Australia may get a lift for NZ Test series
Lisa Alexander. Photo: Richard Briggs
AUSTRALIA is preparing a new offensive structure for the Test series against New Zealand that begins on Sunday at Hisense Arena, with coach Lisa Alexander hinting that tactics may include an attacking variation of the defensive ''chairlift'' first seen at club level in May.
The second-year coach said the changes had been prompted by the defensive improvements apparent during the ANZ Championship season, where scores were generally lower and turnover counts high.
''People are really playing defence and playing it well, so now we've got to have a bit of a breakthrough with our attacking play,'' said Alexander, who succeeded Norma Plummer after last year's world championships victory in Singapore.
''So we've got a few plans in place for that, for the 'Aussie style', I guess, that we're looking at, and we're really looking at defining ourselves quite differently to New Zealand.
''There could be some surprises out there, you never know. There could be a lift in the attack end.''
Pressed on how seriously that was being considered, Alexander said: ''Well, it's within the rules, we can do it, as long as we're not interfering with anybody else. It's only been practised actually a couple of times, so we'll see.''
She added: ''It could have been practised at the Australian Institute of Sport. It could have been practised at Australian squad training.''
New Zealand team Northern Mystics pioneered the imaginative defensive manoeuvre last season, which involved rangy Silver Fern, Anna Harrison - a former beach volleyball international - being hoisted by a teammate to block opponents' scoring attempts. Unlike basketball, netball does not have a goal-tending rule.
Alexander was at the game against the Melbourne Vixens where the lift was unveiled and admitted that, like many in the crowd, she had not been aware that Harrison's jumps had been assisted. Others, however, booed the innovation, which was unsuccessful over four repeat tries the following week.
So was what the coach called ''the biggest story of the year'' also good news for netball? ''I think it is. It certainly helps to show the excitement of the sport; whether it has consequences down the track, you never know those things, and you've always got to weigh it up.
''You've sort of got to let it play out and see what the consequences are. We can't change our rules until world champs year  anyway.''
Alexander will trim her squad of 15 to 12 on Saturday for the first Test in the Constellation Cup series against the world No. 2, with the remaining Tests scheduled for Auckland and Christchurch on September 20 and 23. A four-way series of double-headers involving England and South Africa will be played next month. Matches will be telecast live on Fox Sports.