A maiden ANZ Premiership Grand Final appearance and the most settled line-up of the 2021 league has placed a large target on the back of The Good Oil Tactix.
But they showed last season they know how to rise to a challenge and with a swell of support from the mainland, believe they are capable of delivering even more when the Premiership whistles blow on 18 April.
Midcourter Charlotte Elley has witnessed first-hand the change of fortunes – she has experienced the tough times but has also seen a mental shift and which, coupled with plenty of hard work on and off the court, led to the Tactix first ever Grand Final spot last year.
That momentum upwards has seen the Tactix fan base go from strength to strength, breaking records for crowd numbers at a Premiership game, supporting the team from afar during a COVID-disrupted season and showing a real pride for the red-and-black dress.
Players are being recognised in their community and excitement is bubbling away as the Tactix prepare for what promises to be one of the most competitive ANZ Premiership’s yet.
“There’s a lot of positivity about what this team is doing,” Elley said. “You can feel the support and talk around town and backing red-and-black.
“There has been a change – and it’s a good change.”
It’s not the only change as the Tactix head into the new season with world champion Silver Fern and Premiership-winning defender Karin Burger who joins their defensive ranks having moved south from the Pulse.
She is the sole newcomer to the side and joins her international team-mate and Tactix captain Jane Watson in the circle, while Elley makes up the defensive trio on the wing.
A settled line up front is something of a rarity for the Tactix, but they’ll start this season with the same quartet which found its feet last year.
Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit spearhead the shooting circle while Silver Fern pivot Kimiora Poi teams up with Erikana Pedersen on attack.
The four strengthened their links last season and with their height and accuracy inside the circle and speed and flair outside, offer plenty for opposing teams to mull over.
Coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek, who is heading into her fourth season in charge, has plenty of experience to call on with Samon Nathan, who headed joined the Tactix in 2019, able to fill all three midcourt positions, while home-grown talent Sophia Fenwick and Jess Prosser bolster either end of the court.
Elley said the push for places on court was constant.
“I think the competition for court time has never really been so tough and I think there’s going to be a few headaches for Marianne and (assistant coach) Jules (Seymour),” she said.
The hard pre-season grind has laid the foundation for the 2021 ANZ Premiership and Elley said squad members had been recording personal bests and fitness levels were at a high.
Unbeaten at last month’s Ōtaki tournament was another plus and wins over the Steel and Pulse in other pre-season matches has been pleasing.
“You take the good things from pre-season but realise that it’s just that, the pre-season,” Elley said.
“I think that mindset has also been a change within this unit – that there is an expectation we put upon ourselves to perform every time we step out there.
“I think there’s a real resilience within this team and if there’s one thing we can take away from last year it’s that we all know we have a job to do,” she said. “If we’re all doing our own job, on court and off, then it puts us in a good place.”
A place that The Good Oil Tactix and its growing family of supporters are ready to be.