Big rep­u­ta­tions not enough


The tra­vails of the Cen­tral Pulse surely carry a mes­sage for many coaches and se­lec­tors.

The Pulse, a collection of golden oldies, were tipped as the New Zealand team to beat be­fore the ANZ Cham­pi­onship.

In­stead, as the com­pe­ti­tion reaches play­offs stage, they’ve fallen off the pace in the most shat­ter­ing man­ner.

Their 60-33 thump­ing by the Queens­land Fire­birds – a must­win game – on Satur­day was em­bar­rass­ing.

Pulse coach Robyn Broughton has had a dif­fi­cult time mar­shalling her troops this sea­son.

Her trou­bles be­gan when she was de­prived of last year’s goal shoot, Aus­tralian Caitlin Th­waites.

Shooter Irene van Dyk de­cided that af­ter more than a decade of liv­ing in the cap­i­tal but rep­re­sent­ing Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic she would fi­nally play for a team from Welling­ton.

The prob­lem is van Dyk, 42 next month, is years past her best. She’s liv­ing off her rep­u­ta­tion and draw­ing a fat pay cheque be­cause of the player she once was.

Per­haps the Pulse’s spon­sors wanted her be­cause of her draw­ing power, but Broughton might have been hap­pier to stick with the solid Th­waites, who has played well for the New South Wales Swifts this sea­son.

Van Dyk re­mains an ac­cu­rate shooter un­der the hoop, but her gen­eral play is off the pace and, more im­por­tantly, she clearly doubts her­self. She looked beaten from the open­ing whis­tle against the Fire­birds, whose key de­fender, Laura Geitz, has out­played her for sev­eral sea­sons.

Not sur­pris­ingly, van Dyk left the court in the third quar­ter.

Broughton’s prob­lems haven’t ended there.

She has the big names, but are her play­ers truly com­mit­ted?

Donna Wilkins, liv­ing in South­land and busy rais­ing a fam­ily, at­tends half the Pulse’s train­ing ses­sions and al­ways gives it ev­ery­thing she has on court.

But she is 36 and has been try­ing to ward off a leg in­jury.

Liana Leota ac­tu­ally lives in Eng­land, where her hus­band, Johnny, is a pro­fes­sional foot­baller. She had her third child this year and has rushed back to try to make a dif­fer­ence for the Pulse. Again it hasn’t worked.

An­other Pulse star is Jo­line Henry, 31. Henry is a fine player, but lives in Hamil­ton. I ex­pect she’ll play for the Magic next sea­son. It’ll be eas­ier be­ing near her fam­ily.

She too has bat­tled in­jury this sea­son.

The only Pulse star to re­ally fire has been cap­tain Ka­t­rina Grant, a for­mi­da­ble de­fender. But Grant can’t do it alone, and has watched her team suf­fer some as­tound­ing de­feats.

There was an open­ing de­feat by the Ade­laide Thun­der­birds, a match that should never have been lost, and an in­ex­pli­ca­ble 55-53 loss to the lowly Tac­tix.

The Pulse’s prob­lems em­pha­sise how im­por­tant it is for coaches to choose fit, ea­ger, fresh play­ers.

All Black coach John Hart re­tained Sean Fitz­patrick, Zin­zan Brooke and Michael Jones too long in the late 1990s. They got slower and be­came more in­juryprone and left his team badly ex­posed.

More re­cently, crick­eters Sachin Ten­dulkar and Ricky Ponting hung on too long, play­ing when far past their best. Again the se­lec­tors were not bold enough to drop them.

That is the les­son to take from the Pulse this sea­son – rep­u­ta­tions mean noth­ing if play­ers aren’t still pro­duc­ing the goods.


De­clin­ing force: Irene van Dyk is not the player she was.

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