You know it's a bad game when even Irene van Dyk isn't smiling. The Silver Ferns were completely outplayed last night by a team that has a week of preparation, and whose 1.96m star goal shooter was out with an injury.
So when the coach shows up to the press conference and says that one of the reasons the team lost was the lack of preparation, you have to look a little bit sideways at her. The press conference was a wonderful study in body language. Casey Williams hardly looked up and picked at her fingernails, Ruth Aitken sat sternly and defiantly, Temepara George stared into the distance with a vague smile but answered questions in her usual bubbly fashion.
There was no bubbliness during the game.
It started out alright. The Ferns had the centre pass and scored. That was pretty much the only time they led with confidence. A rally in the third quarter gave them another brief lead but the momentum was always with the World 7.
Mkloma and Mentor ranged about in defence and harried the Ferns shooters like they did on the fateful English tour. Mkloma was doing everything that Casey Williams wasn't.
Williams, who is usually a fucking axe, was not up to her usual stuff. She didn't gel with Katrina Grant (at GD). When Joline Henry came on in the third to replace Grant the combo was slightly better but Williams at times just looked lost.
I started watching her off the ball. She was frustrated. She had no vigour or aggression. Catherine Latu, a last-minute replacement for Romelda Aitken and not the most mobile player, was getting the best of one of the world's best defenders. Latu would go on to be MVP of the match.
I felt sorry for the Wellington crowd. They tried the cheering, they banged the inflatable things together, they even tried to rally the team in the fourth quarter. Maybe the stadium is cursed? Even the Pulse's win came at Te Rauparaha Stadium in Porirua. I'm sure that in Tauranga my Mum was shouting at the TV, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Yeah the PM came down after the game, which must've cheered up the team.
And so matching the body language of the World 7 at the press conference. The coach fiddled with her wedding ring and gave short choppy answers – nervous talking to media but clearly happy with the win – and captain Natasha Chokljat ("chocolate") was grinning from ear to ear.
There are positives to take from this game (George and Langman had great games, Mike and Jed took some great photos) just not many. So how long before Ruth Aitken is cut as coach?