IN each round we will identify one key match-up, provide an in-depth analysis of both players and compare the two styles. The return to netball sees two Silver Ferns at different stages in their netball career up against each other.
CENTRAL PULSE v. NORTHERN MYSTICS
Aliyah Dunn (GS) v. Sulu Fitzpatrick (GK)
Both fresh off a win expect the battle in the goal circle to be heated with both players vying for every inch of space. In her first season back at the Mystics Sulu Fitzpatrick will be eager to enforce herself on her old side while youngster Aliyah Dunn has already announced herself as a commanding presence under the post for the Pulse.
It did not take Fitzpatrick long to work her way into the game and solidify her defensive connection with Phoenix Karaka last round. The duo’s physicality and hunting mentality is what makes them so ominous, able to back themselves and rotate through the defensive third to cause confusion. Up against her old side and the reigning premiers Fitzpatrick knows what it takes to get inside the head of Dunn and can use her experience to win plenty of ball back. The tenacious goal keeper is not afraid to throw her body on the line and go out to apply pressure on the ball carrier such is her attacking mentality. A strong competitor in the goal circle, Fitzpatrick relies on her nimble movement and quick footwork to get around the body of her opponent and force turnovers. Her read of the play and ability to dictate space enables her to set up defensive blocks and reduce the speed of ball movement in the attacking third, a key element for her side’s success. Pairing well with Karaka, expect Fitzpatrick to really challenge the high ball in the air and get a hand to a couple of balls to put doubt in the feeders minds.
After a strong showing in Round 2, Dunn will be hoping to continue that hot form against her old teammate. The soon to be 21-year-old is cool, composed and collected under the post not often frazzled by the defensive pressure heaped on her. Dunn’s ability to detect space and command the ball is second to none, allowing for the likes of Claire Kersten and Maddy Gordon to deliver the ball on a silver platter to her. She is quick on her feet and uses her height to full advantage to reel in high balls time and time again. When it comes to applying scoreboard pressure Dunn is a menace with her high volume of shots and accuracy to post causing all sorts of headaches for opposition defence units. Her connection with teammate and Silver Ferns goaler Ameliaranne Ekenasio is another concern for the Mystics given the Pulse shooters know each other’s game inside out, able to clear out and make space in the circle for one of them to drive in. While Dunn is typically a holding shooter she can vary her game style and use her netball smarts to exploit her opposition.
With plenty of history between the two players expect an enthralling battle with neither of them willing to take a backwards step given what is at stake. If Fitzpatrick can push Dunn out from under the post and force her to take the long bomb it will favour the Mystics, but it will have to be a full court defensive effort as Ekenasio can do just as much damage if Dunn is well held. On the other hand if Dunn can keep Fitzpatrick at bay with her strong holds, clever body positioning and control in the air then the Pulse should be able to generate enough scoring opportunities to win.