Fast5 is unashamedly an attacker’s game but that doesn’t bother Sarah Klau in the slightest as she prepares for a second tilt at the thrill-a-minute World Series in Melbourne.
The defender knows what lies ahead after featuring for Australia in its third-place finish last year.
Three and two-point rewards for shooters, power plays and metres of extra space make life incredibly difficult for defenders.
Transition speed is a blur when you’re a goal keeper trying to push a confident goaler outside her comfort zone.
Therein lies the challenge, and the motivation, for Klau who will share the defensive duties with Australian teammates Sam Poolman, Matilda Garrett and Kimberley Jenner.
“It’s extremely hard as a defender. There’s so much attacking focus and so much space,” Klau said.
“The game’s so fast and all the shooters have their strengths.
“It’s unpredictable but that’s what makes it a challenge.”
A glance at last year’s tournament leaders for shooting illustrates the varied questions that can be asked of a defender.
Jamaica’s Jhaniele Fowler was the leading shooter and the vast majority of her shots were from close range.
But New Zealand’s Ameliaranne Ekenasio seemed not to have a preference from where she launched her attempts. Only Jo Harten took more shots from long range but Ekenasio was lethal wherever she stood.
“In Fast5 there’s so much more to think about and less time to do it,” Klau said.
“Do you try to push them out to two-point range or try to block out and be ready for a rebound? If you do that there’s pressure on to make sure you win the rebound because every ball is so crucial to win back.
“And you can’t take too long to think about it because there’s no time to warm into a game.”
Klau will be one to watch at the two-day tournament featuring Australia, New Zealand, England, Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.
The 24-year-old debuted for the NSW Swifts in 2016 and has emerged in a pack of talented young defenders pushing for Diamonds consideration.
Klau trained with the national squad before the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and again before the 2018 International Test Series.
“Having a taste of that level was really cool,” she said.
“Finding out what it takes to go to that next notch was a great experience.
“Every time you’re out on court it’s brutal. Players are fighting for their positions so they really go at it but it’s all I the name of getting better.”