City West Falcons coach Marg Lind had been hoping her side wouldn’t be impacted by an interrupted preseason come the start of Victorian Netball League Championship season.
Unfortunately for Lind and the Falcons, it turned out to be the case on Wednesday in their season opener, a grand final rematch, against Melbourne University Lightning.
The Falcons started well and led by two goals at quarter time, but when the Falcons had to make changes to their line-up, that’s when they struggled.
Lightning took the lead in the second quarter and extended that at every break to win 57-48.
For Lind, it was a slightly frustrating game, with the coaching panel restricted in who they could use in the attacking end.
New recruit and Melbourne Vixens training partner Stephanie Puopolo, was restricted to only playing a half by the Netball Victoria.
Tahnysha Salanoa didn’t play after being part of the Victorian under-19 team at the national championships.
“It was costly not having Steph,” Lind said. “She’s not a contracted player with Vixens, but they only allowed her to play a half which was really disappointing.
“We played Steph in the first quarter and started well. We should have left her on and played out the first half and really built a lead.”
With limited goalers, the Falcons introduced Sri Lankan Tharjini Sivalingam who arrived in the country the previous week. Sivalingam, at 208cm tall, is known as the world’s tallest netballer.
Lind had hoped to play her in division 1 for a few weeks to allow her to settle into the Australian style of netball, but instead she was exposed in the championship division.
“We had to run Kath [Knott] at goal attack with Jini and Kath’s not a goal attack,” Lind said. “The girls really haven’t trained with Jini and don’t know how she leads and likes the ball. Molly [Jovic] and Emily [Post] were learning how to feed her.
“Once we work that out she’ll be a major threat.
“We ended up putting Maggie [Lind] into goal attack. That worked better as they’d played together on the Saturday.”
Sivalingam shot 20 from 21 attempts in two quarters on court. By the time Puopolo returned the court in the last quarter, the damage had been done for the Falcons.
It wasn’t all bad on the opening night of the season for the Falcons, with the division 1 team and under-19 sides both having wins against the Lightning.