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TTNL Round 2: Screaming, darts and wicked schedules for the west

Romelda Aiken for the Queensland Firebirds. (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)
Expert
13th April, 2016
2

Hi again Roarers, it’s that time of the week when we go through the ins and outs of each game of the Trans Tasman Netball League and definitively decide what will happen over the course of the season.

Before we get into the game discussion however, let us take a moment to delight in the news that TTNL general manager Andy Crook has left us.

That’s right, the wonderful fellow who brought us such popular innovations as the conference system, no extra-time played for drawn games and the pre-season basketball tournament is no more.

Fittingly enough, he has gone to the National Basketball League, where he intends to shake the game up by introducing tackling to the sport, changing the ball to an egg-shaped one and allowing players to kick the ball through the hoop.

But on to the matches, and first up this week we had the NSW Swifts taking on the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (aka the NSW Magic).

Although it was a home game for both teams, the crowd seemed inexplicably on the side of the Swifts. One can only assume this is because they are a much better team and only winners are tolerated in Sydney.

Watching the Swifts rampage to victory felt a little empty and makes me wonder if it’s fair to ask the Division 2 teams to play against these Division 1 teams quite so often. Just like last week, the Swifts released their bench on to the court and it looked like someone had just released a group of toddlers into a sultana factory, such was their unadulterated joy at being out on court and beating their opposition until they begged for mercy.

The only game of the round between two Australian teams saw last week’s two losing teams – the Adelaide Thunderbirds and the Melbourne Vixens – come head to head in a desperate bid not to be bottom of the Australian conference.

The Vixens took the crown and the bragging rights of being the “pretty bad, but not as bad as those guys in South Australia” team, winning 59-44.

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The Vixens will be holding on to that title pretty hard this week when they have to host the seemingly unstoppable Queensland Firebirds, despite their best efforts to have the opposition banned from Victoria on the basis of there being two many New South Welshmen in the team. On a serious note, a horrific injury to Thunderbirds goal attack Cody Lange has since been diagnosed as a ruptured ACL and damaged lateral meniscus and was just devastating to watch.

Looking forward to seeing her back on court and even better in 2017.

Following on from that we had the Southern Steel up against the Mainland Tactix. Two big talking points came out of this game, the first being Tactix goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda and her incessant screaming, which caused the umpire to give her a talking to.

However, the umpire was Jono Bredin, who gives out cautions the way Oprah gives out cars, so that in itself was not very extraordinary. Many people found it annoying, though in a sport that worships Sharni Layton as a god, that seems a tad irregular. The second talking point came from the fact that the game ended in a draw. As fun as it is to physically see the atmosphere escape from an arena and both teams looking like they lost, there’s only so much joy that can be derived from the misery of others. Surely we could get almost as much joy from seeing a team play a very close game for 74 minutes and suffer a heartbreaking loss at the last second? Something to think about at least.

Monday afternoon saw a brilliantly scheduled game between the Northern Mystics and West Coast Fever broadcast at 3:30pm in Perth. So not only do we make them hold breakfast games on Sundays just to fit in with our viewing pleasure in the East, we also put their team’s away games on at times when they can’t watch them.

Next season they’ll be lucky if we let them into the competition at all. This game featured the debut of Megan Craig of the Mystics, their new goal shooter who is either 203 or 205cm, depending on who you ask. Possibly it’s all just a guess because no one has been able to get up high enough to actually measure her.

For the first three quarters of this game, both teams were unaware of the aim of the match (to score more goals than the opposition), instead believing that it was very important to rack up as many turnovers as possible. Mystics were slightly ahead in this regard at three quarter time, when suddenly the Fever realised that goals were the thing they were supposed to be getting and cruised through the last quarter, winning by 10.

Finally we had the ‘Crush, Kill, Destroy’ Queensland Firebirds up against the ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ Central Pulse. The Firebirds were as ruthless as we’ve come to expect and most of the anticipation in games involving them is around exactly when and how they will be struck down by the premiership curse that prevents teams from winning back-to-back premierships.

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Personally I’m hoping the curse will involve the whole team attending a hypnotist’s show where said hypnotist convinces them that they all really want to be darts players and the whole team quits mid-season to start hanging out in dingy pubs and throwing tiny sticks at a round board.

With no curse in sight during this game, the excitement came from Romelda Aiken unconvincingly faking a finger injury with four minutes remaining, allowing the outstandingly named Beryl Friday to make her debut.

Even more delightful was seeing the entire team change their game plan from ‘score as many goals as possible and leave the opposition crying’ to ‘let Beryl score some goals (and leave the opposition crying)’. When she sunk her first goal, the stadium erupted and Aiken could be seen giving her a standing ovation on the sideline.

Though as that was the only shot we got of her on the sideline, it could have been more about the fact that she wasn’t quite sure how to navigate a bench and didn’t realise it was for sitting on.

And so, I must leave you for another week. Until then, happy netballing and keep an eye out for those dart-throwing Firebirds.

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