Columnist: Erin Delahunty
Give us a break, it's within the rules ... for now
BY any subjective measure, the odds are stacked against defenders in the game of netball.
The long-limbed princesses at goal shooter and goal attack are allowed to ‘attack’ out of court, defenders are penalised for defending off court. When a shooter pushes and shoves for front position, it’s called “holding” and is perfectly acceptable, when a defender does the same, it’s contact. And we all know shooters get an extra second or so to settle before they shoot.
It’s a universal truth wearing a D or K on your bib is a mighty tough gig. And I should know … I proudly wore one for about 20 years in a not-so-illustrious, but passionate netball career. I may be slightly biased.
So it was with utter glee that this grizzled old goal keeper witnessed what may well be the start of a revolution at the weekend; when 2011 grand finalists, the Northern Mystics, unveiled their secret weapon, “the lift”, against the Melbourne Vixens in their 49-45 win. It’s the talk of the netball world.
As reported on supersportswomen.com.au, Mystics goal keeper and Silver Fern superstar Anna Harrison (nee Scarlett) clean “rejected” shots from Vixen shooters Kate Beveridge and Karyn Howarth, with the help of goal defender Jessica Moulds, who provided a lift; rugby lineout-style.
The obviously well-rehearsed move required an unspoken understanding, impeccable timing and complete trust. It was a joy to watch. Defenders, young and old, on this side of the ditch and the other – and even down the other end of the court – were in awe. You could almost hear the thoughts … “Why didn’t we think of that?”. “How did they just do that?” “Whoa, the Diamonds are in trouble if the Silver Ferns are working on that too.”
Vixen and Diamond defender Bianca Chatfield had a box seat to the feat – and she was as impressed as the rest of us, describing it as “just awesome.” She also revealed that both the Vixens and Diamonds had experimented with a similar tactic, but had not yet perfected it.
Watching it on TV, my immediate thought was to wonder how bloody good it would have felt. My second was, “Gee, I hope they don’t change the rules to outlaw it.” There’s no suggestion that law-makers are contemplating a change, but it logically flows they may consider it. After all, we can’t have defenders having it their way, can we?
As far as I’m concerned, the move is well within the current rules – and most importantly spirit of the game. For example, a player can help hold a teammate onside, and this move is no different. The only question I have is from where is the three feet measured: the grounded foot of the ‘bottom’ player seems the commonsense interpretation.
If only netball was included in the upcoming Olympics, we could expect a cracking gold medal game. But that’s another column …
Erin Delahunty is the SSW netball editor, currently on maternity leave while wrangling two young boys. She may have a chip on her shoulder about being a downtrodden goal keeper who never quite fulfilled her potential.
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