HITTING the midway point of the competition, the league could not get any tighter with four of the five games in Round 5 of the ANZ Premiership decided by less than three goals. It was a fantastic display of netball across the weekend with each team pulling out all the stops in hope to claim some ascendancy heading into the backend of the season.
Another shooter down for Steel
With scans confirming Georgia Heffernan ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and sustained damage to her meniscus, the Steel were already running thin on goalers heading into their Friday night clash. But in the dying minutes of the game injury struck again with Jennifer O’Connell going down with a potential season-ending knee injury. The Steel were in the middle of a fightback against the top of the table Pulse with O’Connell leading the way with her accuracy to post and strong holds causing all sorts of havoc for the Pulse defenders. But the injury stopped them in their tracks. The Steel then had to front up again on Saturday with Grace Namana making the trek to the Auckland Netball Centre to replace the injured shooter forcing while Kalifa McCollin got the nod at goal shooter with Kiana Pelasio getting a run in goal attack. While still unsure of the extent of O’Connell’s injury, her presence will be sorely missed at the Steel if she is unable to play the rest of the season.
Sam Winders in centre is the answer for Magic winning games
Magic captain Sam Winders relished the extra court space against the Mainland Tactix with the wing defence come centre imposing herself in every facet of the game. Her ability to drive to the top of the circle and cut through the defensive pressure of the Tactix was on full display with the 24-year-old dictating the space with her speed, caution with ball in hand and silky ball movement to create a wealth of attacking forays. Her influence through the centre and attacking third was profound and most importantly freed up Whitney Souness around the circle edge, with the wing attack able to get to work and use her nifty footwork to wreak havoc. Winders had a blinder in centre, generating play both in attack and chasing every single loose ball in defence to finish the game with 13 goal assists from 17 feeds along with five pick-ups and an intercept. She was a key reason why the Magic got within striking distance and ultimately drew with the Tactix.
Central Pulse keeping winning streak intact
Challenged by the Southern Steel in the opening game of the round, the Pulse rallied in the second and third quarter to sneak away with the a three goal win and make it six consecutive victories for 2020. Boasting a stacked line-up filled with game winners across the court it was the ability of Tiana Metuarau to come on and have an immediate impact that impressed. Her spatial awareness and skill to be two passes ahead makes her hard to match-up on in attack. Defensively the combination of Katrina Rore and Kelly Jury was exceptional with the two putting doubt into the mind of McCollin on the shot with their long reach and dynamic footwork in the circle to clog up the space. The duo collected 11 gains, two intercepts, 13 deflections and four rebounds between them showcasing their dominance.
Battle of defence
Having played each other last round, there was no love lost between the Mainland Tactix and Northern Mystics Sunday afternoon with the Tactix managing to peg one back on their opponents. In what was a scrappy affair it was the defensive ends that stood up for both sides, generating a wealth of turnover ball and constantly getting hands to ball to disrupt the attacking flow. Temalisi Fakahokotau starred from the opening minute of the game and maintained her immense pressure throughout the match, amassing four gains, one intercept and six deflections and while normally renowned for her physicality only managed eight penalties. Teammate Jane Watson also impressed with two gains, two intercepts, six deflections and five pick-ups. For the Mystics Phoenix Karaka put on a masterclass with seven gains, two intercepts, six deflections and two rebounds while Sulu Fitzpatrick registered three gains, an intercept and six deflections.
Tall shooters dominate once again
Spearheading the Northern Stars attack, Maia Wilson continued her imposing form in the goal circle with her accuracy and volume to post. Not only did Wilson star in her first outing sinking 36 goals from 39 attempts at 92 per cent she kicked it up a gear in her next game converting 39 goals from 43 attempts at 91 per cent. Her ability to score from range, get on the move or hold makes her incredibly hard to stop. Similarly Kelsey McPhee played a similar role for Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic acting as the main scorer with 29 goals from 33 at an improved accuracy of 88 per cent in her first game, while Tactix goal shooter Ellie Bird also increased her load with 30 goals from 35 attempts at 86 per cent.