WHEN Australian captain Catherine Cox gushed "boys, we love you" in appreciation of the umpires Gary Burgess and Dalton Hinds in her post-match speech, there was a collective harrumph from the Silver Ferns fans.
"Yeah, well they should be grateful," said one such fan sitting behind the media bench.
While the netball at Hisense Arena in last night's deciding test in Melbourne was world class, the standard of officiating left much to be desired.
The most unforgivable botch-up came late in the third quarter when the bench officials awarded Australia two consecutive centre pass-offs - an amateur mistake that should never happen in the international game.
At that point, the Ferns were clinging to a 29-26 lead, the extra centre pass-off helped the Australians level the score at 31-all a short time later.
New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu was reluctant to criticise the bench officials over the gaffe, instead lamenting that her side allowed themselves to be unsettled by the incident.
"The scoresheet clearly shows two Australian centre passes, which obviously should not happen, but our whole composure around that episode was not good enough for us," she said.
The botch-up was just one of a number of poor calls to mar the tense finish, with an Australian short pass, and out of court call missed in the last five minutes.
But the most damning statistic of all from Taumaunu's perspective was her side's inability to run home a six-goal lead at halftime.
"The reality is that sometimes the calls don't go your way, so you have to have a bigger lead and we had one, but we didn't defend it," she said.
The Ferns' third quarter capitulation continued a nasty pattern to their meetings with Australia this year.
New Zealand have led at halftime in all six transtasman encounters in 2011, but have managed to convert only two of them for the win.
Their lack of composure in the face of an Aussie fightback suggests mental frailties on the Ferns part, but captain Laura Langman refused to buy into that.
"I don't think there is a psychological barrier there. I think it comes down to Australia are very good at surging and we need to learn how to defend a lead and absorb that and surge back."
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