FRESH off a loss on Sunday, the Northern Stars were keen to make amends and were faced with potential grand final challengers, Mainland Tactix to finish round two. But while the Tactix seemed to have much of the momentum early, it was the Stars who led all changes, with plenty of players stepping up to prove that Sunday’s result was not going to be repeated and defeating the Tactix 49-43.
With a fire in the belly, Tactix showed no mercy down in defence, blocking any easy avenue to goal and moving the ball with confidence through the midcourt. With two domestic milestones in the mix, the Stars were raring to go to get their first 2020 win on the board for captain, Grace Kara who hit 150 games and Silver Ferns goaler, Maia Wilson who reached 50.
The first quarter saw the Stars strike the first blow, getting out to an early lead though the Tactix were hot on their tail testament to the accuracy and connection between Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird on song early. However where the Stars seemed to struggle defensively in the beginning – not communicating well in defence – Storm Purvis and Kate Burley quickly caught on to the predictable and risky high ball to Bird, limiting the tall timber’s impact on the shot and putting doubt in the head of Selby-Rickit who did not seem her usual confident self on the long bomb.
While the Stars defence had a slow start and brought the heat throughout, it seemed to be another story for the Tactix. Temalisi Fakahokotau had a blinding start, racking up two of her three intercepts in the first quarter while Jane Watson asserted herself on the contest, playing a real attacking game out of goal defence. But while Tactix’ defence was on early, the Stars did not hold back as the likes of Wilson and Jamie Hume shook off any glimpses of fading out as they did on Sunday, making for a tense contest. Aiding on circle edge, Kara put out a spectacular show with her pinpoint passes and efficient play through attack, almost unstoppable. Where kara dominated for the Stars, as did Tactix midcourter Kimiora Poi who used her impressive speed to be a constant pest on the Stars’ tail.
With the connection between Wilson and Hume growing as confidence joined the mix, it seemed as though Fakahokotau and Watson gradually faded out with Watson somewhat succumbing to injury – returning to the court, but not showcasing her typical tenacity or athleticism. Though the Tactix showed glimpses of brilliance, they simply could not maintain that high level of intensity – though with rumours of a stomach bug in their midst – with the team struggling to maintain that efficiency that saw them steam ahead on Saturday against the Steel.
A one goal Stars lead at the first change turned into a seven goal lead by half-time, with a stellar seven goal run contributing to the effort and Tactix’ messiness certainly playing a part while their ball placement also seemed to improve, keeping the ball away from the athletic Fakahokotau. But while the tenacious goal keeper seemed like the one to watch heading into the match, it was Burley and Purvis that put on a show as the duo racked up four and three gains respectively.
While a switch for speedster Erikana Pedersen in wing attack seemed to open things back up for the Tactix in the third and ultimately a much better final quarter to finish, it was not enough with the side lacking confidence and ultimately making a lot of gambles as they fought to control an ounce of the match. Constant changes and a lack of confidence was the pressure point for the Tactix, and it was Wilson with the layup that put the nail in the coffin thanks to an offensive turnover, telling a real tale of the Tactix’ comedy of errors to finish the match.
Wilson was once again strong under the post for the Stars with the 22-year-old goal shooter doing much of the heavy lifting and finishing with 37 goals from 40 attempts, though was supported better by Hume this time around who, despite only shooting 12 goals at 63 per cent, provided a much tougher contest at the post, opening up space for the 50-gamer. For the Tactix, it was a much more even total between Selby-Rickit (19 goals) and Bird (18), while up-and-coming talent Jess Prosser made her mark in the latter stages, aiding Selby-Rickit well and shooting six from six. Player of the match, Burley racked up three intercepts while it was her constant pressure that saw her dominate the contest, combining effortlessly with Purvis to be a threatening pairing down back. Through the midcourt, Kara racked up 20 assists from 33 feeds to lead all comers, while it was a far more even spread of feeding for the Tactix, with six players putting the stat to their name.
NORTHERN STARS 13 | 13 | 11 | 12 (49)
MAINLAND TACTIX 12 | 7 | 10 | 14 (43)
GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Fa’amu Ioane
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis
GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Samon Nathan
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau