AFTER an action packed return of netball, teams will be eager to prove that it was not a one off with strong showings in Round 3. The Steel and Magic will both play two games this round with the remainder only taking part in the one game. Arguably the game of the round will be between the two unbeaten teams on Monday with Pulse and Mystics set to go to head to head.
Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Friday, 26 June
Sitting on a win apiece heading into the round both teams will be searching for some consistency and more importantly their second win of the season. The Tactix had an up and down performance last round, struck down by a tummy bug in their second game which well and truly showed while the Magic simply could not generate enough accuracy to post to worry their opposition.
With a stacked defensive end the Tactix will be hoping to use their physicality and ball winning abilities to stop the Magic from getting close to post. Copping a knock on her knee early in the last game, all eyes will turn to Jane Watson with the captain a real lynchpin for the Tactix as she can take huge game changing intercepts. After a hot start Temalisi Fakahokotau faded out of the game last round but will be wanting to showcase her prowess once again with her intercepting skills, leap and pressure over the shot to ruffle the feathers of Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou. The Magic shooters while they had plenty of opportunities struggled to convert and will have their work cut out for them again this round given the immense pressure Fakahokotau and Watson are renowned for.
The midcourt battle will be another point of interest given the depth and speed that the Tactix have. Kimiora Poi is lightning quick in at centre, able to dart around the court and facilitate that second phase play for her side while also getting back and applying defensive pressure. Wing attack Samon Nathan and Erikana Pedersen also pose a threat for the Magic with their ability to come on and have an immediate impact with their quick ball movement, strength around circle edge and pin point precision passes into the circle. It will be up to Magic captain Sam Winders to really lead the midcourt with her defensive pressure, skill to clog up space and ability to keep her opposition off circle edge. In attack it will be up to Whitney Souness and Ariana Cable-Dixon to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Latu-Meafou and McPhee.
It will be a tight battle between both sides but if the Tactix are at full strength they should be able to get the job done given the extra experience they have across the court both in attack and defence.
Northern Mystics v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 27 June
Yet to register a win this season the Steel will be hoping to unlock something in their match-up against the Mystics and get their first “W” on the board. Meanwhile the Mystics will be hoping to keep their unbeaten record intact and notch up their third victory for the season after another impressive outing in Round 2.
With a developing attacking unit the Steel will have to be on their a-game if they are any chance to topple the Mystics. Kalifa McCollin proved to be a real pocket last round and has speed to boot, zipping around the attacking third and creating plays with her flair. The Trinidad and Tobago recruit is not afraid to go to post backing herself from anywhere in the circle and can adapt her game style to suit her fellow goalers. Youngster Georgia Heffernan is still working on her craft but has the potential to come on and have an impact with her athletic style of play and accuracy. While goal shooter Jennifer O’Connell is renowned for her holding shooter role and ability to score quickly and easily, something she will be hoping to capitalise on up against the likes of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka. The Mystics defenders are a formidable unit that can pick off passes with ease and use their quick footwork to maneuver around the body of their opponents and create timely deflections. Fitzpatrick is a strong driving force down back with her hands over pressure and aerial ability while Karaka is key through the midcourt.
After starring in Round with her pace, strength and ball delivery Peta Toeava will be one to watch for the Steel. The Mystics wing attack is a key cog using her balance, impressive vision and variety of passes to seamlessly deliver the ball into the goal circle. Toeava is quick on her feet and strong around the circle edge to demand the ball and dish off well-weighted passes. Fellow midcourter and centre Tayla Earle also starred last week and will be hoping to replicate that form with her defensive pressure to force turnovers and pick off intercepts for the Mystics. Her battle with Shannon Saunders will generate plenty of interest given just how damaging Saunders can be with ball in hand. Her experience, speed and vision is second to none while her connection with Gina Crampton is exceptional. The two know each others game inside out making them extremely difficult to combat given their read of the play and space, stamina and general netball nous.
Vying for their first win of the season, expect the Steel to throw everything they have at the Mystics in hope of securing that elusive victory. However the Mystics have proven that they have the firepower to withstand challenges and can use their defensive pressure to win ball back and create scoring opportunities.
Northern Stars v. Southern Steel
Sunday, 28 June
In Steel’s second game of the round the element of fatigue could play a huge factor up against a developing Stars unit who will be still riding that winning wave after downing the Tactix in Round 2. It will be the first time these two sides have met since the final last year where the Stars bundled the Steel out of grand final contention, so expect plenty of feeling in this game. With young players on both sides it will be up to the experienced heads to lead the way and forge a way forward for their team to win.
The tussle in the goal circle for the Stars will be exciting with Maia Wilson a commanding presence under the post as her strong holds and accuracy to post is hard to combat. Wilson is able to read the play with ease and use her feet to move to the ball or create space in the circle. Still developing her partnership with Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto it will be up to Wilson to shoulder a lot of the scoring load but will have her work cut out for her against Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, Taneisha Fifita and Abby Erwood. Fifita is a real livewire down in defence renowned for her spring in her step and skill to cause confusion with her quick footwork while both Selby-Rickit and Erwood ooze consistency.
Coming off a relatively disappointing outing expect O’Connell to come back with a vengeance and assert herself with her scoring ability. O’Connell can hit the scoreboard quickly and easily given her height and clever body positioning to ward off defenders. Partner in crime, McCollin is the playmaker for the Steel in the goal circle using her turn of speed and spatial awareness to full effect. But Stars defenders Storm Purvis and Kate Burley are no easy beats with the two strong in the air and able to swat away their fair share of ball. Burley impressed last round with her smothering style of play and skill to switch into transition with ease while Storm showcased her skillset to seamlessly push out to goal defence. Another prominent threat for the Stars is the inclusion of Oceane Maihi who is a serious competitor in the air given her leap and strong hands.
Potentially still on the hunt for their first win the Steel will be eager to secure a win but come up against a strong unit, in the Stars who will be raring to go. With key players across the Stars are in the box seat heading into the contest having already notched up a win.
Central Pulse v. Northern Mystics
Monday, 29 June
In what could be a battle of the two undefeated teams the clash between the Pulse and Mystics will be one of youth and experience. There is no denying that the Pulse are the team to beat, once again announcing themselves as a powerhouse of the competition last round while the Mystics continue to showcase their composure and pressure each time they step out on court. There will be all-star match ups across the court with both teams littered with Silver Ferns stars making for an intriguing contest.
Young talent Grace Nweke has continued to take the competition by storm, letting her goal scoring do all the talking. Hardly ever out positioned, Nweke is a staple hold for the Mystics under the post with her commanding figure, aerial strength, read of the play and sheer dominance, but could meet her match in fellow youngster Kelly Jury. The Pulse goal keeper really hit her straps last round with her quick footwork, long limbs, lean over the shot and skill to get hands to ball. Throw in defensive comrades in Katrina Rore and Karin Burger and the Pulse are incredibly difficult to match-up on given their ability to shut down space, hunt the ball and suffocate attacking forays. While Nweke is the go to girl for the Mystics the likes of Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui will have to up their output if they are to draw away the defence from Nweke and apply some serious scoreboard pressure.
Moving down into the defensive end for the Mystics and they too have no shortage of fire power with Fitzpatrick and Karaka. Up against her old side, Fitzpatrick will be desperate to have an immediate impact with her hands over pressure, physicality under the post and intercepting ability. Directly opposed to Pulse goal shooter Aliyah Dunn, Fitzpatrick will have to be on her a-game to stop the high ball release into her with Dunn renowned for her height, ability to reel ball in and nifty footwork along the baseline to hold space. Goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio is another huge obstacle for the Mystics defensive unit to conquer with the Silver Ferns goaler in impressive form. Her vision is exceptional, able to see two passes ahead, while her ball placement, turn of speed and strong drives into the circle is second to none. Throw in the fact Ekenasio can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle and is cool, calm and composed with ball in hand and the Pulse are in a commanding position.
With star power across the court and tried and tested combinations the Pulse should reign supreme but the Mystics definitely have the players to cause an upset given their defensive pressure.