Win or lose, Drys­dale won’t give up

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - IAN AN­DER­SON

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.

Mahe Drys­dale

MARK TAY­LOR/STUFF

Two-time Olympic sin­gle sculls cham­pion Mahe Drys­dale, at 39, still has the 2020 Games in Tokyo firmly in his sights.

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