By Lance Jenkinson
The ‘Jini’ is out of the bottle for City West Falcons in the Victorian Netball League.
With star goal shooter Jane Cook on duty with the Tasmanian Magpies in the Australian Netball League, Tharjini Sivalingam was entrusted to step up for the Falcons in a 55-53 win over North East Blaze at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Wednesday night.
Sivalingam rose to the challenge, scoring 47 of the Falcons 55 goals and doing so at 93 per cent efficiency.
Having finished her local season in her home country of Sri Lanka, Sivalingam took a few weeks to settle back into the Australian style of netball, but her output against another top team in the Blaze was an encouraging sign for Falcons coach Marg Lind.
“She’s been back for three or four weeks now, so we thought it was time to expose her to championship division,” Lind said.
“She’s back into the culture and settled and that was reflected in her performance.
“When she first comes back here she’s passive because in Sri Lanka they tell her you’re not allowed to push, you’re not allowed to do thihs or that because they get pulled up [by the officials] all the time.
“It takes me four weeks to tell her she can be aggressive ripping the ball in and the last two weeks she’s started to do that again.”
It was a big win for the reigning champion City West as it means it has beaten every other side in the top four in the opening five rounds.
The Falcons are a perfect five-from-five – the only side to remain undefeated.
With Cook unavailable while the ANL season is on, it was important for the Falcons not to start behind the eight-ball in a tough run of fixtures to start the campaign.
“We knew that if we didn’t win those games or most of them, it was going to be difficult,” Lind said.
“We’ve got a bit of confidence now.”
The key to City West Falcon’s win was limiting the influence of goal shooter Libby Nicol.
Nicol got the better of Jacqui Newton early in the game, so Lind shifted Sarah Szczykulski to goal keeper and it worked.
“She was tricky to defend, but Sarah had the body to match up.”
Mid-courters Molly Jovic, Maggie Lind and Soli Ropati had a big influence in the third quarter when the City West Falcons created separation on the scoreboard.