Netball: Pulse captain upbeat about inexperienced roster

Time flies when you are having fun.

That has evidently been the case for Central Pulse captain and Silver Ferns stalwart Katrina Grant, who is gearing up to take on her former side the Southern Steel in Invercargill this weekend.

The 79-test veteran, who played for the Steel in 2008-09, is in her sixth consecutive year in charge of the Pulse, a side which was again expected to battle this season.

‘‘Wow, has it been that long?'' Grant responded when asked if she was still enjoying the captaincy role.

‘‘I must be getting old.''

The Wellington-born player, who will turn 29 next month, certainly has enough going on around her in the capital to keep her young.

She is in charge of a raw side which was hit by the loss of veteran Jodi Brown and promising youngster Whitney Souness before the season started.

There are several new players on the Pulse roster this season and the side was carrying four debutants before the first ANZ Championship match.

‘‘Every year is so different.

‘‘I've had a few coaches come in and out and players come in and out.

‘‘We've got eight or nine new players on our roster this year.

‘‘I've implemented a few different things this year and no-one knows that they're different.''

The Pulse has a best finish of fifth under Grant's watch and has yet to make the playoffs.

It came away with a tie against the Northern Mystics on Monday night, despite being behind for most of the match and is second in the New Zealand conference after three rounds with a win, loss and draw.

‘‘We had low expectations from everybody for our season and we've kind of exceeded those expectations already.

‘‘We're growing every week as a team.''

Eighteen-year-old goal shoot Maia Wilson, who was not expected to get much game time this season, is one player who has made the most of her opportunity.

She nailed 32 of 34 attempts against the Mystics and is helping to ease the loss of Brown.

‘‘She's been thrown in the deep end and put in there straight away and she's stepped up really well with that,'' Grant said.

‘‘She's a confident player and she's doing what she knows how to do.''

The Pulse had planned to bring Souness back towards the end of the season but it was later decided not to rush her back from a serious knee injury she sustained last year.

‘‘I believe she's a superstar for the future and there's no point us trying to rush her back.

‘‘I want the New Zealand public to see what a great player she is and not see her come back before she's ready.''

The Magic put huge pressure on the Steel mid-court and centre pass last weekend and that was something the Pulse had taken note of, Grant said.

‘‘They were able to hold the Steel up at times.

‘‘They disrupted their flow through the court and forced them to make quite a few passes in their own defensive end.

‘‘At the circle end it's almost impossible to stop Jhaniele [Fowler-Reid].

‘‘We pretty much have to have every single person on defence.''

The Pulse made no substitutions against the Mystics but she and the coaching staff did have confidence in the rest of the squad, Grant said.

The side had made changes previously and two players not on the initial roster, Te Amo Amaru-Tibble and Claire Kersten, came on against the Firebirds.

The biggest challenge the Pulse would face against the Steel on Sunday would be nullifying the Invercargill crowd, she said.

‘‘I know exactly what it's like and how great their home crowd is.

‘‘We just can't let the crowd get behind them and let them get on any sort of roll, because it will be very difficult for us to pull them back.''

Much of the experience in the Pulse squad lay with Grant and fellow senior players Chelsea Locke, Jacinta Messer and Elias Scheres.

But Grant did not put any pressure on herself because of that.

‘‘We know we've got to step up, but any side has a leadership group that has to step up and help grow the younger ones into better players.''

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