in the new position of wing attack, and custodian Elle Temu, who shone as the last line of defence in helping propel the hosts to a 58-56 first-up win yesterday.
With experienced midcourter Claire Kersten sitting out today’s match as a precaution after suffering a head knock yesterday, and minor niggles to several players in the re-match, the Pulse struggled to find their flow.
Early in their season but with a match under their belt, the Firebirds found their feet through non-stop captain Gabby Simpson in the midcourt, the athletic presence of Gretel Tippett and her shooting off-sider Ine-Mari Venter to square the ledger with a 61-54 win today.
This has been great for us,’’ Pulse captain Katrina Rore said. It’s not all about on-court at the moment, the off-court team bonding is just as important.
Yesterday was probably a better hit-out for us, today our player seemed to be dropping like flies. But that meant we got everybody out on court, had the opportunity to try different combinations and is exactly what we need.’’
The Pulse will revert to New Zealand opponents when they meet the Southern Steel and Mainland Tactix in Queenstown on Tuesday and Wednesday before hosting the annual Te WÄnanga o Raukawa Pre-season Tournament on February 28 – March 1.
The Australian season doesn’t get under way until May but the Firebirds relished the opportunity of getting some quality match play against different opponents while also having a first-hand experience of MÄori culture.
It was a very good way to finish our weekend here. It’s always nice when you’re facing a long trip to be actually going home with a win,’’ Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke said.
It was a great opportunity and we got a lot out of the weekend. We got everybody out on court and I felt we built over the weekend. We improved on adjusting to the Kiwi style, didn’t make as many mistakes and that was a pleasing aspect from today.
The Pulse are champions from last year and for us to get that level of competition so early in the season and to get everybody out on court has been excellent.’’