How the Tactix overcame all odds to make first-ever grand final

Sophia Fenwick celebrates with Jane Watson. Photo: Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
Sophia Fenwick celebrates with Jane Watson. Photo: Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
The Mainland Tactix never once doubted their ability to make the 2020 ANZ Premiership grand final.

But that's not to say they weren't aware of the challenges threatening to get in their way.

Just one week after the season initially started, the country was moved into level 4 lockdown and the competition suspended. Two weeks later, Netball Mainland Zone announced it would be placed in voluntary liquidation, due to the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

With staff and management made redundant, all that remained was head coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek, ten players, and an ambitious goal of making club history.

"We got told pretty quickly that Netball New Zealand would take myself and the team on," Delaney-Hoshek says. "So we still knew we were going to play but there was quite a lot of uncertainty around contracts, whether we were going to get paid, and then we obviously lost all the staff that was behind us."

"It was a little bit daunting at the beginning because it was just the unknown."

Netball New Zealand's assistance meant the Tactix were able to keep a physiotherapist on board and pay assistant coach Julie Seymour for a couple training sessions a week.

Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua also stepped in on occasion to support Delaney-Hoshek.

But players still had to chip in wherever required.

"We just got on with it and as we got back into training, we still had no staff for quite a long time so that's when everyone pitched in and certain girls did certain roles and it really brought us together as a group," Delaney-Hoshek says.

"It was probably good for the girls to learn a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes as well.

"We've managed and we're just lucky that the girls that we've got are mature and nothing has ever been an issue, no one's complained, everyone has just got on with it ... we've just kept positive and we've just kept moving and kept wanting to get better and better each week."

Success on the court didn't come easy for the Tactix early on.

Kimiora Poi looks to pass to Te Paea Selby-Rickit. Photo: Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
Kimiora Poi looks to pass to Te Paea Selby-Rickit. Photo: Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
A number of losses and inconsistencies struck the team when the season restarted in July, as the Central Pulse and Northern Mystics took control as the league leaders.

It wasn't until a tied match with the then-winless Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, that Delaney-Hoshek says something shifted in the team.

"We knew we should've won and that was the catalyst for us to getting better and better," she says. "It just took that to really get us going.

"We had some really honest conversations at that point. Then from there, we've just gone from strength to strength. That was a key moment for us, that was the starting point for the run that we've had."

The race to make the final then began as the Tactix and Mystics battled it out to secure second place on the ladder.

The Mystics' upset win over the Pulse in Porirua in Round 8, had made fans initially believe it was over for the Tactix, before they too managed a victory on the defending champion's home ground last Monday night.

Delaney-Hoshek says it was the perfect way to end a challenging weekend on the road.

"We knew it was going to be tough because it was two games, two cities, travel in between, all while playing to two top teams," she says.

"We knew we could do it but I honestly had reservations at the back of my mind. We somehow just managed to pull it off and I'm really happy with the way the team played, all things considered."

The win secured the Tactix a spot in this weekend's grand final with a game in hand -although the country's recent Covid-19 outbreak saw the remaining round declared a draw.

It's left both the Tactix and Pulse a little under two weeks to prepare for the highly-anticipated match in Invercargill.

It'll be the Tactix's first time playing an ANZ Premiership grand final, something Delaney-Hoshek says has made all the challenges worth it.

"We as a team had goals at the start of the season and they never changed so nothing that happened had changed the fact that we wanted to be in that final," she says.

"A little bit of adversity can help and we've certainly had that in bucketfuls but we kind of over the years had a lot of different scenarios which we've managed to bounce back from.

"There's always little challenges along the way ... everyone's got their little stories."

The Tactix and Pulse play for the Premiership title on Sunday at 6:45 pm.









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