After eight rounds of netball and a 6-5 win-loss ratio the one constant for the South Auckland based Stars has been the shooting accuracy of captain Maia Wilson.
After a high quality win over the table leading Mystics in double extra time on Monday, the Stars are fourth on the ANZ Premiership ladder, with four rounds to go and a good chance of making the finals.
Wilson is shooting at 93.8 percent, the highest of all the shooters in the league and sits second for volume of goals, just behind Silver Ferns’ starting shooter Grace Nweke.
Wilson’s accuracy is better than in any of her previous six seasons in the ANZ Premiership.
The Silver Ferns’ shooter has experienced some shooting yips in the past but Stars’ coach Kiri Wills said they had done quite a bit of work in the mental skills space.
“I think for Maia she’s just in a much better space life wise, leadership wise, I think she feels very well supported by her team and that just allows her to do her job.
“I think she used to worry, you know, she’s been a young leader and for the last three years as our captain, we’ve been working with her and this is where we’ve always wanted her to be.
“To see her flourish and shine has been amazing,” Wills said.
Despite making last year’s final, the Stars were the least accurate team in the league shooting at 80 percent.
They also hovered around the 80 percent mark in 2021 and it was becoming a bit of an achilles’ heel for the side.
“When you look at the stats from last year, our team pretty much led every single stat in the game except shooting. And at the end of the day if you don’t convert the turnovers and if you don’t convert the centre pass to circle stats, your team is not going to win the championship.
“That was made really really clear from day one getting back together this year that we couldn’t sit there on 70 percent and hope to win games.
“The pressure has been on them to work and improve.”
Wills enlisted the help of experienced Australian coach and former Diamonds’ shooter Sue Hawkins in the pre-season.
Hawkins, who used to coach the Mainland Tactix, took half a dozen sessions.
“Just to look at the shot differently, help them to know and understand and it’s always great to have another voice come in and talk to you about those things so she’s been incredibly useful for them as well.”
Hawkins has access to game footage and has periodic one on one zoom calls with the shooters during the season.
Hawkins will come over again next month to take more in-person sessions with the Stars’ shooters.
Wilson has also been well supported by her goal attacks Jamie Hume and Amorangi Malesala, who had a sensational game on Monday and is not afraid to go to the post.
“I think it’s mainly them taking accountability and actually showing up and supporting each other.
“Amorangi and Jamie are fighting it out every week. They still remain supportive of each other and I think that’s been critical as well.”
As it stands, the Stars currently have the second best attacking record of the sides this season.
In 2021 Wilson opened up on her mental struggles with her body image in her netball career.
Wilson said she had become so obsessed with losing weight that it started having an impact on her energy levels and performance. She was then advised she needed to put on weight.
Wills said Wilson had come a long way since then.
“It’s not just her shooting, her mobility, her ability to take ball, her hold, she’s done incredibly well and I think she should be really proud of that work because it is going to take time. It is some deep stuff and it needs to be dug out …it’s a continual work on.
“The work that she has done with her support people in those spaces to get to where she is, it’s 100 percent paying off for her and for me that’s been the biggest joy for this season has been to see her play the netball we know she’s capable of and to shoot at that level.”
Wilson said maintaining a healthy perspective around her weight would be an ongoing struggle.
“It definitely is something that I still battle with. I feel for me it’s going to be a long-term journey, some days are awesome, some days aren’t and that’s totally okay,” Wilson said.
“I’m fortunate enough that I’m able to access resources like a psychologist and all those types of things and for me it’s a continual work on but something that I’m learning to love hopefully.
“I think every athlete sees a psychologist anyway in terms of performing under pressure, some appointments are about netball, some are about personal stuff , and some are about body image.”
The 25-year-old said asking for help was the best thing she could have done.
“It’s a combination of making sure that I’m able to keep on top of things and asking for help …there will be some days where it’s great, and others that it’s not but it’s just a work in progress.”
Wilson said she had been in a good space this year.
“I’ve had a bit of a lifestyle change and feeling really good and secure within myself, nothing to do with netball but it’s nice to see that it’s translating on to the netball court.”
Wilson said getting shooting advice from a fresh perspective was beneficial.
“I was lucky enough to get a session in with Sue [Hawkins] before heading away to the Quad series in South Africa, I think it’s been valuable for all three of our shooters to have someone of a specialist like her.
“Having a look at our technique and some technical, tactical strategy, obviously she’s an Australian and she does things a bit differently so it’s nice for us to add different tricks to have up our sleeves.”
Wilson doesn’t have a particular target for how many shots she puts up a day.
“A lot for me is feel and consistency so I’m pretty much at the post every day, generally doing at least I would say 100 to 200 shots but it’s variety in all aspects.”
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