Emerging from left field, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse get the opportunity to fully test their subsequent rise in a top of the table ANZ Premiership netball clash against the Northern Mystics in Wellington on Sunday.
The Pulse have steadily built on a slow start to the season, finding form at the right time to notch seven straight wins and hit the business end of the season with a confident stride. But they have a job on their hands to knock a formidable Mystics team off the top perch.
``We’re confident in every game we go to but we obviously know their strengths,’’ Pulse defender Kristiana Manu’a said of Sunday’s sell-out match.
``For us, it’s just to make sure that we capitalise on the little things, making sure we’re scoring our centre passes – we probably won’t get too much in terms of gains because they’re very strong – but to make sure we score off everything we do get and just being consistent through the whole game and not taking the foot off the pedal in the second half.
``We didn’t want to have a slow start at the beginning of the season but that’s just what happened and we’ve just come off a huge month where we played nine games in four weeks, so for all of us to come through that month pretty much unscathed is pretty good physical-wise.
``And just as a unit, we’ve grown so much from it and it’s really exciting to know that we haven’t even hit our full straps yet.’’
In line with improvement resonating across the court, the defence end has also lifted a notch or two with more stifling defence and greater gains being a feature, subsequently promoting the Pulse to the best defensive team in the league after the latest round.
``It’s a full court, so that’s seven attackers and seven defenders and I think our attackers have really grown their defensive game so that just makes it easier for Kelly (Jury), Fa’amu (Ioane), Maddy (Gordon), who has been getting a lot of our gains, and me at the defensive end,’’ Manu’a said.
``It’s been a growing aspect of our game and hopefully, will keep building.’’
Short, sharp interchanges with rising young defender Parris Mason during games has been working well for the Pulse and the experienced Manu’a has been impressed with how the rangy 20-year-old has been injected and made the desired impact.
``She’s been awesome. Parris Mason is just so much more experienced, and wise, beyond her age, so for her to be able to get that court time and really make an impact has been really helpful for our team,’’ she said.
``And helpful for me too, as it gives me a minute or two to catch my breath, then come back out and hopefully do just as well as she has done.’’
Manu’a describes her own form as ``okay’’ but the powerfully-built goal defence has featured prominently in recent matches as the defence unit continues to flex its combined muscle.
``I’ve been battling a few old bones and old muscles, so I’m just glad that I can still get out on court and play each game,’’ she said. ``I’m fine, really excited and physically ready to head into the crunch end of the season.’’
In her second year, after moving from the Giants in the Australian league, Manu’a, 27, is loving the Pulse and playing on this side of the ditch.
``The first season was kind of like the honeymoon phase,’’ she said. ``You don’t know what to expect but this year, I think I’ve really come into my own in this group and just to see all the growth amongst all the girls has been really exciting for me.
``I’m really loving it here and really loving what this team is able to do.’’
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