Coach, player, author, commentator, analyst... Anita Navin's list of netballing expertise is long.
So here at Sky Sports we've asked her to take up the post in our Coach's Corner to analyse all the big talking points from the ZEO Netball Superleague...
Go West and close down Route-way 66!
ANITA'S VIEW: That's what Hertfordshire Mavericks did on Friday night against Celtic Dragons for what turned out to be another close encounter with a final result of 51-45 in their favour.
Mavericks were leading by three after the first quarter but it was the third quarter which punished Dragons with the deficit extending by seven goals (39-32).
The Welsh side were able to win quarters 2 and 4 by one goal but it was a night where they lacked momentum and probably missed their engine Suzy Drane in the mid-court.
With 6ft 6inches Timmy Cato at Goal Shooter for Celtic Dragons it was always going to be in the gameplan for the ball carrier to take the direct long Route 66 to goal. All that said, Mavericks 6ft Goal Keeper Layla Guscoth had a different plan and she carefully navigated her way through a range of defensive tactics and techniques to steal the show and emerge as the ZEO Player of the Match.
Mixing and Mindset
With a mismatch in height it might be very easy for some critics to claim this was not the correct choice by Atkinson especially with the 6ft 3inches Lindsay Keable, an England international, on the bench for the game.
For those who know the strengths of Layla when she's firing on all cylinders it was a logical choice. Defensively she proved her worth in this position and worked tirelessly and relentlessly to conquer the presence of Cato.
Mixing up the defensive style and strategy worked effectively and Guscoth was never going to be an opponent to pitch up tight on the Cato hold. Adopting a very strong in-front defensive stance and positioning slightly off the body of Cato allowed for a higher tally of turnovers for the Mavericks GK.
Guscoth demonstrated a strong technical ability with fast footwork to move and roll around Cato and at times gave her no space to manoeuvre whilst stuck on the goal line.
Delay and deny
Guscoth and Sam May, a pairing in the making for Mavericks, certainly blocked the long-ball option and left Celtic searching for other options and routes to goal.
May was effective in delaying and denying Goal Attack Cara-Lea Moseley a direct route to goal which ultimately placed more pressure on the attacking unit who often had no option but to force the long ball through.
It was May who deceived at times and by connecting well with the timely movement of Guscoth was often seen running through to the back space of Cato attempting to pick off the overhead.
May did not always gain the turnover but it caused moments of doubt, hesitation and a lack of accuracy for those launching the ball through to Cato. May would often not mark the shot but drop to the other shooter leaving Guscoth to come in on the fly for a second-stage defensive leap.
What also worked for the Mavericks defensive unit and a useful strategy for any coach preparing her team for the tall shooter style, was the 2v1 defence on the Celtic WA at the centre pass and the willingness to let Moseley the Celtic GA receive the centre pass wide. It was a well engineered tactic to force Moseley wide and remove her from the play as the tall feeding option into Cato.
There were moments of excitement when Bethany Dyke delivered an accurate first time ball to Cato for a successful outcome but often Guscoth was tempting the feed sitting low to then use her incredible elevation and wit to counteract the height of Cato.
A quiet night for Celtic's mid courter Kyra Jones who seemed to uncharacteristically find the defenders rather than outwit and at the mid way point in the season it is all about effective decision making under pressure with an emerging mid point fatigue setting in.
Guscoth played with the mind of the feeders to the circle and craftily came out with the ball after her powerful and well-timed two-footed jump.
Celtic coach Melissa Hyndman was quick to note that ball error and unforced mistakes were costly in this performance. The long ball to Cato often fell short and did not reach the back space but then there were moments when Cato was edging back way too early and before the ball cleared her head space.
It is often the long ball game which crucifies a defender but not on this occasion. Guscoth demonstrated a mind set second to none and stayed focused and flexible in her approach to remain fired up for a match winning performance.
The avid netball supporter will know that Mavericks are characteristically late entrants into form and this mid-point might just be the turning point on the journey to securing a top-four position.
Ask questions of your defence and ensure they mix up their style and strategy.
Tips for playing against the long ball option to a tall shooter are:
- Mark off the body of the tall shooter so as to not allow them to hold the 'T' position
- Leave the GA on the first phase of the centre pass and drop back to the circle to support the GK in a loose 2v1 but be ready to pick up a late GA entry to the circle
- GK should adopt an in-front position for defence with the upper body upright but be prepared to roll around
- With the in-front defensive positioning the GD could enter the circle and move to the GS back space to take the intercept
- Strong arms over the ball carrier looking to feed the tall shooter
It was a game of two circles with the rotation and mid range shooting of Kadeen Corbin and Sophie Hankin reigning superior on this occasion.
With the positive mindset and resilience of Guscoth it's inevitable that the Mavericks line up in attack were confident in their approach.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this so get in touch.