The first round of the Trans-Tasman Netball League has been run and won, with a couple of close games and some good, old-fashioned thrashings. Let’s take a look at how each of the games went down.
The round kicked off with the Northern Mystics taking on the Southern Steel in a battle for supremacy of New Zealand.
Unfortunately, the occasion was marred by Mystics captain Maria Tutaia’s problematic compression gear.
In trouble in 2015 for wearing a sleeve with highly visible personal sponsor logos, she clearly hadn’t learnt her lesson, donning socks and a sleeve that contained tiny little writing all over them saying “Lose the game Steel” thousands of times as a sneaky, subliminal messaging stunt.
While it looked like the trick had worked for most of the game, the Mystics unfortunately thought there was a new rule in place this year that declared the final four minutes of the game was to be a ‘warm down’ and nothing that happened in this period counted. The Steel, having brushed up on the rules, snuck away with a one-goal win and the power to rename New Zealand ‘Invercargill is the Greatest-Land’.
We moved quickly on to the Queensland Firebirds taking on the Mainland Tactix, which is kind of like seeing the Harlem Globetrotters play the English cricket team.
The Firebirds gave the Tactix a fighting chance by playing with their hands tied behind their backs for the first 12 minutes of the game, but once they freed themselves, it was all over for the battlers from Christchurch.
Goal attack Gretel Tippett made the lay up shot look so easy, it seemed the next logical step was for her to start slam dunking. The Firebirds all but emptied their bench in the final quarter, throwing a bunch of newbies out on court.
It was assumed that they might rest their star goal shooter Romelda Aiken, but it seems that she has put a permanent sticking solution on the GS bib and refuses to take it off.
That was sad news for the fans of the brilliantly named Beryl Friday, replacement goal shooter for the Firebirds, as it would have rounded out the night to see her get on court, particularly as the game was on a Friday. However, even without the magnificent Friday, the Firebirds managed to win by 15.
The next day brought us Saturday afternoon netball – an odd choice considering most netball fans play netball on Saturday afternoons, but since when have TTNL ever considered what is convenient for netball fans? Anyway, it was the West Coast Fever taking on the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Perth.
The game started off close, but a rampaging 23-10 second quarter saw the Fever absolutely destroy the Thunderbirds and send them home with nightmares about quokkas, $7 takeaway coffees and Little Creatures beer.
To really rub it in, Fever left their inspirational captain Ashleigh Brazill on the bench for the whole game, just to show they could.
The Thunderbirds tried to take a leaf out of their book at halftime, sending their own captain Erin Bell to the bench in a desperate attempt to claw back the game, but it didn’t pay off quite as well. Both teams threw their bench players into the game, the Fever just for the fun of it, and the Thunderbirds in the hope that one of them was Nat von Bertouch in disguise.
Unfortunately, none of them were and the Fever walked away with the game 63-44.
On Sunday it was the Melbourne Vixens up against the New South Wales Swifts, with the winner to decide whether laneways or beaches were better. After the loss of their starting goal attack, Tegan Philip, to an ACL injury in the pre-season, the Vixens gave youngster Alice Teague-Neeld her first starting seven position in the TTNL.
This would have been very exciting for her, except that she was being asked to share a goal circle with Sharni Layton, which is rather like going to a day spa and finding out your mud bath is filled with crocodiles.
The Swifts were in no mood to be messed with and came out firing. Before too long, the Vixens were looking for somewhere to hide and were begging spectators to swap positions with them. Once again we saw a healthy amount of bench rotation, as the Vixens looked to find players who weren’t too scared to go near Layton and the Swifts just thought that changing bibs looked like fun.
It looks like being a long season for the Vixens, as the Swifts took the win 57-42 without even working up a sweat.
The final game of the round was between the Central Pulse and the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic. This game stayed interestingly close all match, which perhaps has something to do with the stat noted by The New Zealand Herald‘s Dana Johannsen during the match – that seven players on court were either born or raised in Australia.
In the end, the Queensland Pulse was too good for the NSW Magic (much like State of Origin), though the game almost ended in one of those infamous draws, when the Magic’s English import Jo Harten had a penalty shot at goal with ten seconds on the clock while her team was one goal down. She missed. It was a feat that would have made Ben Stokes proud.
With Round 1 completed, what does the next round have in store for us? Will Sharni Layton get to play all seven positions at once? Will Romelda Aiken ever know what a bench feels like to sit on? Will more English players choke hilariously? Only time will tell.