Elusive first title on the line for Pulse
August 10, 2018
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse are poised to create a slice of history when they meet the Southern Steel in Sunday’s ANZ Premiership netball Grand Final in Palmerston North.
The 2018 edition is a repeat of last year’s final but the roles have been reversed, the Pulse having the luxury of taking the direct route to the domestic showpiece finale after claiming the minor premiership while the defending champions gained their spot after a tough four-goal Elimination Final win over the Tactix.
The Pulse made the Finals Series for the first time in their history last year but a win on Sunday would be a completely new experience. Not so for the Steel, who have a winning mentality, a never-say-die attitude, and despite their short turnaround from Wednesday’s Elimination Final and the travel factor, not to mention the 176th and final match for southern stalwart Wendy Frew, cannot be discounted.
``It’s totally different to last year as in being in a better spot in terms of getting to the Grand Final and knowing you’ve got a whole week for preparation ahead of it,’’ Pulse captain Katrina Grant said.
``We’ve known we’ll be in the Grand Final for two weeks now and it’s just a great vibe in the camp to be able to have that certainty of knowing where the end game is instead of going week-by-week, training-by-training and not knowing where you’re going to be playing.
``We have known for a while where we’re going, we know when our last game is, we know how many more trainings we’ve got, so it’s a great position to be in. Everyone’s feeling really confident in knowing what’s two weeks of the rest of your life if you just put in some extra hard work now?’’
While there is a core of experience embedded across both teams, the Pulse are a more clinical side this year and their depth of talent could prove the difference on Sunday.
After largely playing a bench role early on while working hard on her conditioning, Silver Ferns shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio has been a real ace up the Pulse’s sleeve, unleashed in the latter stages with telling effect. And it doesn’t end there.
``Our whole side is great,’’ Grant said. ``We’ve got a team of 10 and that means whatever happens in any given situation, and it was a classic example when Karin (Burger) went down in our last game, Renee (Savai’inaea) popped on as if nothing had happened.
``It was seamless and there’s no issue for us to put anybody on if we need to. That’s what builds confidence in teams and confidence in each other which also means that trainings are great competitions in themselves and that’s really helped us.’’
With the Pulse’s Aliyah Dunn and her counterpart Jen O’Connell propping up the shooting ends, both teams have exceptionally talented young scorers, the ability of the defenders to disrupt will be a major factor.
``Dishing off the off-load to tall shooters is a common theme these days in netball and one of those things that’s always hard to combat,’’ Grant said. ``You’ve just got to understand during a game that you’re not going to get every ball, remind yourself to keep grinding away, not get too frustrated if things don’t happen straight away and choose your moments.
``It’s about knowing what got us to this position is what will win us this thing and we deserve to be in the position we’re in. If we just stick to our structures and do what we do, we’re a really good side and can beat anybody.’’