David Polkinghorne August 06, 2012
Legendary coach Norma Plummer rates Western Sting as a serious Australian Netball League contender and the Canberra Darters found out why first-hand at AIS Arena yesterday.
A clinical Sting totally outclassed the Darters, winning 76-31 courtesy of their high-pressure defence and precision ball movement.
Plummer, who won world titles with Australia as both a player and a coach, is in charge of the trans-Tasman championship side West Coast Fever and was on hand to watch several members of her squad play for the Sting.
And the doyen of Australian netball liked what she saw.
Verity Simmons controlled the centre court, while Fever teammate Josie Janz and her sister Alicia provided a smothering defence that continually forced the Darters to look for passes that weren't there.
It led to turnovers, which led to goals - goals that were normally sunk by Sting goal shooter Ellie Smart.
She sunk shots from everywhere and plenty of them - shooting 54 from 63 attempts.
''The Sting came third in this last year, so hopefully we can go one better than that this year,'' Plummer said. ''I think they've got a chance, they're a pretty good, balanced side.
''I think they'll make the final.''
While it was a one-sided game, Plummer still thought it was an important one for the Darters.
Without a trans-Tasman championship team in Canberra, it's the only opportunity ACT netballers have to develop against high-quality opponents, as well as to get noticed by selectors for the next level.
''[Canberra is] not strong enough to put in a [trans-Tasman] team … this is the next best,'' she said.
Darters coach Melinda Clarke agreed.
''[We'll] learn a lot from that. When we have the chance to watch some video and do some analysis I'm sure we'll take something out of it for our games next weekend,'' she said.
But she was still disappointed with the loss and her analysis was simple.
''They're a quality team and they've got a number of players coming back from Fever - I think they had five of their line-up who have been playing and training at [trans-Tasman] level so they were always going to be a real challenge for us,'' Clarke said.
''Unfortunately we didn't execute simple things well today … the effort was there, it was the execution that was the major issue for us.''
The second round of the ANL moves to Hobart next weekend, where the Darters will play the NSW Blues and the Tassie Spirit.
AUSTRALIAN NETBALL LEAGUE: Western Sting 71 bt Canberra Darters 36; AIS 55 bt Queensland Fusion 53; Tassie Spirit 51 bt NSW Blues 44 at AIS Arena yesterday.