Southern Steel absolutely outclass woeful Central Pulse in Porirua - May 25, 2017
by HAMISH BIDWELL
Katrina Grant thought she'd said goodbye to games like that.
The Central Pulse captain has known some humiliating evenings and hollow feelings during her tenure. The odd trip to play the Thunderbirds or Firebirds in Adelaide and Brisbane comes to mind, as occasions when an opponent wiped the floor with the Pulse.
Wednesday at Te Rauparaha Arena pitted first against second in the national netball premiership. Even if the fulltime score of Southern Steel 80 Pulse 44 made it look more like first against last.
"We didn't do what we said we're going to do. We didn't do our structures on D, we didn't get enough ball, it was just not a great game and the scoreline's pretty embarrassing really," Grant said.
"We lost by, what, 15 last time [against the Steel] and we still felt bad about that. Better, but bad," said Grant.
"But this is just not okay, it's not acceptable. We need to remember what this feels like because we need to win next week a lot and by a good amount too.
"We need to go in there [to North Shore Events Centre] and get three [wins] from three [for the season] against the Mystics just to be to able to stay in the top-three, let alone the top-two.
"If we learn from this, maybe this is a little bit okay. But, even then, still not really okay. But we need to go into the next couple of games and absolutely put out our best performance and show that this isn't us.
"This game is just a one-off where we all had a bad day at the office."
Easier said than done, sadly. The Pulse have never carried expectation well and showed that again in this match.
They started the season as an unknown quantity and few predicted they would fire a shot. But by the time they met the Steel on Wednesday, they'd won six from nine and were being talked about as genuine playoff candidates.
That burden showed. The Pulse turned over the first centre pass and by the end of the opening quarter were down by a scarcely-believable 23-10.
The Steel then came out and scored the first five goals of the second quarter and went to halftime up 42-24. It was a procession from there, as no-one did much right for the Pulse.
Grant can be critical of she and her fellow defenders all she likes, but the Pulse were dreadful in possession. They turned the ball over time and time again, which you simply cannot do against a team as good with the ball as the Steel.
In shooters Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and Te Paea Selby-Rickit, the Steel's midcourters have two tremendous targets who enable them to let the ball go with speed and confidence.
The Pulse's plan was to pressure centre Shannon Francois and wing attack Gina Crampton, but that never came to fruition.
Instead, they left Grant and fellow circle defender Phoenix Karaka to endure a dispiriting night watching the ball sail over their heads and Fowler-Reid (66/70) invariably turning that glut of possession into goals.
The Pulse now have a critical fortnight, featuring clashes with the Mystics and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic. Their only hope is to approach those matches without great expectations, because history has shown yet again that they're often at their worst when they believe they can win.