Saturday, July 01, 2006


I never really planned it. Well, maybe I did, a little, subconsciously, after watching the Silver Ferns beat Australia in their fairly recent surge into winning form. But a couple of weeks ago, I found myself on the edge of my seat, watching the Force play off against the Flames for the chance to play Southern Sting in the National Bank Cup. I hadn't even been aware the game was on until I idly flicked the TV on: the first quarter was already over.Megan Dehn had gone down, hit by one of her own team apparently, and been replaced by a youngster, who never even expected to get on court, Brigette Tapene.She's my hero of the moment. I've tried to find some action shots on the game, but they're nowhere to be found, so this publicity shot from the Force website will have to do.

I recken she was robbed of player of the match, after getting shot after shot, never being flustered. Of course, it is a team game, and she was totally reliant on the defence keeping the ball away from the Flames, and the midfield getting the ball to her so she could do her thing but, man, once she got the ball, could she do her thing! All the commentators could say about her was the unobtrusive way in which she simply stuck to doing her job, or her "gliding runs", meaning that they finished with a 42 - 39 win over the Flames. She was damn smooth.

I had actually got so caught up in this game that I damn near got in Webster and went to Invercargill to see the semi final (the last sports match I attended was when New Zealand played India at hockey) but, well, it was cold and I'd been working hard, so I just stayed home and watched it on TV.

Playing the Sting, Tapene damn near did it all over again. She and Daneka Wipiti both started this time, and they were a formidible team. I was convinced they'd managed to pull off a win - being ahead all the way through, even with a six point lead in the 3rd quarter. But right at the end of the fourth quarter, when it was looking increasingly like a tie and Tapene had her chance to put the Force in the lead to end it there - for the first time in the whole match, the ball refused to co-operate.

So, the game tied at 54 all, which in netball gives them an entire fifth quarter of 14 minutes to play, and the Sting triumphed - I guess it helped that they had had a change of goal attack at half time, when Donna Loffhagen and Natalie Avellino came on. It took Loffhagen a wee while to find her pace, but Avellino was a machine from get go. This led to a final score of 59 - 64, and yet another fight between the Sting and Magic in the final. I knew that the Sting have been in every single final so far: what I did not know is that in the last few showdowns between the Magic and the Sting, the Magic have prevailed. So, not knowing that gave the game just that extra little bit of tension for me.

As it turned out, the Magic had the gme in the bag from about the first minute. I think the Sting may have actually taken the first goal, but they were never in the lead again, falling further and further behind, to finish 24 points down. Of course, Magic has Irene van Dyk, who is a magical shooter -
when you can take 52 goals from 55 shots, it is extremely hard for any other team to get a look in. Her offsider, Tanya Lund, did well as well: she set up so many shots for van Dyk (who seems to like being straight under the goal) as well as taking a fair few shots herself from further out. Even so, she was sitting on a 100% success rate (15 from 15) when the TV commentators jinxed it so she missed her last shot.

This other player in the photo, Hutton, was ptetty notable for being an aggressive player - she gave a shitload of points away through penalties.

So, yeah, I've enjoyed these three matches, and will probably make a point of watching the Silver Ferns (lineup is announced in the next few days) when they take on Australia and South Africa.

And, I must confess, I have become interested in yet another sporting code (that long dormant inner sports geek seems finally to be waking up): there is going to be a Mini Cooper S racing series, which looks like it will be a lot of fun.


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