2013 Finish: 5th
Coach: Robyn Broughton
Asst Coach: Marianne Delaney
Captain: Katrina Grant
Haier Pulse are the only team in the ANZ Championship to have finished higher each season since the competition began back in 2008. Going by the same calculations, 2014 should see the Wellington-based team make the Finals Series after narrowly missing out on a spot last year.
The Pulse squad is impressive, bursting at the seams with ten current or former national representatives including England’s Ama Agbeze. Internal competition for spots will provide incentive enough for all players to pull out their ‘A’ games each week with so many talented players available for selection.
The team has been boosted by the signing of shooter Irene van Dyk, who is still playing at the top of her game. The combination between van Dyk and former Fern Donna Wilkins will be one to watch.
The mid-court has taken a pre-season blow with Liana Leota expected to miss matches due to the imminent arrival of her third child but with so much depth within the squad, coach Robyn Broughton will be spoilt for choice as to her replacement. Defensively sound, the Pulse have retained captain Katrina Grant and fellow Fern Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, aided by Joline Henry on the wing.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Elias Shadrock
One of many players to vacate the Kia Magic after the 2013 season, 23-year old Elias Shadrock has moved to the Pulse with the express intention of gaining more court time. The versatile mid-courter may well be the one to put up her hand in Leota’s absence. Across five seasons with the Magic, Shadrock demonstrated great vision in the mid-court on both attack and defense. Lack of consistency cost her a starting spot towards the end of last season but under a new coach and management team, look for a reinvigorated Shadrock to inject
herself into the team given any opportunity.
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT:
Donna Wilkins has signaled her intention to retire from ANZ Championship netball at the end of the 2014 season with a Championship title under her belt. With that kind of single-minded focus infused into the team psyche, the Pulse are expected to come out firing this season. Stacked at both ends of the court, the challenge for Robyn Broughton will be to cement those new combinations, especially in the mid-court, to ensure the ball makes a seamless transition through-court to Wilkins and van Dyk.
The Pulse still need to register a win in Australia after six seasons of trying and will need to break that hoodoo this year if they want to progress through to the Finals Series. Many in the team will have to stay focused on the end goal this ANZ Championship season. With many players in contention for Commonwealth Games spots some players will need to avoid competing with one eye on Ferns selection if they are to hold the ANZ Championship trophy aloft come the end of June.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS
According to Broughton, the Pulse’s 2013 season means the side can no longer be regarded as one of the “cellar dwellers” of the competition.
Expectations are high that the team will forcefully move on from last year’s result and that certainly appears to be the expectation of the Pulse’s rapidly-expanding fan base as all of the season tickets were sold out months ago.
“Naturally there has been great focus on Irene van Dyk’s return and her combination with Donna Wilkins is eagerly awaited,” Broughton said.
“Their rankings last season as having the top shooting percentage for a goal shoot and goal attack respectively marks them as outstanding contributors in their positions.”
The Pulse has the same successful defensive pairing of Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and both were highly-ranked statistically in their respective positions last season. Goal keeper Grant was ranked fourth and goal defence Selby-Rickit sixth.
If they can maintain and build on this form, they will make a significant impact in the coming season.
Silver Ferns Joline Henry and Millie Lees made a huge contribution in 2013 and will both be to the fore again in 2014. It is expected that former Silver Fern Paula Griffin will provide vital support in the shooting circle.
New recruits from within New Zealand are Gemma Hazeldine and Elias Shadrock while Katarina Cooper returns after having a year away from netball because of injury and Clare Kersten is also returning to the squad.
The arrival of English player Ama Agbeze as Pulse’s import player will add a new dimension and she is expected to make a significant contribution in the defence area. Liana Leota will also join the team later in March after the birth of her third child.
With the combination of a well-balanced squad and outstanding support from a large number of season ticket holders and other fans, the Haier Pulse is poised to perform well in 2014.