The tall timber anchoring each end of the court has provided the early impetus in propelling Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse to back-to-back wins in their 2023 ANZ Premiership netball league openers.
Experienced co-captain Kelly Jury has set the tone from the back end of the court with her influential defensive exploits while relative rookie Amelia Walmsley has impressed under the hoop with her accuracy and volume, both picking up MVP spoils as a result.
Having played 86 national league games and picking up the coveted 2022 ANZ Premiership Player of the Year Award as well as being joint winner of the Dame Lois Muir Supreme Award, the challenge for the 26-year-old Jury is for more of the same in 2023.
In a new-look shooting end, Walmsley, 19, has shot out of the blocks this season to gain the starts for the opening two matches, while completing two stellar outings. She has a record of 12 matches at this level but those numbers are deceiving as the 10 she played in last year accounted for about 10 minutes in total.
``She’s doing exceptionally well and I’m so proud of her, the whole team are,’’ Jury said.
``You can’t ask anything more from a shooter than to turn around and put 90 plus percent up. She’s doing so much hard work behind the scenes and it’s great that she’s being rewarded for that with the amount of game time she’s had.
``It’s only her second start and her second full 60-minute game of ANZ and man, she’s standing up to defenders who have been around for a while.
``She has got a calm temperament but she also backs herself. She’s got the confidence on and off court which is so crucial in that shooting position.’’
The experienced front line of Tiana Metuarau, Whitney Souness and Maddy Gordon has provided the support and clean ball delivery in helping Walmsley settle into life at the elite level.
Sharing the same lofty heights of 1.92m, Jury and Walmsley also have similar unflappable temperaments and are ideal training partners in helping each other prepare for upcoming opponents.
``She’s a tall, holding shooter and obviously there’s a lot of those in the competition, so it’s great to be able to practise against her every day,’’ Jury said.
``And we’ve also got Joyce (Mvula), who’s more of a moving, explosive shooter that also has a holding game, so I find that great, personally, to be able to train against two completely different shooting styles.’’
In regards to her own game, illness meant a restricted pre-season for Jury but back in the groove, she’s happy with how she is tracking at this stage.
``Well, the pressure was on from last year, wasn’t it, to step up again?’’ she said.
``Last year I came away with a couple of awards but knowing that I still wanted to improve on a few areas in my game, both self-prescribed and from coaches, so I’m always looking to be that much better.’’
In Round 3 action, the Pulse come up against the Stars in Auckland on Sunday, the northerner’s confidence sky-high following two big wins.
Jury is expecting the Stars to be out for a bit of revenge after they were dismantled by the Pulse in last year’s Grand Final, denying them ball, particularly to shooter Maia Wilson will be a key focus.
``The Stars are definitely a confidence team. When they get going, they really get going and for us, we just need to slow that ball and deny them ball in hand,’’ she said.
``Maia’s playing exceptionally well so denying her as many opportunities as possible to shoot goals because she’s shooting some really high percentages at the moment.’’
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