It’s our netballers’ turn to shine, says Graeme Beasley

Pulse on the rise

PRomote Pulse Amazing Race-4This is the Cent­ral Pulse’s year.

That is admit­tedly a bold and pos­sibly fool­hardy thing to say about any Wel­ling­ton-based sport­ing fran­chise, but this Cent­ral Pulse sea­son does have a fair bit of optim­ism about it.

Since the incep­tion of the ANZ Cham­pi­on­ship, the going has been tough. At times the Pulse were the laugh­ing stock of the com­pet­i­tion, and any win could be con­sidered the high­light of the sea­son. Gradu­ally this has turned around. Since the appoint­ment of Robyn Broughton and Kat­rina Grant as coach and cap­tain, respect­ively, in 2012, there has been clear improve­ment on the court, and an increas­ingly optim­ist­ic vibe off it (includ­ing a new nam­ing rights spon­sor in Mojo coffee).

Adding to this is the announce­ment of a mod­i­fied tour­na­ment struc­ture for 2015. The new format, which is sim­il­ar to that cur­rently used in Super Rugby, sees the Aus­trali­an and New Zea­l­and teams split into two con­fer­ences. A guar­an­teed three teams from these con­fer­ences will then pro­gress through to a restruc­tured finals series. The real­ity is that fin­ish­ing in the top three New Zea­l­and sides is demon­strably easi­er than fin­ish­ing in the top four in a com­bined table.

Some people have cri­ti­cised this format, arguing that it does not guar­an­tee that the six best teams make the play-offs, and that con­fer­ence sys­tems should be con­fined to US com­pet­i­tions. But if any fran­chise bene­fits from the change, it is the Cent­ral Pulse.

This is our year. The year when the former cel­lar dwell­ers make it onto the big stage. The his­tory of the fran­chise is partly why Wel­ling­to­ni­ans are embra­cing the steady improve­ment. We are used to accept­ing dis­ap­point­ment with self-deprec­at­ing humour and we cher­ish the good times.

That is why the Pulse is con­nect­ing with its fan base. This is not the over-com­mer­cial­ised face of mod­ern sport — we see the play­ers out and about, they have oth­er jobs, and we can identi­fy with them.

Chil­dren under 16 make up 22 per­cent of sea­son tick­et-hold­ers, which is a par­tic­u­larly refresh­ing stat­ist­ic in an era when pro­fes­sion­al sport is viewed as increas­ingly dis­con­nec­ted from those play­ing at grass­roots level.

A quick look through the play­ing roster high­lights the diversity with­in the squad. Ama Agbeze, the former Eng­land inter­na­tion­al, is a qual­i­fied law­yer. Eli­as Shad­rock works at the ASB Sports Centre. Whit­ney Soun­ess is at uni­ver­sity, and is seen as a star of the future. Han­nah Poff returns to net­ball after a stint play­ing rugby sev­ens. These are real people with diverse back stor­ies. Fans can relate to that.

In addi­tion, the teams includes some big names in net­ball. Sil­ver Fern Kat­rina Grant is the cap­tain, and Joline Henry, anoth­er mem­ber of the nation­al squad, is the vice cap­tain. These two are both enter­ing their fourth sea­son for the Pulse fran­chise and form the back­bone of the side.

The inter­na­tion­al exper­i­ence does not end there though. Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rick­it is anoth­er from the class of 2012, and Liana Leota, who played for the Pulse five weeks after giv­ing birth last sea­son, is now a reg­u­lar in the mid-court.

The new sign­ings strengthen the squad fur­ther. Former Queenslander Ameli­aranne Wells com­pletes her nation­al­ity switch, and Jodi Brown, the 42-test vet­er­an, joins the squad, adding even more experience.

Then there is the farewell sea­son for Irene Van Dyk. We have for­giv­en her for those years play­ing in Hamilton, and this is the last chance to see argu­ably the world’s best net­baller in action.

That all adds up to an excit­ing year ahead. As the tagline for the 2015 sea­son says, “All Charged Up”.

 

The ANZ Cham­pi­on­ship starts on 28 Feb­ru­ary and the Mojo Pulse’s first home game is on 8 March at Te Rauparaha Arena in Pori­rua against the Queens­land Fire­birds. Mem­ber­ships are on sale now from pulse.org.nz.

About Graeme Beasley

One of those rare people: a born and bred Wel­ling­to­ni­an. And enough of a Wel­ling­to­ni­an to know how to pro­nounce Majoribanks Street. Has a soft spot for the Makara wind farm, the south coast and the buck­et foun­tain, but refuses to toot the horn in the Mt Vic­tor­ia tun­nel. Very famil­i­ar in hand­ling the full range of emo­tions gen­er­ated by sup­port­ing Wel­ling­ton sports team. Works in IT.

About Graeme Beasley

One of those rare people: a born and bred Wellingtonian. And enough of a Wellingtonian to know how to pronounce Majoribanks Street. Has a soft spot for the Makara wind farm, the south coast and the bucket fountain, but refuses to toot the horn in the Mt Victoria tunnel. Very familiar in handling the full range of emotions generated by supporting Wellington sports team. Works in IT.

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