Win or lose, Drysdale won’t give up
Jane Watson had become so used to winning that she had forgotten others weren’t so fortunate. Like, for example, her new team-mates at the Mainland Tactix, New Zealand netball’s perennial losers.
So when they won the first match of their season, and it clearly meant a lot to many of them, the defender was a bit confused at first. Fair enough, considering she had joined them from the Southern Steel, who had won 17 straight, and 28 of their past 32, a record that made such results routine.
‘‘All the girls were super excited and stoked and I guess I’d forgotten they hadn’t won, that it’s new to them,’’ Watson ahead of round six of the premiership, when the Tactix have back-to-back home games, starting today against the WaikatoBay of Plenty Magic.
‘‘I just took it as another game where there’s still work to be done, there’s still expectations that need to be met.
‘‘I guess it’s about getting that mindset of it’s just one game, it’s just one win, there’s a whole season, and it’s more about the process and that game-by-game, that’s just your job and that’s just what you do.’’
It was a moment that showed just how big a move Watson had made, leaving the Steel, last year’s champions, for the Tactix, last year’s wooden spooners, after being named the ANZ Premiership’s player of the year.
The 28-year-old does hail from Christchurch, and played for the Tactic from 2012 to 2014, which goes some way to explaining why she made the move. As for the rest, Watson said it was down to wanting a new challenge.
‘‘To grow and to be a better player and person, you need to become uncomfortable and be challenged as well,’’ she said.
‘‘I love the Steel and it was an amazing team to be a part of, but it’s not going to be the same again, and I know for them, it’s a whole new team as well, everything’s changed this year, and there’s so much more movement. It was a good time in my career to change and why not have a challenge?’’
Watson said she didn’t feel any pressure coming into the Tactix environment, despite her pedigree.
‘‘I just came in with an open mind and just being myself, I guess, bringing my voice and my opinions and ideas and being willing to share that with everybody, but also being
open to learning and working with some new, very talented players.’’
Six games into their season, the Tactix have already had three wins, more than they’ve managed in any year since 2009, with Watson’s work on defence, in partnership with Temalisi Fakahokotau, a key factor.
They are in the middle of a run of five home games in a row, and while they have lost their last two, to the Northern Mystics and the Magic, they have two more today and tomorrow, against the Magic again, and the Steel.
The Tactix are one of five teams chasing two playoff spots, with the unbeaten Central Pulse looking a lock already, and Watson is positive they will find the consistency they need to claim one of them.
‘‘It’s still quite early to be honest, there’s nine games left so there’s a long way to go, and there’s a lot of growth to be done.
‘‘The Pulse, yeah, they’re doing really well, but from being at the Steel, I know it’s hard being up there and keeping motivated. There’s always things you need to work on and everyone’s chasing you, so there’s no rest.
‘‘It’s better to be the underdogs really and come out firing. Hopefully eventually we can get that control throughout games.’’
In the other games in today’s triple-header, the Steel play the Northern Stars while the Mystics play the Pulse. In the final game of round six on Wednesday, the Magic host the Stars in Tauranga. As we’ve seen
Mahe Drysdale quitting.
Should the the two-time Olympic gold medallist fail to secure New Zealand’s men’s single scull spot for this year’s world championships, it won’t mean the end of a glittering career.
The 39-year-old will shortly embark on a European campaign that will decide whether he or Robbie Manson will contest the world champs in Bulgaria in September.
Drysdale said while he hadn’t ‘‘overly’’ contemplated failure, it would be viewed only as an initial setback.
‘‘I’ve always been clear that Tokyo is the end goal,’’ he said of the 2020 Olympic Games.
‘‘I want to start that preparation as soon as possible. But . . . it’s not the end of the world if I don’t make it this year. I still have time, I’m not at past Olympics, has no thoughts of going to quit the sport because don’t get the spot this year.’’
Drysdale, Manson and the New Zealand rowing team will contest World Cup regattas in Austria in June and Switzerland in July, with the victor in Lucerne set to gain world championships selection.
‘‘The approach is that on the 15th of July I’ve gotta put out my best race, and it’s going to have to be very good as I want the spot for New Zealand,’’ Drysdale said.
‘‘At the first World Cup I’d like a really solid three or four races, where I build that consistency to give that confidence that I am on track, and then I’ve probably got another couple of races between – if there’s anything I want to try or improve on, that’ll be when I work on those.’’
Drysdale said he was working on ‘‘a little bit more top-end work’’ in training as he tried to catch up following a lengthy break following his 2016 Olympic gold.
‘‘The numbers coming out of training are as good as they’ve ever been, so that’s really promising.
‘‘Unfortunately I haven’t been able to quite nail that top-end yet, so that’s my challenge over the next couple of weeks. I’m just not able to go out there and do exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it. That’s caused a little bit of frustration – I set myself very high standards and I’m not quite able to achieve those every time I want to.’’
Calvin Ferguson is now in charge of training following the departure of long-time coach Dick Tonks and it’s been a relatively smooth transition.
‘‘He’s probably as close to Dick as any of the coaches here – he was coached by Dick; Dick has been his mentor.
‘‘The training methods and the technical focus hasn’t really changed – it’s just probably a little of a time thing as we get to know each other; getting to know what works and what doesn’t.’’
Drysdale and wife Juliette have two children – daughter Bronte (three) and son Boston (one) – and he said that hadn’t made balancing career and family harder.
‘‘Sometimes it makes it tougher – if the kids are sick or maybe Juliette didn’t have the best night’s sleep and you’ve got to leave and go training. But you’re only gone for a couple of hours and when you get home you might have to put in a little work, rather than lie on the floor and recuperate.’’
After contesting his first Olympics in 2004, Drysdale said he still loved what he did – despite his current frustration.
Two-time Olympic single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale, at 39, still has the 2020 Games in Tokyo firmly in his sights.