Author: Taylah Melki

2020 ANZ Premiership: Final quarter flurry sees the Tactix and Magic play out second draw

WITH both the Mainland Tactix and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic playing their second game of the round and coming off tough battles there was plenty of feeling in their Round 5 clash, as the Magic pushed to secure their second win of the season. The game went right down to the wire with the lead swinging back and forth in what was another defensive masterpiece from both sides with intercepts and deflections aplenty. But in the end neither side could be separated with 46 goals apiece as the Magic claimed their second draw in as many weeks.

The Tactix took a while to settle into the game with the Magic capitalising on an early turnover from Te Paea Selby-Rickit  in her 100th national league game, sparking a goal scoring spree for the Magic. They slotted three goals straight thanks to both Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou dominating under the post while the Tactix looked rattled in attack, unable to create any type of space in the attacking third and forced to throw the ball around before Ellie Bird rose to the challenge sinking the first of the term.

Opting for a different starting line-up the Magic seemed to have all the answer with Georgia Tong having a day out against her 196cm opponent, owning the front space and using her aerial ability to win back plenty of possession and send the ball flying back into attack. Tong’s constant pressure and physicality forced the Tactix to shoot from range with Bird and Selby-Rickit looking shaky on the shot. Holding a two goal lead midway through the term thanks to Latu-Meafou backing herself from distance and McPhee plying her trade under the post the Tactix needed a spark and winning the ball off the centre pass did just that. With a renewed sense of confidence the Tactix fought their way back in to hit the front, allowing their ball speed and quick transition play to catch the Magic defenders off guard and establish a three goal lead heading into the break.

The Magic attacked the second quarter with plenty of intensity and hunger as captain Sam Winders relished the extra court space out in centre. It took no time for Waikato Bay of Plenty to eat into the margin, scoring the first goal of the quarter within 20 seconds. Their increased pressure at the centre pass was also evident, with the defensive unit looking to clog the transverse line however the Tactix remained calm and composed with ball in hand. With the Magic pushing in attack, goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau inserted herself into the contest getting plenty of hands to ball and disrupting any type of rhythm in attack while Jane Watson was kept relatively busy by Latu-Meafou.

The battle between Tactix wing defence Charlotte Elley and Magic’s Whitney Souness continued with the wing attack well and truly dialling it up in the second term with her speed and ball placement into the goalers. A clumsy breaking call from the Tactix shifted the momentum in the game, with the Magic capitalising and scoring back to back goals off their centre pass to sit at 18 goals apiece five minutes into the second. With their tails up the Magic pounced on everything as Tong gobbled up a loose ball down in defence to send the ball screaming back down court but Fakahokotau replied with anything you can do I can do better, taking a huge rebound credit to her impressive balance, footwork and spatial awareness. It was a scrappy couple of minutes with the ball flying out of court the more times than not and Tactix opening up a three goal lead for it only to be cut back down at half time thanks to the desperation and grit of the Tactix unit.

Even at half time the Tactix made a couple of changes with Jess Prosser entering the game at goal attack for the Tactix, pushing Selby-Rickit into goal shooter. The changes worked immediately with Prosser providing a point of difference with her movement in the circle, while Selby-Rickit absorbed the pressure under the post. For the Magic a back twinge to Tong forced a bib swap with Erena Mikaere back into goal keeper while in her 50th game Holly Fowler moved from wing defence into goal defence. It did not stop there with Winders pushed back into wing defence and Ariana Cable-Dixon pulling on the centre bib. It took a while for both sides to settle into their new line-ups and find their connections with the Tactix relatively stagnant and unable to punch through the Magic defence as Mikaere and Fowler worked as a unit to smother the goalers.

Through the midcourt, Elley impressed picking up a crucial loose ball and providing plenty of chances for her side to capitalise while the contest between Winders and Kimiora Poi continued to deliver despite not being directly opposes to each other with the Magic captain throwing everything she had at Poi. The third quarter was marred by a lot of whistle with both sides combining for 28 penalties. The scrappiness continued throughout the quarter with neither team able find any continuity given the host of changes with Samon Nathan entering the game at wing defence for the Tactix and Khiarna Williams closing out the quarter in goal shooter for the Magic. No one could buy a goal in the final minutes of the quarter with five consecutive missed shots sending the ball ping ponging up and down the court. However with changes aplenty it was the Magic that wrestled back the lead to hold a narrow two goal buffer after what was an incredible defensive grind.

The Tactix reverted to their original shooting combination while Winders pulled the centre bib back on and Cable-Dixon moved to wing defence. With 12 minutes to play the game certainly lived up to the hype as the Magic and Tactic went toe-to-toe. Fakahokotau stood up to the pressure creating a timely deflection prompting her side to rally and get back within a goal. Bird started to play with more freedom under the post as Erikana Pedersen delivered long bomb after long bomb into the goal shooter. Up the other end the Magic played with patience, not afraid to work the angles and deliver into McPhee. With the game on a knifes edge Fakahokotau took a crucial intercept as the Tactix went on a three goal run to hit the front. But with less than five left the Magic answered serve to even scores once more. They went goal for goal as the seconds ticked down but neither side could edge ahead.

After starring last night with her improved accuracy and drive to the post Selby-Rickit had a quieter game converting 14 goals from 17 attempts to finish at 82 per cent. Goal shooter Bird also impressed doing a bulk of the shooting with 30 from 36. Up the other end, McPhee stood tall despite the barrage of pressure recording 23 goals for the game at 79 per cent while Latu-Meafou also delivered for the Magic with 23 goals from 27 attempts. Defensively it was hard to go past the efforts of Fakahokotau with the goal keeper amassing seven gains, four deflections and two intercepts while Tong managed two gains, five deflections and one intercept in her half of netball.

>>>TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>>MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

STARTING SEVEN: 

Mainland Tactix

GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Erikana Pedersen
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

GS: Kelsey McPhee
GA: Abigail Latu-Meafou
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Sam Winders
WD: Holly Fowler
GD: Erena Mikaere
GK: Georgia Tong

Netball Draft Central: Volunteer writing opportunities

WITH Suncorp Super Netball around the corner the team at Netball Draft Central are looking for fresh faces to join the team. Already covering the ANZ Premiership this season, we are hoping to find volunteer writers who are interested in both competitions and have a passion for all things netball. 

In the past we have covered other leagues such as the Vitality Netball Superleague along with a host of Australian competitions such as the Australian Netball League (ANL), Victorian Netball League (VNL) and M-League, but have not been able to do so this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This diverse coverage of netball allows Draft Central to have a point of difference from many other netball news outlets catering specifically to netball fans across the globe. 

We are looking for minimum second year media/journalism students that have an interest in sport, particularly netball and are wanting to gain valuable experience with a dedicated team of writers. 

Writing skills, dedication, flexibility, and effective communication are all crucial characteristics to be a part of the Draft Central team. While writing experience is preferable it is not a necessity for this role.

If you are interested, please email Sophie Taylor at sophie.t@rookieme.com

2020 SSN: Season preview – Queensland Firebirds

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team with the Queensland Firebirds next on the list.

Coach: Roselee Jencke
Captain: Gabi Simpson
2019 finish: 8th

It was a disappointing season for the Firebirds last season only mustering up one win for the season. Despite being competitive throughout the season they simply fell off the boil and could not maintain a consistent four quarter performance which ultimately let them down time and time again. They were also struck by injury throughout their campaign with star Jamaican goal shooter, Romelda Aiken sidelined for a lengthy stint paving the way for Spar Proteas goaler Lenize Potgieter to join the ranks while centre Mahalia Cassidy had her season cut short thanks to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The Firebirds also farewelled a couple of veterans in the purple dress with wing attack Caitlyn Nevins and goal keeper Laura Clemesha both retiring at season end to cap off what was a less than memorable season for the Firebirds.

2020 expectations/predictions:

With Gretel Bueta announcing her pregnancy there is some uncertainty surrounding the attacking end, and it will be extremely difficult for the Firebirds to find someone of the same calibre considering wealth of work she does across the court. Bueta oozes plenty of class, strength and dynamism that is unmatched meaning the attack end will have a gaping hole in 2020 and it will be up to Aiken and Ine-Mari Venter to really steer the ship. Although more comfortable in goal shooter, Venter will have her work cut out for her in goal attack with the South African having to bring the ball down court.  Through the midcourt the highly anticipated return of Cassidy will generate plenty of interest while youngster Macy Gardner will be hoping to make a splash in her first full season at the club. Former Vixens midcourter, Lara Dunkley will also be eager to showcase her dominance through the centre court with her speed, change of direction and pin point precision while livewire Jemma Mi Mi will be hoping to build on her consistency from last season and really drive that attacking third with her impressive speed off the mark and fancy footwork. The leadership of Gabi Simpson is a focal point for the Firebirds with the wing defence able to spark her side into action thanks to her aerial presence, intercepting ability and tenacity. Defensively the Firebirds boast one of the most unpredictable and exciting combinations in Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe. Both still only 22-years-old, the defenders are renowned for their physicality, hunt for the ball and strong connection, something they will be hoping to kick up a gear in 2020 and have a lasting impact.

Key player:

Struggling with injury last season expect Aiken to answer with a bang this season and recapture her dominant form especially considering she will be the main avenue to goal. The 196cm goaler can change the course of a game in an instant given her skill to score with ease. She is a commanding presence under the post while her aerial ability is second to none able to constantly reel in skyscrapers. She stunned many last season, on the odd occasion switching ends and plying her trade as a goal keeper, using her long limbs to defend the shot and get in the head of opposition goalers. Her versatility could once again be called upon for the Firebirds in 2020, but expect Aiken to spend majority of her time parked under the goal post where she does her most damage with her high volume of shots and relative accuracy. Her strength on the rebound is another crucial element in her game play, filling her teammates with confidence that if their shot comes up short she can reclaim possession.

Team list:

Romelda AIken
Gretel Bueta
Mahalia Cassidy
Lara Dunkley
Rudi Ellis
Macy Gardner
Tara Hinchliffe
Kim Jenner
Jemma Mi Mi
Gabi Simpson
Ine-Mari Venter

2020 SSN: Season preview – NSW Swifts

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, with the next in line reigning premiers, New South Wales Swifts.

Coach: Briony Akle
Captain: Maddy Proud
2019 finish: 2nd

2019 was a year to remember for the NSW Swifts, breaking their 10 year premiership drought with a 17 goal victory. Riddled with injuries throughout the season the Swifts showcased their resilience and incredible depth to bring in a host of young, up and coming players that took the competition by storm. Unfortunately captain, Maddy Proud was struck down with a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury early in the season, forcing her to the sideline while Kate Eddy also joined Proud on the sideline for the remainder of 2019 with an ankle injury but that did not seem to faze the Swifts who kicked it up a gear. Resorting to the Australian Netball League, the Swifts uncovered some gems such as Tayla Fraser and Elle Bennetts but really came through with arguably one of the biggest pick-ups of the season in Silver Ferns star Katrina Rore. She walked into the team after the World Cup break and immediately asserted herself into the thick of it, with her three-foot marking and versatility.

2020 expectations/predictions:

Defensively both Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner emerged as true stars with their ball winning ability and excitement something they will be hoping to replicate. Although the Swifts will be without the flexibility of both Rore and Eddy in the defensive circle expect the combination of Turner and Klau to stand up to the pressure. Through the midcourt Paige Hadley well and truly found her feet last season, using her speed and strength to exploit every inch of space while the inclusion of Sophie Craig (nee Halpin) injected some real dynamism. The possible return of Proud also generates plenty of excitement for the Swifts with the midcourt player able to explode out of the blocks with her fancy footwork, speed and strength around circle edge while the class of Nat Haythornthwaite will once again be on show. The England Roses star is a powerhouse in attack able to seamlessly transition from wing attack into goal attack, but it is her undeniable connection with fellow Roses teammate Helen Housby that the Swifts will be hoping continues to cause headaches in 2020. Housby can back herself from range and is a real playmaker in the goal circle, providing silver service to Sam Wallace under the post. The Swifts have arguably one of the strongest line-ups in the competition with all of their bench players able to come on and have a profound impact, none bigger than Sophie Garbin who will be keen to announce herself as a serious competitor in 2020.

Key player:

Reprising her role in the Swifts leadership group and debuting for the Diamonds late last year, Turner has a bright future ahead of her and will be definitely be one to watch in 2020. Growing with confidence as the season progressed, Turner is a clever decision maker and reads the play exceptionally well. The tagging style goal defence has the ability to wear her opponent down and win back a wealth of ball such is her innate hunt for the ball. She is deceptively quick, able to nip around the court while her smarts to double back on the goal shooter when necessary gives her another competitive edge. Her hands over pressure is impressive, getting in the head of her opposition goaler over the shot and making the goaler work for every single inch of space or pass.

Team list:

Sophie Craig
Sophie Garbin
Paige Hadley
Nat Haythornthwaite
Helen Housby
Sarah Klau
Lauren Moore
Maddy Proud
Maddy Turner
Sam Wallace

ANZ Premiership – Round 5: Tactix clench nail-biting one goal win over Mystics

HAVING only played nine days ago in Round 4, this clash went down to the wire, with the Mainland Tactix taking home a narrow one goal win over the Northern Mystics (40-41). The Mystics starred last round, but the Tactix were determined to ensure history did not repeat itself putting on a stunning defensive performance. Scoring the last five goals of the game, the Mystics almost pulled off one of the greatest comebacks but fell agonisingly short with Saviour Tui’s goal on the whistle not counting.

Mystics set tongues wagging in the opening quarter, with Grace Nweke starting on the bench allowing Tui and Asher Grapes to headline the shooting end. The first term started with plenty of intensity, despite the different starting seven for the Mystics, with neither side willing to give an inch. It was a defensive masterclass from Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson with the duo applying a wealth of pressure over the shot and simply denying any easy access into the circle. Watson collected an intercept within the first minute of the quarter ultimately setting the tone for what would be a defensive grind. It was a scrappy start to the game with neither side able to maintain clean possession, but it was the Tactix that settled first thanks to the efforts of Watson and Fakahokotau. Their impressive space marking shut down the Mystics in attack and allowed them to gobble up everything that came their way, causing a real ruckus down in defence. Despite the amount of defensive ball the Tactix were getting they simply could not blow the Mystics out of the water and really make them pay instead they were plagued by inaccuracy missing three goals for the term. Up the other end, Tui impressed for the Mystics with the young goal shooter displaying her strength on the hold and accuracy to post converting all six goals at 100 per cent. However it was Fakahokotau that starred throughout the term amassing a whopping four deflections, one pickup and one intercept while Watson managed two intercepts for the term to gift the Tactix a two goal lead.

Struggling to find their rhythm in attack it was no surprise that dominant goal shooter Nweke entered the game, replacing Tui under the post. Nweke imposed herself from the get-go with her commanding frame, leap and strength to snatch the ball out of the air. With Nweke on, the Tactix upped the ante in defence with wing defence Charlotte Elley showcasing her three-foot marking with an impressive block on Peta Toeava. Clogging up the centre pass the Tactix continued to impress down back while the effort from Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka did not go unnoticed for the Mystics. The defensive duo nullified Ellie Bird under the post forcing Te Paea Selby-Rickit to inject herself into the game with her clever front cuts and drive to the post to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Tactix. She grew with confidence as the quarter progressed, sinking them from range to extend her sides lead to four goals at the eight minute mark of the term. For the Mystics, the connection between Toeava, Tayla Earle and Nweke developed with the midcourters able to find her with ease and deliver the ball with confidence. However Grapes struggled to find her mojo in attack only sinking one goal from her two attempts for the quarter. The momentum well and truly swung into the Mystics’ favour as they started to rally both in offence and defence to worry the Tactix and draw back within one goal at half time.

After entering the contest in the dying stages of the second quarter both Courtney Elliott and Sophia Fenwick retained their wing defence position for their respective side heading into the second term, while Tui re-entered the game at goal attack for the Mystics. Her movement and ability to go to post paid dividends with the Tactix defenders having to account for both goalers. With the centre pass the Tactix surged forward but Fitzpatrick and Karaka were up to the challenge with the defenders blocking out Bird and Selby-Rickit to collect the timely rebound and send the ball streaming down court to even the scores once more. With a tick over 10 minutes left in the quarter the Mystics hit the front for the first time thanks to Nweke. Finding their rhythm in attack with Toeava, Nweke and Earle all combining effortlessly it was Kimiora Poi for the Tactix that stood up to the challenge with the speedy centre receiving what felt like every second pass and imposing herself both in attack and defence with her pace, quick hands, vision and strong second phase work. She sparked a lift from Selby-Rickit and wing attack Erikana Pedersen with the latter delivering an impressive seven goal assist for the term. Scores were level as the timer hit the seven minute mark before Fakahokotau once again delivered for the Tactix creating a crucial deflection coming around the body of Tui. It was turnover central throughout the third with both sides combining for 13 as neither team could gain any real continuity, however the Tactix held onto their narrow lead heading into the final change.

With centre pass in hand the Mystics attacked hard and lifted their intensity while the Tactix were content to be patient with ball in hand and watch the clock tick down. A costly turnover from Bird in the goal circle gifted the Mystics a chance to cut down the deficit further before Poi answered with a pick-up of her own. Nweke continued to be the rock in the goal circle for the Mystics with the midcourters hoisting the ball up to her and showcasing her extreme athleticism on every single take. The Tactix went on a three goal spree to extend their lead, with Fenwick putting in the hard yards to shut down Toeava in attack and limit the quick release into the goal circle. Another Fakahokotau intercept seemed to have a Tactix win in the bag with her side pushing out to five goals. But the Mystics refused to lie down rallying in the final three minutes of the quarter to go a five goal run and draw with a final shot on the whistle that ultimately did not count.

It was a huge performance from Fakahokotau with the goal keeper amassing a staggering four gains, one intercept, six deflections and one pick-up. partner in crime Watson collected two gains, two intercepts, six deflections and four pick-ups, a key reason why their side won. Nweke proved a menace under the post finishing with 29 goals from 31 attempts for the game while Tui also had an influence in the goal circle with 10 from 11 at 91 per cent. For the Mainland Tactix, Bird was stronger under the post sinking 20 goals from 25 attempts. Up on her accuracy and volume Selby-Rickit also showcased her range converting 21 goals at 88 per cent.

>>>TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>>MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

_

MAINLAND TACTIX 8 | 12 | 12 | 9 (41)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 6 | 13 | 11 | 10 (40)

STARTING SEVEN: 

Mainland Tactix:

GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Erikana Pedersen
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

Northern Mystics:

GS: Saviour Tui
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

2020 ANZ Premiership- Young gun focus: Round 5

WITH a host of young talent littered throughout the ANZ Premiership competition Draft Central takes a look at one key player each week. The player in focus for Round 5 is Grace Nweke, with the Northern Mystics goal shooter stunning last round with her accuracy to post.

Age: 18
Height: 193cm
Position: GS

Nweke is arguably one of the most damaging shooters in the league with her explosiveness and strength to take on two defenders and win. It is almost impossible to stop the 193cm goaler who is technically in her first official year with the Mystics despite joining the ranks as a replacement player last year. Nweke is composed with ball in hand and is not afraid to command the ball time and time again. She lets her accuracy do all the talking leaving many netball fans in awe given she is still such a raw prospect.

Up against a high calibre defensive unit in Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson in Round 4, Nweke rose to the challenge and came out on top, guiding her side to a hard fought victory. Her ability to withstand the constant physical attention and niggle under the post is a clear testament to her netball skill and calm on court nature. The 18-year-old slotted a whopping 38 goals from 40 attempts at 95 per cent and will have to back up those heroics once again this week, faced with the same task of the Tactix defenders who will be keen to get one back on the young goaler.

Still so early in her career, Nweke is already making a name for herself, able to exploit her opponents in the air thanks to her impressive leap and balance to reel the ball in. Her long arms and fancy footwork especially along the baseline allows her to ensure she is a constant threat for the Mystics and is hardly ever out positioned or out muscled. Nweke reads the play exceptionally well and is strong on the rebound, gobbling up two offensive rebounds last round against some of the strongest competitors in Watson and Fakahohotau.

Nweke is the prime shooter for the Mystics, putting up high numbers week in and week out but that does not seem to faze her, absorbing the pressure and growing as the game goes on. Her strength and dominance under the post allows the likes of fellow youngsters Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes to work their way into the game and play their own style. Tui and Grapes often play more of a feeding role, passing into Nweke under the post and creating space out the front to draw the defender as shown in last week’s outing against the Tactix rather than looking to post themselves. Although more of a holding shooter, Nweke has shown that she can glide around the circle and play the ball around to open up the angles and find an easy avenue to goal.

Her calming presence in the goal circle works wonders for the Mystics but it is her connection with wing attack Peta Toeava that causes all sorts of headaches for opposition teams. Toeava’s turn and release into Nweke is impossible to stop with the speedy wing attack able to break free and deliver a pinpoint pass into the towering goaler. Their connection is incredibly strong with the duo able to read space and catch the defenders off guard, something they will be hoping to replicate this round to notch up their fifth win.

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 5

ROUND 5 of the ANZ Premiership sees five matches over the course of the weekend with the Magic, Stars and Tactix all taking the court twice. There are a couple of identical clashes from Round 4 with some teams hoping history does not repeat itself. The Pulse will be eager to maintain their unblemished start to 2020 while the Magic will be wanting to go one step better than last round and collect their second win to climb up the ladder.

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Friday, 10 July

A fourth quarter demolition gifted Central Pulse the win over the Steel last round, however the Steel will take plenty of confidence out of their last outing, going toe-to-toe with their opponents for three quarters. Shooting at 100 per cent for the match, the Pulse goalers were on song sinking them from everywhere – something the Steel will really have to double down on this round if they are any chance to knock the Pulse off their perch.

It is fair to say that the battle in the goal circle was won by Ameliaranne Ekenasio with the star goal attack taking ownership and dominating with 25 goals from 25 attempts. Last round, Steel defenders Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita gave all their attention to Aliyah Dunn under the post and while the towering goal shooter was down on her usual volume sitting at 21 goals at 100 per cent, it allowed for Ekenasio to dictate the terms out the front. Fifita and Selby-Rickit are both strong prospects in the defensive circle with their physicality, hands over pressure and quick footwork but Abby Erwood should not be forgotten about and could be another option to come on for the Steel and upset the Pulse attacking duo with her tagging style of play. Heading into their second clash in less than seven days the Steel will be keen to rectify those issues in defence and shut down Ekenasio more effectively if they are to come out on top. While the combination between Ekenasio and Dunn is commanding to say the least youngster Tiana Metuarau is also proving to be a handful for the opposition whether it be in goal attack or wing attach with her silky movement, precise ball placement and netball nous.

Defensively the Pulse are stacked with Kelly Jury having the time of her life down back. The goal keeper has starred in recent weeks with her hunt for the ball, long arms and skill to contest the aerial ball. She really shut down Jennifer O’Connell in Round 4 with the goal shooter only managing 27 goals from 32 attempts at 84 per cent and denied any easy access into the goal circle. The influence of Katrina Rore and Karin Burger is also a key aspect to the Pulse defence with Rore putting in a wealth of work out the front to shut down the goal attack entering the goal circle and Burger nullifying the wing attack with her with arms over pressure and commanding height. Goal attack Kalifa McCollin will have to get busy for the Steel if she is to occupy Rore while Gina Crampton had Burger’s number for the majority of their last encounter using her speed and strength to tussle for prime position around circle edge.

It could be a case of history repeating itself with the Pulse in ripping form with their impressive ball movement, strong connections and ability to withstand the waves of pressure.

Southern Steel v. Northern Stars
Saturday, 11 July

In their second game of the round the Steel will be hoping to keep the winning streak against the Stars alive, getting the wood over them earlier in the season, albeit by just two goals. Both teams are evenly poised and match-up similarly headlined by a tall holding goal shooter and experienced midcourt.

The contest between the Northern Stars captain, Grace Kara and youngster Kate Heffernan will draw plenty of attention. Kara is a real lynchpin for the Stars in attack, providing that link into the goal circle with her effortless and perfectly weighted passes. She also does a wealth of work at the centre pass to ease the pressure on her shooters, meaning it will up to Heffernan to get in her head and stop her. Although still developing her craft, Heffernan is quick on her feet and can apply strong hands over pressure to block Kara’s vision into the circle. Another option in wing defence for the Stars is Kendall Corkery with the midcourter renowned for her niggly, physical style which can get under the skin of opponents. Expect veteran, Shannon Saunders to lead the midcourt cohort for the Steel especially up against 22-year-old Mila Reuelu-Buchanan. Saunders can run all day in centre and use her smarts to outwit Reuelu-Buchanan who is still honing her craft.

If the Stars are to register another win for the season, Maia Wilson will have to be on her game from the opening whistle. The goal shooter is a commanding presence under the post and has increased her range throughout 2020, looking more comfortable from further out. Her high volume of shots however puts a target on her back with the likes of Fifita, Selby-Rickit and Erwood likely to work in overdrive to smother her, meaning it will be up to Jamie Hume to take the load off Wilson. Hume will be hoping to put out a consistent four quarter performance against the Steel to really assert herself on the competition and take the heat off Wilson under the post, with her cleverly timed drives, long range shooting and play making abilities.

If the Steel can shut down the likes of Kara and Reuelu-Buchanan around circle edge and limit their chance to feed into Wilson it will put them in good stead to collect another win.

Northern Stars v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, 12 July

After playing out the first draw in ANZ Premiership history the Stars will be eager to put that to bed and claim the “W”. The Magic came from seven goals behind last round to finish strongly and clench a draw and will be keen to go one better this round.

The Stars will be hoping to make amends for their fourth quarter slump and run out a consistent performance this round with the defensive duo renowned for their balling winning abilities. One of the more experienced defenders in the group, Storm Purvis can change the course of a game in an instance with her leap and deceptive speed to dart around the court and force turnovers. Teammate Kate Burley has blossomed into a commanding prospect in the goal circle with her tenacity, often throwing herself at every contest and creating doubt in the feeders minds while Oceane Maihi is able to inject plenty of height and aerial presence, something the Stars might need in order to contend with Kelsey McPhee at the post. The goal shooter can suffer from the yips at times under the post, but when she is on song she is hard to stop credit to her strong hands, quick footwork and clever body positioning. The influence of Abigail Latu-Meafou will be crucial if the Magic are to replicate their Round 4 performance or notch up a win with the goal attack showcasing her accuracy to post, smooth movement and skill to slot them from range. A cameo appearance from youngster Khiarna Williams could also work wonders for the Magic in order to offset the Stars defence.

Through the midcourt the Stars boast some exciting players with Fa’amu Ioane one of the most electric wing defences in the competition, with her speed off the mark and quick hands. Her presence around circle edge and in the defensive third allows her to gobble up turnover ball and spring into transition. The versatility of Lisa Mather is another key for the Stars able to swing from wing defence into centre when needed. For the Magic, Whitney Souness is a real powerhouse able to deliver the ball with great pace and precision to catch defenders off guard while Ariana Cable-Dixon is reliable through centre.

This game could once again go down to the wire but expect the Stars to have learnt from their mistakes last round and impose themselves for a full four quarters.

Mainland Tactix v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 12 July

Playing only nine days earlier both sides would have taken plenty out of their match-up when it comes to one-on-ones and overall team strategy. A quick start from the Tactix gave them the early ascendancy before the Mystics rallied and wrestled back the momentum to win the next three quarters. With this in mind expect the Tactix to come out with a real fire in the belly and increased intensity.

Shooting prodigy Grace Nweke is relishing every single minute of court time with the 18-year-old dominating in all facets such as volume and accuracy. She is simply unstoppable under the post using her 193cm frame to ward off defenders and dictate the space. Her aerial presence is second to none while her balance is equally impressive. Goal attack Saviour Tui is growing with confidence, not afraid to look to the post while Asher Grapes is constantly able to find space and create attacking forays. Up against some stiff opposition in Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson the Mystics goalers will once again have to be on their A-game. Fakahokotau impressed last week with her hunt for the ball, vision and quick footwork while Watson is renowned for her cleanliness and lean over the shot. If both defenders can work in tandem to minimise the influence of Nweke and win ball back it will be a huge bonus for the Tactix.

Wing attack Peta Toeava is the real barometer for the Mystics with her turn of speed and sheer ball placement. Toeava only needs a second to look into the goal circle and deliver a pinpoint pass into Nweke under the post such is her vision, understanding and connection with the goaler. It will be up to Charlotte Elley to limit her influence around circle edge and apply strong hands over pressure given Toeava’s shorter stature. The battle in centre will also be interesting with Tayla Earle and Kimiora Poi donning very similar styles. Earle has been really dominating for the Mystics with her high level of endurance and energetic style of play, helping out both in offence and defence. Poi plays a more defensive role with her strong hands over pressure and three foot marking, allowing her wing attacks to do the heavy lifting in attack.

It will ultimately come down to whether or not the Tactix can generate enough turnover ball and restrict Nweke under the post or if Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka can shut down the Tactix shooting end once more.

Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, 13 July

In the final game of the round, fatigue could be a key element for both sides as they enter their second game. The last time these two sides met it was the Tactix that got the win by nine goals but the Magic have come along in leaps and bounds since Round 3 with their on court connections strengthening.

Boasting an impressive shooting combination in Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird the Tactix will be hoping to take advantage of the tall goaler and apply some real scoreboard pressure. Down on their accuracy last round expect both shooters to come out with a real intensity. It is unlikely for Selby-Rickit to have two quiet games in a row given her class and ability to spark back into action. The goal attack is a key cog in attack with her play making abilities often bringing Bird into the game with her well executed passes. However the tussle in the goal circle will be extremely physical as Magic goal keeper Erena Mikaere is not afraid to contest every ball that comes her way. Mikaere’s aerial presence is impressive and so too is Georgia Tong, with the two able to swat away balls with ease. Holly Fowler is another one to keep an eye out for in the Magic defence unit with her ability to read the play and take a key intercept at any given moment.

With a game saving intercept under her belt, Magic captain and wing defence Sam Winders is a real barometer for her side. she is able to spark the Magic into action with her constant effort around the court to create a tip and then transition into attack. Her ability to seamlessly switch from wing defence to centre is second to none able to shake up the course of a game. Winders will have to be on her game from the opening whistle with Erikana Pedersen and Samon Nathan both clever in their movement and strong around circle edge for the Tactix in attack.

To stay in touch with the top of the pack, the Tactix have to win this clash so expect them to pull out all the stops and assert themselves from the get-go against an inconsistent Magic side.

Where to next for Victorian Super Netball teams?

WITH Victoria sent back into lockdown for a minimum six week period due to the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in the state it poses many questions for the upcoming Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season. SSN is set to commence on August 1 but with Victorian borders shut there is no chance of teams flying in or out of the state on a weekly basis. The element of a required 14 day quarantine must also be taken into account when looking into the logistics of how the 2020 season will run and the implications this lockdown will have on the competition as a whole. Quarantine and a lack of facilities such as Melbourne Arena being unavailable as a result of the Victorian lockdown ultimately throw the competition into a spin when it comes to fixturing, since the league has agreed to hosting a complete 60 round season.

With both the Collingwood Magpies and Melbourne Vixens based in Melbourne, Super Netball have to make a decision on how to deal with the two clubs. As seen with the AFL, NRL and A-League, all of the Victorian teams have fled or are in the process of leaving the state to ensure the remainder of the season is viable, something SSN will have to consider in order for the season to actually go ahead. While it is an expensive prospect, weighing up the cost of accommodation, flights and facilities for both the Vixens and Magpies, it is one that must be done to ensure the longevity of the competition.

It is clear that for the season to go ahead the two Victorian teams must find a new home, despite already missing the cut off date to leave the state. But the big question is where do they go? As discussed on this week’s episode of the Centre Pass Podcast, the options of taking solace in New South Wales and Queensland are the glaringly obvious choices for the Victorian sides with both states playing host to two teams and also boasting recently refurbished stadiums. The Queensland Firebirds unveiled the Nissan Arena or Queensland State Netball centre last year fit with all the bells and whistles while the Sunshine Coast Lightning have already expressed their willingness for interstate teams to join them up in the Coast. The redevelopment of the Ken Rosewall Arena could also play a factor in getting the Victorian teams to set up shop in New South Wales. However, that is not to say that Western Australia and South Australia are not viable options given the quality of their facilities and are probably the cheaper option in terms of accommodation in comparison to the likes of Sydney and Queensland.

There is also a very limited chance of the SSN rescheduling or pushing the start back further as it runs into the international season with the Diamonds and Ferns confirming the annual Constellation Cup for late November. International netball is a huge drawcard for both countries and something Australia and New Zealand will be hoping to generate some money back into the netball sphere. Postponing the season could ultimately bring up issues surrounding venue fixturing as many sporting arenas are booked out years in advance given the high amounts of sport Australia plays host to.

While we all hope that it does not come to this stage, there is a small sliver of doubt that the season could not go ahead or that the Vixens and Magpies might not be able to compete given the recent developments in Victoria and the restrictions prohibiting them to travel. While the latter idea is unconventional and an extreme last resort, it could be the only way to salvage the season and ensure that some form of domestic netball is played in 2020.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Five talking points: Round 4

ROUND 4 of the ANZ Premiership was historic with two sides playing out the first draw in competition history, while season high scores were recorded. The Pulse and Magic played two games apiece with fellow teams Southern Steel, Northern Stars, Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix playing just the one. We take a look at the top talking point this round.

Young shooters leave their mark on the competition

It was a display of accurate shooting from youngsters Aliyah Dunn (Central Pulse) and Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics). Faced with a challenging task the two goal shooters showcased not only their accuracy but so too their composure to ride the physicality, stand up under the pressure and score. Their clever holds, aerial capabilities and strong hands did all the talking with the two goalers reeling in plenty of ball. 18-year-old Nweke managed a staggering 38 goals from 40 attempts at 95 per cent along with two rebounds. Dunn was just as impressive slotting 22 goals straight in her first outing and backed up her performance with a commanding 23 goals from 27 attempts at 85 per cent in her three-and-a-bit quarters on Sunday. The future is well and truly bright for both goal shooters given their dominant stature under the post and sheer circle presence.

Pulse record highest score of the season

In their second outing of the round, the Pulse stamped their authority on the competition piling on a season high 51 goals. Led by the towering timber in Dunn under the post, Pulse midcourters Claire Kersten and Maddy Gordon found easy avenue to circle credit to their goalers’ clever holds and body positioning. Dunn managed 23 goals for the game while the influence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio was just as prolific with the highly talented goal attack slotting them from everywhere in the circle finishing with 21 goals from 24 attempts. Her skill and knowledge to seamlessly create space and back herself from around the perimeter made her a tough opponent for the Magic to match-up on, ultimately allowing the Pulse shooters free reign inside the circle. The introduction of Tiana Metaurau did not go unnoticed, converting seven goals however at a lower accuracy than she would have liked.

Double team defence was the flavour of the round

With a wealth of tall shooters to contend with most teams opted to double team the goal shooter across Round 4 with Mainland Tactix, Southern Steel and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic the main culprits. Up against Nweke in the goal circle the combination of Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau attempted to double team the young shooter, smothering her every movement and encroaching on her space. However the Mystics shooter proved too strong with her centre court teammates delivering the ball to her on a silver platter. The Steel adopted the same approach, with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita doubling down on Dunn at the post, using their physicality, constant movement and long arms to deny any easy entrance into the goal circle. However with their attention solely focused on Dunn it allowed Ekenasio to roam freely out the front and in the circle where she punished them on the scoreboard. The Magic defensive unit in Erena Mikaere, Georgia Tong and Holly Fowler all focused their attention on Maia Wilson under the post, forcing Jamie Hume to shoulder more of the load.

First draw in ANZ Premiership history

After a disappointing outing on Sunday the Magic came out with an undeniable fire in the belly in the final game of the round. Despite being down by seven goals at the final change the Magic mustered up a miracle thanks to captain, Sam Winders coming through for a huge intercept and screaming down court to get back on level pegging. Although her side did not win, the all-round effort of the Magic to get back within striking distance of the Stars will give them plenty of confidence. Now in its fourth season, the draw was a momentous occasion given it was the first in competition history.

Penalty discrepancies

The Mystics put on a masterclass in defence headlined by Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka with the two working in tandem to win ball back and most importantly do it cleanly. Renowned for their physical nature their skill to come off the body and cherry pick passes was evident throughout the game and was reflected through the penalty count. Karaka racked up a team high of nine penalties, seven of which were contact and two obstruction while Fitzpatrick starred with a mere five penalties, two contact and three obstruction. It was a clean performance across the board for the Mystics only recording 28 for the entire game. On the other end of the scale, the Magic amassed a whopping 66 penalties with most of them stemming from Mikaere and Fowler. The two defenders combined for 26 penalties with 18 coming as contacts, while Winders racked up nine and goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou recorded seven penalties. Their inability to stay away from the whistle cost them at times throughout the game, giving away plenty of ball and crucial opportunities to hit the scoreboard.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Team of the Week: Round 4

THIS week’s Draft Central Team of the Week was once again dominated by the Central Pulse and Northern Mystics, with the top two teams collecting big wins over their opponents. Strong efforts from a couple of key Tactix and Northern Stars players saw them earn a spot in the side while Magic registered their first player of the season.

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Sam Winders
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

BENCH: Maia Wilson, Karin Burger, Kelly Jury

After yet another astounding performance, teenager and shooting prodigy Grace Nweke earned herself the starting spot in goal shooter. Her commanding presence under the post, skill to withstand the constant barrage of physical pressure and composure was on display nailing an impressive 38 goals from 40 attempts at 95 per cent. For the third week in a row, Ameliaranne Ekenasio gets the nod at goal attack with the Pulse shooter impressing across the court and letting her shooting do the talking. Sitting at 100 per cent in her first outing and 88 in her second Ekenasio was too hot to handle, carving up the netball court with her clever movement, precision and playmaking abilities.

Through the midcourt, Mystics wing attack Peta Toeava shone once again with the dynamic centre court player using her pace and impressive vision to deliver ball into the goalers. Her speed off the mark, quick hands and work at the transverse was second to none amassing 18 centre pass receives and 25 goal assists. Consistent as usual, Pulse centre Claire Kersten plied her trade through the midcourt and showcased her durability playing all but one quarter across the two games. She had a combined 30 goal assists, while also getting a hand in defensively with an intercept and gain. In trying conditions, Magic captain Sam Winders announced herself as a serious competitor, working hard around circle edge to win ball back for her side. Although she did not play out the entire game on Sunday, she finished with two gains, one intercept and four deflections, though it was her heroics on Monday night that earned her the starting position taking the match saving intercept.

Mystics captain, Phoenix Karaka starred once again for her side with her tenacity, hunt for the ball and sheer determination. Her commanding presence down back enabled her to pick off a wealth of passes and wreak havoc collecting four gains, two intercepts, three deflections and eight pickups. Karaka was simply involved in everything, using her long arms, read of the play and speed off the mark to inflict pain. In at goal keeper is Temalisi Fakahokotau. Despite her side losing, Fakahokotau was a rock down back using her physical nature to collect timely intercepts and force turnovers. It was a stats filling performance for the keeper finishing with five gains, one intercept, two rebounds and three pickups.

Although slightly down on her usual high output, Stars goal shooter Maia Wilson secured a spot on the bench with 34 goals from 37 attempts at an enviable 92 per cent. Her ability to hold space and withstand the constant physical pressure under the post was a clear testament to her composed nature to post. Joining her on the bench is Pulse duo Karin Burger and Kelly Jury. Burger managed to collect five gains, three intercepts and five deflections out in wing defence while Jury imposed herself in the circle with seven gains, eight deflections and two intercepts.