Category: Northern Stars

Stars too strong for youthful Steel

THE Northern Stars remain atop the ANZ Premiership ladder after breezing past Southern Steel, collecting a 14-goal victory over one of the top challengers for the season so far. Despite inspired efforts across the court, the Steel could not match the class or intensity of the Stars, who claimed all four quarters on their way to the 59-45 victory.

It was a goal for goal start between the two sides, with neither able to arrest momentum or claim the early ascendancy. That being said, the defensive pressure was on with Maia Wilson and George Fisher both missing early attempts credit to the work rate of their opposition defence, with Anna Harrison starting on the England international in Fisher and physical defender Taneisha Fifita tasked with shutting down the Stars captain. Whilst the first quarter was a tough contest, it was the Stars who rode through it better as Harrison used her footwork to not only confuse the Steel goalers but also the feeders, as Kate Heffernan and Shannon Saunders were forced to work hard around circle edge. Tiana Metuarau was unable to do as much of her playmaking with Fisher buckled down on, while at the other end it was the excellent combination of Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Gina Crampton that allowed the Stars to skip out to the early three goal lead.

Whilst the first break was a chance for the Steel to reset and regroup, it was the Stars that came out with renewed confidence and intensity as the second quarter continued where the first left off. The Steel were able to retain control at the front-end but were at the whim of a hefty offensive effort from the Stars, which they were unable to rein in or stop when they found circle edge. A six-goal run from the Stars – which saw no Steel goals for almost four minutes as both Metuarau and Fisher missed opportunities at the post – saw the lead edge out to 10 goals as Elle Temu switched on the gears for two intercepts and both Reuelu-Buchanan and Lisa Mather stepped up to limit Heffernan and Saunders access to circle edge. Wilson was afforded far too much space in the goal circle courtesy of slick movement from 50-gamer Jamie Hume, as Fifita and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit struggled to contain their high intensity, seeing the Steel trail 23-32 at the main change.

Whilst the Steel’s defensive effort picked up in the third, so did the Stars’ in a much lower-scoring term of play with just 19 goals scored. Fifita lifted her intensity to pile on the defensive pressure with two intercepts for the quarter, whilst Temu equalled her four-gain effort to all but force Metuarau out of the contest with the goal attack unable to contend with her smothering pressure. While Fisher was certainly capable of holding up alone, the volume just was not there as she put on seven of the side’s eight goals for the quarter, as Wilson put up nine at the other end as Crampton continued to find her at the post with ease. With the lead well and truly secured, the Stars almost fully emptied their bench in the final term – and still managed to retain the lead to win the final term, showcasing just how intense their full court defence was. Another two intercepts to Mather saw her continue that excellent midcourt defensive effort the side had kept up all game, keeping Saunders quiet and uncomfortable out the front. Despite a 100 per cent shooting effort from Fisher in the final term, it was the Stars that ground out the 14-goal victory to go two wins clear of Steel in third.

For the Stars, Wilson was rendered much more inaccurate than usual with 33 goals from 43 attempts at 77 per cent, while Hume finished her milestone match with 22 goals at 71 per cent. Crampton (24 assists from 47 feeds) and Reuelu-Buchanan (19 from 39) starred out the front while Harrison and Temu finished with seven gains apiece, with Temu’s three intercepts matched by Mather. For the Steel, Fisher (34 from 37 at 92 per cent) and Metuarau (11 from 19 at 58 per cent) put up a solid effort but did not quite get the same volume as the Stars, while Saunders racked up 20 assists from 44 feeds and Fifita piled on nine gains (three intercepts, five rebounds, one deflection) and 21 penalties.

2021 ANZ Premiership preview – Round 4

NORTHERN Stars will be looking to keep their undefeated record intact heading into Round 4 while all eyes will turn to the winless Mainland Tactix who despite putting in a strong effort last round fell agonisingly short.

Northern Stars vs. Southern Steel
Sunday, May 9 @4:15pm

It is going to be an enthralling clash between the Stars and Southern Steel as both sides are coming in off wins. The Stars are in scintillating form, yet to drop a game with their experience and class causing all sorts of havoc for opposition teams, while the youth throughout the Steel unit has provided the side with an element of unpredictability to give them a winning edge.

With Maia Wilson at the helm, the Southern Steel are going to have their hands full down in defence. The Northern Stars captain has only grown with confidence throughout the season with her accuracy and range a couple of notable features in her game play. She will once again need support from Jamie Hume who has proven to be a key playmaker out the front with Monica Falkner missing in action due to her niggling knee injury. Youngster Taneisha Fifita will have to be on her A-game if she is to limit Wilson under the post and will need the experienced Te Huinga Selby-Rickit to provide additional support in the circle to nullify any easy ball movement. The midcourt battle will also be one to watch as Stars’ midcourter Gina Crampton comes up against her old side and will be hoping to exploit the inexperience of Renee Savai’inaea and Kate Heffernan around circle edge.

But the Steel have an ace of their own up their sleeve boasting the services of George Fisher. The English international has been a rock in attack with her volume and willingness to go to post key. Up against the long arm brigade in Oceane Maihi, Elle Temu and of course Anna Harrison the Steel will have to be crafty with their delivery into the circle to ensure that they are not predictable and do not provide too many opportunities for the Stars defensive unit to gobble up free ball. Expect Tiana Metuarau to shoulder a lot of the load in attack given her attacking nous alongside seasoned campaigner Shannon Saunders.

Mainland Tactix vs. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, May 9 @6:15pm

After making the grand final last year, it has been an incredibly disappointing start to the 2021 season for the Tactix who have been kept winless from three games so far meaning their clash against the Magic could be season-defining. For the Magic, it has been an inconsistent season notching up a win in Round 1 but unable to recapture those highs in their past two outings. With pride on the line expect both teams to throw everything they have at each other in order to keep their seasons alive.

It is fair to say that the Tactix look like a much better team when Te Paea Selby-Rickit is out on court and that is exactly what we saw last week. Returning from a broken foot and still on limited minutes it will be interesting to see much court time the goal attack gets this round. Her presence provides great confidence to Ellie Bird under the post while her impressive workload also alleviates the pressure on Erikana Pedersen and Kimiora Poi through the midcourt. If the Magic midcourt in Sam Winders and Georgie Edgecombe can get on top early it will go a long way in shutting down the Tactix, while their versatility and depth in the defensive circle is another trump card they hold with Temalisi Fakahoktau knowing both Bird and Selby-Rickit’s game inside out given she was a former Tactix player, while Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong are capable of putting on an aerial masterclass.

Speaking of versatility, the Magic goal circle has a number of options which allows them to switch from a holding circle to a moving one very quickly. With the likes of Caitlin Bassett, Khiarna Williams and Chiara Semple at the helm, Waikato Bay of Plenty are bursting at the seams with talent but just need to finesse the entry into the circle. If Grace Kara gets out on court this round it will go a long way in setting up a win, but the Magic will have to combat a developing defensive combination in Jane Watson and Karin Burger to get there. The two are still fine-tuning their connections but have proven their ability to disrupt attacking forays with their tenacity and hands over pressure something that will need to be front and centre in this clash if they are to notch up their first win of the season.

Central Pulse vs. Northern Mystics
Monday, May 10 @7:15pm

The final game of the round sees Central Pulse play host to the Northern Mystics in what is set to be an exciting battle. The Pulse have been dealt a couple of blows of late with a suspected ankle injury to dynamic midcourter Maddy Gordon and are still trying to fill the void left by captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio. However in saying that they have shown glimpses of brilliance but will have to pull out all the stops against a confident Mystics side who are coming off a narrow one-goal win.

The Mystics midcourt will look to exploit Pulse’s developing connections if Gordon is out of action with youngster Paris Lokotui likely to get the nod in wing defence. With Peta Toeava in devastating form with ball in hand and Tayla Earle a real workhorse through the midcourt, their partnership with shooting sensation Grace Nweke is the real concern for the Pulse given their tendencies to deliver no-look bullet like passes into the circle and release the ball with great precision to allow Nweke free reign in the circle. Throw in the experience of Bailey Mes and the other viable options in Filda Vui and Saviour Tui – yet to take the court in 2021- and the Mystics have plenty of explosive shooting power. However, all eyes will turn to the starting position of Kelly Jury with the Pulse defender spending majority of the season in goal defence but does her best work in goal keeper and will need to shut down Nweke. Kelera Nawai has been strong down back but often draws the attention of the umpire which Pulse cannot afford if they want to win, while she also gives away some centimetres to the tall timber in Nweke.

With no Ekenasio – now effectively for the rest of the season following the goal attack’s pregnancy announcement – Aliyah Dunn has picked up the slack in the front-end commanding the ball and controlling proceedings with her strong holds and accuracy to post. Te Amo Amaru-Tibble is steadily finding her feet in the attacking unit but will have to combat the niggling style of defence from Kate Burley while Mystics captain Sulu Fitzpatrick is a menace with her court coverage, deceptive closing speed and fancy footwork. It will be up to Whitney Souness and Claire Kersten to bypass the Mystics defenders with their pinpoint passes into the circle.

2021 ANZ Premiership: Young gun watch – Round 3

ROUND 3 of the ANZ Premiership is done and dusted and with that came some scintillating performances from the next generation of players. This series will cast an eye over a host of under 21s players that made their way out on court and the impact in which they had for their respective sides.

Northern Mystics:

Grace Nweke

There is not enough superlatives to describe with the goal shooter not only growing in confidence but so too stature. Although she had a shaky start to the match up against a couple of Silver Ferns defenders in Jane Watson and Karin Burger the goaler worked her magic. Her strength in the air was unquestionable, consistently plucking the ball out of midair with great ease while her twinkle toes along the baseline was also evident throughout the game. Nweke showcased her versatility able to adapt quickly from the high ball to a chest level pass and used her spatial awareness to edge closer to the post when necessary. But the most memorable and important moment of the night did not come until the final second with Nweke slotting the match-winning goal.

Tayla Earle

Earle was once again the unsung hero through the midcourt for the Mystics with her endurance and netball smarts taking centre stage. Her composure throughout the game was impressive able to grind out the match and hit circle edge with great pace and precision. Her smarts to drive away and then dart back to the pocket was second to none as it allowed her teammates around her to find space. Earle was not afraid to deliver bullet like passes into the circle and was strong through the midcourt to hold up play and contest passes. She was a real pillar of consistency, not fazed by the momentum shifts instead just digging deep to find that winning edge and to leap up and take game changing intercepts as shown through the second half.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:

Khiarna Williams

The up and coming goaler only continues to get better and this game was no different. Spending majority of the game out in goal attack Williams showcased her array of talent ranging from her aerial presence to her class in close to receive the ball downlow. She was able to adapt on the fly and most importantly starred with her accuracy to post. Williams was a real commanding presence and backed herself on the take such was her confidence and awareness to slot into the vacant spaces on court. Her fancy footwork in particular along the baseline was second to none as she opened up the court and drove into the circle with her unassuming turn of speed catching the defenders somewhat off guard. However her lack of experience did show at times up against seasoned campaigner Anna Harrison.

Georgie Edgecombe

It was somewhat of a quiet game by Edgecombe who despite getting the job done for patches of the game struggled to find that level of consistency. She chopped and changed around the court moving from wing defence to centre but did some of her best work in that lockdown position in wing defence to quell the speed of ball coming into their defensive end. Her clever footwork around circle edge enabled her to contest while her three-foot marking was also imperative. She worked hard across the court to help in transition thanks to her strong hands and cleverly placed leads.

Central Pulse:

Paris Lokotui

Brought on for Maddy Gordon who went down with a suspected ankle injury, Lokotui worked tirelessly in defence to nullify the influence of her opposition. Her three-foot marking and clever footwork enabled her to keep Shannon Saunders away from the circle edge for large chunks of time. She was a consistent figure through the midcourt providing some strong drives through the centre third to alleviate the pressure in attack. Her strong hands were also imperative with Lokotui more than happy to contest in the air and wrestle for the ball. Lokotui also made use of her deceptive closing speed to shut down the space.

Southern Steel:

Tiana Metuarau

The exciting goal attack continued her merry way with her change of pace and smooth movement in attack allowing her to set the tempo. She was cool, calm and collected able to thread the needle into teammate George Fisher under the post and used her smarts to negate the influence of her defender. Her ability to pop out on the goal line was impressive as was her accuracy to post as she boasted a 100 per cent shooting accuracy. Metuarau was a real playmaker out the front, seeming to have the ball on a string at times and using her change of direction to catch opposition defenders off-guard.

Taneisha Fifita

It was an impressive performance from Fifita with the goal keeper dominating under the post and using her leap to inflict plenty of her pain. She inserted herself into the thick of things from the opening minutes of the game and did not look back contesting everything that came her way. Fifita showcased her netball nous to dance around her opponent in Aliyah Dunn to get ballside and create a wealth of tips and turnovers. Her overall read of the play was second to none consistently manoeuvring around the defensive third to cherry pick passes and apply strong hands over pressure.

Kate Heffernan

Heffernan continues to get better and develop each and every game with the revitalised centre highlighting her high level of endurance to get busy both in attack and defence. Her two way running was crucial for the Steel’s win as was her tenacity and high IQ to drop back into damaging positions. Heffernan put together some nice passages of play credit to her hands up and three-foot marking along with her transitional speed through the midcourt. her court craft was also impressive as she sliced through the defenders to deliver the ball on a silver platter to her goalers.

Renee Savai’inaea

Although it was not a stats stuffing performance Savai’inaea was a real trojan for the Steel working in overdrive to shut down her opponents every move. Her capacity to go toe-to-toe with Whitney Souness throughout the battle was impressive as she grinded her down to reduce her impact in attack. Savai’inaea proved her strength in the air as well to cleanly compete for the aerial pass while her drive through the centre enabled her side to reset when need be.

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 3/13/14

OUR new Draft Central Team of the Week series continues, composing two teams with one side each hailing from the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) and the other from the ANZ Premiership.

ANZ Premiership:

GS: George Fisher (Southern Steel)
GA: Khiarna Williams (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic)
WA: Gina Crampton (Northern Stars)
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Northern Stars)
WD: Fa’amu Ioane (Northern Mystics)
GD: Kelly Jury (Central Pulse)
GK: Elle Temu (Northern Stars)

BENCH: Maia Wilson (Northern Stars), Peta Toeava (Northern Mystics), Temalisi Fakahokotau (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic)

George Fisher continues to get better with each and every game and this contest was no different. The goal shooter stood tall inside the circle with her commanding nature enabling her to dictate the play and pile on the scoreboard pressure at a high accuracy to finish with 48 goals at 92 per cent. Youngster, Khiarna Williams put in a dominant performance in goal attack credit to her innate timing and slick hands to slice through the opposition defence time and time again. Her leap and baseline drive were main features of her game, making her an easy selection given her 20 goals at 95 per cent.

Continuing to relish her time in new colours, Gina Crampton starred for the Northern Stars with her give and go around circle edge. She seemed to have the ball on a string able to setup the play with her change of pace and precision passing doing all the talking. Joining her through the midcourt is Northern Stars teammate Mila Reuelu-Buchanan. The centre showcased her timing and high workrate to thread the needle in attack, running away with 20 goal assists while also plying her trade in defence with her three-foot marking. The wing defence bib falls to Fa’amu Ioane with the Northern Mystics midcourter letting her fancy footwork do all the talking causing trouble with her aerial presence and closing speed as she racked up four deflections and four pickups.

Playing out of position, Kelly Jury impressed for the Central Pulse using her long limbs to swat balls away and implement a strong three-foot guard. Not the quickest player out on court, it was her ability to cherry pick passes and mount pressure inside the circle that saw her earn a spot in the starting seven. It was a convincing performance from Elle Temu down in defence with the goal keeper controlling the airwaves and using her fancy footwork to dictate the space. With a strong aerial presence and clever body positioning at her disposal, Temu had a field day down back picking up three intercepts and seven gains.

Off the bench, Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic defender Temalisi Fakahokotau was in just about everything, contesting hard in her outing against the Stars and using her deceptive closing speed to reel in the intercepts. Peta Toeava was her damaging best with ball in hand while the final bench position went to Maia Wilson with the Stars captain flexing her muscles under the post with her 42 goals.

VNSL

GS: Donnell Wallam (Leeds Rhinos)
GA: Paige Reed (Severn Stars)
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)
C: Serena Guthrie (Team Bath)
WD: Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
GD: Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)
GK: Tuaine Keenan (Leeds Rhinos)

BENCH: Rebekah Robinson (Celtic Dragons), Amy Flanagan (Wasps Netball), Vicki Oyesola (Leeds Rhinos)

It was once again hard to go past Leeds Rhinos goaler Donnell Wallam who proved to have a hot hand under the post. Her ability to hold the space and withstand the physicality was paramount as she slotted a whopping 62 goals in her first outing and kept up the pace in her second game of the round. Out in goal attack is Paige Reed who made her presence well and truly felt in her sole outing for the round for the Severn Stars. Her capacity to read the play and slot into the right position was evident as was her range and accuracy nailing 24 goals from 28 attempts.

The experience of Caroline O’Hanlon was on full show as the midcourter plied her trade out in wing attack to weave her magic and hit circle edge for Manchester Thunder. Her impressive timing and precision on the pass enabled her to sight the goaler with ease and most importantly got her hands dirty in defence with three deflections and two intercepts. Serena Guthrie was up to her usual tricks throughout Round 13/14  plying her trade and helping her side get over the line on both occasions. Her ability to read the play and get busy both in offence and defence was crucial and earned her the nod as starting centre. Joining her through the centre is ever-reliable Loughborough Lightning midcourter, Beth Cobden. The wing defence effectively plied her trade through the centre and backline to pressure her opponent and come up big herself with a couple of handy intercepts and deflections to act as a real wall in defence.

Layla Guscoth once again put up a strong effort out in goal defence for Team Bath with her unassuming nature allowing her to win ball back and create attacking opportunities for her side. Guscoth’s read of the play was imperative, as was her footwork, enabling her to cleanly contest passes and earning her the starting position. Back in goal keeper is Leeds Rhinos defender Tuaine Keenan who impressed credit to her hands over pressure, deceptive closing speed to slot into damaging positions and all-round hustle to rack up the intercepts and deflections across both her two appearances.

Amy Flanagan was a pillar of consistency through the centre for the Wasps picking up five intercepts and five deflections while Vicki Oyesola was a ball winning machine for the Rhinos in both her clashes. Winning their first game for the season saw Celtic Dragons secure their first player in the Team of the Week for the season, with Rebekah Robinson impressing under the post with her accuracy and athleticism.

Who would win?

Both sides have a good mix of youth and experience however it is fair to say that the defensive end in the ANZ Premiership side holds the upper hand. Boasting the likes of Jury out in goal defence and up and coming youngster Temu, the side has plenty of X-factor. They also show great depth on the bench with Wilson a commanding presence and unlucky not to get the nod in the starting position. Conversely, the VNSL side do not have the same level of depth in the shooting circle, however would match the midcourt for skill and classy.

Stars maintain undefeated record in 2021

THE Northern Stars remain the only undefeated team in the ANZ Premiership after toppling the renewed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (55-51). They held on despite a strong comeback from the Magic in the final term, who mustered up all their energy to cause plenty of nerves across the board.

It did not take long for the Stars to stake their claim on the game, quickly converting off a turnover and then nailing a goal off their centre pass to create a two goal lead. Their composed ball movement and Maia Wilson’s strength on the hold created immediate danger as Gina Crampton found circle edge with relative ease. Things started to tighten up though as Georgia Tong and Temalisi Fakahokotau mounted pressure, to contest in the air and send the ball streaming down the other end as both Caitlin Bassett and Khiarna Williams settled in attack. A couple of overcooked passes from both sides into their respective holding shooters provided the defensive units a chance to capitalise and build momentum out of defence.

The workrate from Jamie Hume was up and about early with the goal attack not only doing work out the front but so too in the circle to drive into the space and take the pressure off Wilson. The lead continued to ebb and flow however the Stars maintained that handy two-goal buffer for majority of the term. The Magic had to use a patient approach when entering the attacking third with the defensive pressure from the Stars unrelenting, clogging up space and shutting down the drives. Anna Harrison was a menace in the air using her defensive nous to cleanly contest the high ball into Bassett and then propelling the ball back down the court in a blink of the eye. Playing with a seven ball game the Stars looked to consistently edge ahead with their attacking unit humming and causing all sorts of headaches but the Magic had plans of their own with wing attack Tori Kolose taking ownership in attack to deliver pin point passes into the circle.

There were changes galore for the Magic at quarter time with Georgie Edgecombe pushing into centre and Sam Winders swinging into wing attack. Erena Mikaere made her way onto the court in goal defence while Tong pushed over to wing defence. The short, sharp, patient play from the Stars enabled them to stay ahead in the contest with Harrison and Elle Temu mounting pressure down back. The changes did not stop there for the Magic with Chiara Semple also entering the game in hope to inject some dynamism in attack and distract the Stars’ defence. Although Wilson missed a couple of shots here and there her rebounding effort impressed, consistently following in her shot.

The second half started scrappy with both sides feeling each other out and looking to find that level of consistency. Temu impressed up against Bassett with the goal keeper contesting cleanly and showcasing her aerial presence. Lisa Mather was putting in the hard yards out in wing defence not only working hard around circle edge but dominating through transition to provide that additional outlet. The Stars seemed to have the ball on a string for majority of the quarter until Mikaere got involved with a handy intercept. Winders returned to the centre position and showcased her class to thread the needle but the ball speed from the home side was causing all sorts of havoc. Wilson started pulling out the party tricks with a well controlled take and flick back into court.

With the wheels falling off in attack, Waikato Bay of Plenty made the change in goal shooter with Bassett going to the bench and Williams re-entering the game in goal shooter. She managed to dwindle the lead back to eight goals but the Stars had all the answers. With five minutes left on the clock, Oceane Maihi got the call-up to goal defence with the defender using her long limbs to try and slow down play but that did not phase Williams who when in full-flight proved hard to stop.

It was much of the same in the final quarter with the Stars’ slick ball movement catching the Magic off guard time and time again. Back in goal keeper, Harrison showed every inch of her experience to nullify the influence of Williams with her long arms and reach enabling her to get hands to ball with ease. Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was a real workhorse through the centre constantly re-offering in attack and applying strong hands over pressure in defence. Things started to get a bit ragged in the final term with passes going astray for the Stars as their opponents well and truly started to work their way back into the contest winning some held ball calls and capitalising on turnovers. But nevertheless the Stars did enough to hold onto a four goal win withstanding the strong comeback.

The shooting load was shared between all three goalers for the Magic with Bassett topscoring with 21 from 23 at 91 per cent. Williams impressed thanks to her 20 from 21 and six goal assists while Semple played a handy assisting role with 10 goals. Winders had the magic touch with 17 goal assists while in defence Fakahokotau controlled proceedings with seven gains, three intercepts and three rebounds. Wilson was her ever-reliable self but was down on her accuracy sitting at 79 per cent after converting 42 of her 53 attempts. After a hot start Hume’s accuracy also wavered sitting at 62 per cent with 13 goals to her name. Crampton and Reuelu-Buchanan managed 20 goal assists apiece as Temu starred in defence with seven gains and three intercepts.

2021 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 3

THE Northern Stars will be hoping to retain their unbeaten form heading into Round 3 of the 2021 ANZ Premiership season, while the Mainland Tactix are still on the hunt for their first win of the year. We preview the entire round of action.

Southern Steel vs. Central Pulse
Sunday, May 2 @4:15pm

Sitting on one win apiece, the contest between Southern Steel and Central Pulse is going to be an interesting one as they look to find a level of consistency. Both sides boast very different looking outfits compared to their 2020 squads and are still solidifying their connections across the court, meaning whichever team settles first is likely to gain the upper hand.

The battle between English juggernaut George Fisher and newcomer Kelera Nawai is set to be an intriguing one. Fisher has been in scintillating form coming off a 100 per cent shooting performance last round while Nawai really found her groove in Round 2. However, in order to stop Fisher under the post Nawai will need support from the long-limbed Kelly Jury who is relishing her time out in goal defence alongside speedster Maddy Gordon in wing defence. The new-look defensive unit for the Pulse is starting to come together and will need to put in the hard yards if they are to nullify playmaker and former teammate Tiana Metuarau out in goal attack along with experienced campaigner Shannon Saunders.

Looking down the other end, and the battle continues with Aliyah Dunn stepping up to the plate in the absence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio. Her ability to command the ball and shoot truly is what got them the win last week and she will need to be on her A-game again this round up against a highly physical opponent in Taneisha Fifita. Te Amo Amaru-Tibble started to come out of her shell last week and if she can continue to play with that level of confidence and freedom she could really cause headaches for the Steel defence. Whitney Souness’ versatility could also come in handy with the typical wing attack able to drift into goal attack when needed, allowing Gordon to revert to the front-end position and provide that signature drive and flair to the attack.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic vs. Northern Stars
Sunday, May 2 @6:15pm

The Northern Stars will be looking to make it three on the trot with a win against a reinvigorated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic side. The Stars are humming along nicely with their strong connections across the court causing all sorts of havoc for opposition teams while the Magic are still searching for that final link. A relatively new side, the Magic boast a wealth of talent but have a tendency to fade in and out of games, something they cannot afford to do against the Stars who will pounce on any slip-up.

It is hard to go past the star that is Maia Wilson under the post. The Stars captain and New Zealand Ferns starter is in fine form with her added movement and improved strength enabling her to dominate under the post. Throw in her accuracy and high volume and the Magic defence in Erena Mikaere, Temalisi Fakahokotau and Georgia Tong will have their hands well and truly full. Without the services of Monica Falkner who is suffering from a knee niggle it will be up to Jamie Hume to draw the attention of the defenders and provide that additional support in order to alleviate the pressure from Wilson and keep the scoreboard ticking over. The acquisition of Gina Crampton has been nothing but beneficial and in her 101st match expect her to have the ball on a string alongside Mila Reuelu-Buchanan in centre. However, the Magic have playmakers of their own with Sam Winders a real leader both in attack and defence.

Boasting the likes of Caitlin Bassett inside the goal circle, the Magic have the capacity to score quickly, if only they ensure they get the ball to her. Bassett is strong on the hold and most importantly accurate to post making her a great target under the ring but will need support from up-and-coming goaler Khiarna Williams who has proven to be a real livewire with her dynamic movement and long range shooting, while Chiara Semple is the other to keep an eye out for with excellent evasive footwork to clean up in attack. But the Stars have great defensive depth with Anna Harrison, Elle Temu and Oceane Maihi all ball winners credit to their aerial awareness and tenacity, meaning the Magic will have to be crafty with ball in hand.

Northern Mystics vs. Mainland Tactix
Monday, May 3 @7:15pm

The final game of the round sees Northern Mystics play host to the Mainland Tactix who have had a less than desirable start to their 2021 campaign. After reaching the heights of a grand final appearance last year the Tactix have fallen flat on their face, yet to get a win and really feeling the pain of not having Te Paea Selby-Rickit who is on the sidelines with injury. On the other hand, the Mystics are generating some good momentum with all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place in Round 2 and will be eager to keep that going.

The Tactix defence had a shakeup over the off-season with Fakahokotau departing, seeing the side pick up Karin Burger to fill void. Burger has slotted in nicely alongside captain and seasoned campaigner Jane Watson with the dynamic duo reeling in a wealth of ball but will need full court defensive pressure if they are to upset the Mystics’ frontline which has Grace Nweke at the helm. The shooting prodigy is incredibly strong in the air and leads the competition for goals credit to her high output. She is not the only weapon in the front-end with Bailey Mes, Filda Vui and Saviour Tui all viable threats meaning efforts from Kimiora Poi and Charlotte Elley will have to be high through the midcourt to slow down the attacking plays. The other main concern for the Tactix lies with Peta Toeava, with the wing attack able to slice the game wide open with her bullet-like passes and pinpoint accuracy.

Ellie Bird looks a bit out of sorts and will once again have to shoulder the load in attack for the Tactix given the inexperience of both Jess Prosser and Hannah Glen. The lack of connection will allow Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kate Burley to really pounce down back and shut down any easy avenue to goal while Ama Agbeze is another defensive cog at the Mystics’ disposal. All three defenders are quite aerial which is Bird’s bread and butter, meaning the Tactix might be forced to play the ball around in order to find alternative avenues to goal.

Photo credit: Photosport

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 12/2

IN the first of our new series, Draft Central will compose two Teams of the Week with one side each hailing from the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) and the other from the ANZ Premiership.

VNSL

GS: Donnell Wallam (Leeds Rhinos)
GA: Sophie Drakeford- Lewis (Team Bath)
WA: Iona Christian (Wasps Netball)
C: Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning)
WD: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)
GD: Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)
GK: Tuaine Keenan (Leeds Rhinos)

BENCH: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning), Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning) Vicki Oyesola (Leeds Rhinos)

Australian and now Leeds Rhinos fan favourite, Donnell Wallam impressed under the post with her strong holds, crafty footwork and long limbs enabling her to claim prime position in the goal circle. Wallam finished with 54 goals from 55 attempts at 98 per cent. Her partner in crime for Round 12 is the ever-reliable Sophie Drakeford-Lewis who continues to shine each time she is out on court with her dazzling display of composure and class to think her way through the defensive pressure and deliver.

Iona Christian spent time both in wing attack and centre but got the nod in WA credit to her classy movement around circle edge and attacking forays. In her first game she managed to pick up two intercepts and a deflection highlighting her capacity to get hands to ball and then switch it into an attacking play for the side. The centre bib falls to Loughborough Lightning captain, Nat Panagarry with the hard-working midcourter using her netball nous to shut down her opponent and perform in attack. Her ability to read the play and control the tempo of the game was imperative as she racked up an intercept and a deflection. Imogen Allison was a strong force for Team Bath through the midcourt using her drive and defensive skill to limit the opposition and repel the ball back down court picking up three intercepts and two deflections.

The defence end has a Team Bath and Leeds Rhino theme given their big wins across the round. Layla Guscoth worked tirelessly in goal defence to win ball back for her side, taking advantage of her closing speed and registering two intercept, four deflections and a rebound. In at goal keeper is Tuiane Keenan who took ownership of the defensive third with her tenacity and read of the play to cherry pick passes and earn herself a spot in the Team of the Week. She finished with a whopping six intercepts and four deflections.

On the bench is Leeds Rhinos defender Vicki Oyesola who was a real workhorse across the court with her hands over pressure while up the other end the shooting position went to Mary Cholhok who was once again a rock for Loughborough thanks to her 43 goals. It was another solid outing for Beth Cobden with the tenacious midcourter plying her trade through the centre third and getting her hands dirty in defence.

ANZ Premiership

GS: Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics)
GA: Te Amo Amaru-Tibble (Central Pulse)
WA: Peta Toeava (Northern Stars)
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Northern Stars)
WD: Georgie Edgecombe (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic)
GD: Kelly Jury (Central Pulse)
GK: Elle Temu (Northern Stars)

BENCH: George Fisher (Southern Steel), Gina Crampton (Northern Stars), Karin Burger (Mainland Tactix)

The starting goal shooter position goes to Grace Nweke with the talented goaler making her presence felt in Round 2 of the ANZ Premiership. Her increased strength on the take and confidence under the post enabled her to withstand the physical barrage from her opponents and notch up a competition high 56 goals from 60 attempts at 93 per cent. Joining Nweke in the goal circle is Central Pulse goal attack Te Amo Amaru-Tibble. The quick thinking goaler managed to have a profound impact in her sides win with her ability not only to hit the scoreboard with 16 goals from 19 attempts but also her clever feeds racking up 12 along with 20 centre pass receives.

Through the midcourt and it was hard to go past the services of Mystics livewire Peta Toeava who seemed to have the ball on a string with her ability to carve up the court with her nifty and well-weighted passes. Toeava amassed a whopping 31 goal assists and 20 centre pass receives. Northern Stars centre, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan impressed in her outing showcasing both her defensive and offensive tendencies and earning a spot in the starting seven credit to her 22 goal assists, three gains one of which was an intercept. The wing defence position falls to youngster Georgie Edgecombe who played an integral role for the Magic as she managed to get hands to ball registering three gains and two intercepts while also be a driving force through the centre to punch through the opposition’s defence.

The goal defence bib falls to Kelly Jury with the Central Pulse defender making that position her own. A typical goal keeper, Jury impressed in Round 2 relishing the extra court space and using her long arms to swat away passes collecting four intercepts and six gains in an all-round impressive performance. Helping her out in defence is former teammate and now contracted Northern Stars defender Elle Temu. The goal keeper showcased her array of skills to compete both in the air and at ground level racking up five gains, two intercepts and most importantly nullified the impact of her opposition goaler.

Unlucky not to get the start in goal shooter given her 100 per cent accuracy is George Fisher with the Southern Steel goaler taking like a duck to water since joining the ANZ Premiership. Gina Crampton also impressed across the round with her timing around circle edge and read of the play to deliver the ball on a silver platter while the final bench position goes to Karin Burger who shone in the loss picking up six gains, two intercepts, two rebounds and nine centre pass receives.

Who will win?

Both sides are littered with a-plus talent across the court however it is the midcourt depth and star power that is the real difference between the two sides along with the high calibre bench players. One could argue that the ANZ Premiership side have a couple more stars through the midcourt with Toeava able to thread the needle with great ease and a specialist wing attack while the Reuelu-Buchanan is in red-hot form. Conversely the VNSL side has a lot more experienced heads across the court that are able to steer the ship with Guscoth, Panagarry and Christian seasoned campaigners.

ANZ Premiership Sunday wrap: Stars sweep Tactix to remain undefeated as Pulse upset new-look Magic

SUNDAY’S ANZ Premiership matches saw plenty of action in a huge second round of the season, seeing Northern Stars take out top spot with a victory over Mainland Tactix to be the only side left undefeated, as the Tactix unfortunately hold the mantle of being the team in the opposite position with zero wins from their opening two matches. Meanwhile, Central Pulse flew out of the blocks to down the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.

Northern Stars (57) defeated Mainland Tactix (43)

The Tactix’s shaky start to the season has continued, as the Stars proved they are a formidable force this season. Where the Tactix showed plenty of hunt early, trailing by just three goals at half time, the Stars ran away with it in the second half piling on 34 goals to 23 to retain top spot on the ladder and remain undefeated. Overall, it took a full four quarter effort from the Stars as they raced away with the lead, but also remained relatively clean with ball in hand. Five of the six starters came away with pickups credit to their full-court vision and read of the play, whilst the Tactix failed to bring the offensive pressure required to combat the side.

With Monica Falkner out, it was up to Jamie Hume to hold down the fort out the front of Maia Wilson, and that she did piling on 17 goals to hurt the Tactix and ably assist Wilson who continued her great Round 1 form with 40 goals from 45 attempts. Gina Crampton and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan ran riot on the outskirts of the circle, piling on 19 and 22 goal assists, respectively, while the latter also came away with three gains. Anna Harrison put on a show down back once more as Elle Temu came away with five gains, while it was Tactix’s Karin Burger who topped the gains tally with six. Burger’s partner in crime Jane Watson also created five gains but the duo could not compete with the barrage of turnover ball that headed their way, with developing goaler Jess Prosser (11 goals from 14 attempts) assisting Ellie Bird (31 from 34) fairly well on the scoreboard but relinquishing nine general player turnovers to go with Bird’s five, credit to the Stars’ defensive prowess.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (47) defeated by Central Pulse (59)

It was a huge start from the Pulse that blew the Magic out of the water, with the two sides flipping the switch compared to last week as an 11-goal victory emerged the way of the Pulse. It was a 20-12 Pulse start that got the ball rolling, with an accurate Magic front-end not quite doing the job as Aliyah Dunn got silver service under the post. Where the Pulse appeared to lack cohesion and punch across the court during Round 1, they were an entirely different side as they opened proceedings with a bang to run away with the win. Whilst the Magic did manage to claw back the eventual margin by winning the final quarter, it was not enough with the lacklustre performance seeing the side sit fifth on the table.

Dunn’s huge opening quarter shooting 17 goals from as many attempts proved the Pulse are here to fight this season, as the Magic defence in Erena Mikaere and Temalisi Fakahokotau struggled to contain her clean movement. It was not only that though, as wing attack Whitney Souness piled on 11 of her 16 goal assists in the first quarter alone, finding Dunn with ease before Claire Kersten took over the feeding effort as Souness took her chances in goal attack, adding two goals to the side’s tally alongside Dunn’s 41 from 46 and Te Amo Amaru-Tibble‘s 16 from 19. Kelera Nawai and Kelly Jury showcased their improving defensive combination, combining for nine gains throughout. For the Magic, while Chiara Semple started the match with six goals, the change was quickly made as Khiarna Williams took the goal attack bib for the remainder of the game to finish with an impressive 18-goal haul to go with Caitlin Bassett‘s 23 from 26. Sam Winders was potent in attack with 24 assists where Grace Kara struggled to maintain intensity, as the Magic gave away pickups across the court registering six to the Pulse’s 15.

2021 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 2

ROUND 2 of the ANZ Premiership is set to bring plenty of excitement and unpredictability after a blockbuster opening round of action. Central Pulse are looking for their first win of the season as are the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix, making for an enthralling round of action.

Northern Mystics vs. Southern Steel
Saturday, April 24 @5:15pm

The Southern Steel blew Mainland Tactix out of the water last round and will be eager to bring that level of intensity and hunger in this clash against Northern Mystics. With fresh faces across the court and a number of young, inexperienced players the Steel will be hoping to use their speed and dynamism to catch the Mystics off guard. On the flip side, the Mystics will be hoping to bounce back after a loss and really solidify their connections across the court.

It will be a battle of the goal shooters with both George Fisher and Grace Nweke bookends for their respective sides. Fisher made her intentions clear last round with her strong holds and accuracy to post but will have her work cut out for her up against the tenacious Sulu Fitzpatrick. The goal keeper is a real barometer for her side able to snap up intercepts and pile on the pressure but will need assistance from partner in crime, Kate Burley to quell the influence of Fisher under the post. Up the other end, Nweke is a force to be reckoned with thanks to her aerial strength and overall netball nous. However if the Steel defenders in Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita can pile on the physical pressure and push her up high it could spell danger for the Mystics. While the goal shooters are both staples they have plenty of support in the form of their respective goal attacks with the Mystics boasting the services of Silver Fern Bailey Mes, under 21s star Saviour Tui and the unassuming Filda Vui. Tiana Metuarau is a real livewire for the Steel, able to float into the circle and draw the attention of her defender and is not afraid to do the hard yards out the front making for an enthralling contest.

The midcourt battle will be another element of contention as the Steel have the capacity to rotate a number of players through the centre third with Kate Heffernan relishing the extra court space in centre to reel in those intercepts. If the partnership between Heffernan, Shannon Saunders and Renee Savai’inaea is able to continue as it did last week, it could cause headaches for the Mystics who struggled to penetrate through the defence and hit circle edge last round. In saying that, Peta Toeava is a real game changer in wing attack for the Mystics with her silky ball movement, change of pace and evasiveness.

Northern Stars vs. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, April 25 @4:15pm

The Northern Stars showed that they are a real force to be reckoned with this season but will have to back up their performance against a tough opponent in the Mainland Tactix who lacked a bit of oomph last round. The Stars showcased their defensive and offensive depth while the Tactix struggled to stem the bleeding as the absence of Te Paea Selby-Rickit was felt across the court, something they will be hoping to rectify this round.

Maia Wilson is in ripping form at the moment but will have to maintain that high level output against a quality defensive unit in Jane Watson and Karin Burger. The two defenders are still developing their craft and while they showed glimpses of brilliance will need to up the ante for a full 60 minutes in this clash if they are a chance to nullify Wilson and both Monica Falkner and Jamie Hume out the front who are excellent playmakers. Continuing on the theme of defensive pressure, and wing defence Charlotte Elley will need to put out a solid performance to combat the class and experience of Gina Crampton. The new recruit ran rampant last round, taking advantage of the extra space she was afforded and cannot be gifted the same luxury this round if the Tactix want to get their first win on the board.

Without Selby-Rickit it will be up to Kimiora Poi, Samon Nathan and Erikana Pedersen to do the heavy lifting in attack to feed the ball into Ellie Bird in the goal circle. Bird has proven she is a rock under the post but needs silver service to be able to really generate scoring prowess for the Tactix. It will not be easy though given the form Anna Harrison and Oceane Maihi, plus Elle Temu if she has recovered from an ankle niggle sustained last round. All three defenders are aerial specialists meaning the Tactix will have to get crafty with ball in hand to ensure they are not predictable in attack.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic vs. Central Pulse
Sunday, April 25 @6:15

The final game of the round sees the Magic take on the reigning premiers as the Pulse search for their first win. It is unprecedented territory for the Pulse who for the past two seasons have gone through almost undefeated and certainly secured that opening round win, meaning they will come out with a real sense of urgency in this clash. That being said, the Magic will be riding high given the impressing showing of versatility and belief to grind out their opening round win.

The attacking unit for the Magic is humming along nicely and with further court time could prove a handful with Grace Kara perfecting those feeds into the circle. Caitlin Bassett will be the one to stop in this clash given her proficiency and overall nous, while both Chiara Semple and Khiarna Williams are no slouches. The shooting duo are more than capable of holding down the fort themselves meaning the Pulse defence cannot afford to focus solely on Bassett. The Pulse will need to combat the Magic’s attacking prowess early and have the calibre of players to do so with Kelly Jury, Kelera Nawai and Parris Mason all capable hands. If Jury gets the nod in her traditional position of goal keeper it will go a long way in setting up a Pulse victory.

Maddy Gordon is still finding her feet in wing defence this season so will have her work cut out for her against the experienced Kara, and will need support from the likes of Claire Kersten out in centre to nullify her output. The absence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio will continue to linger however, although the Pulse have proven that Te Amo Amaru-Tibble is more than willing to stand on her own two feet and slot the goals. Her connection with Aliyah Dunn is still developing, an area the Magic defence spearheaded by Temalisi Fakahokotau will be hoping to exploit. The versatility down back for the Magic is going to be key with Fakahokotau, Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong all serious ball winners and like to cut off the supply heading into the circle, meaning the Pulse will have to be cautious with ball in hand.

2021 ANZ Player of the Week: Round 1 – George Fisher

IN a new series, Draft Central casts an eye over the top performer from the round taking into account now only their individual stats but their overall impact on the game. Round 1 of the ANZ Premiership saw a number of key players, lead the way for their respective teams and put their best foot forward however it was George Fisher that earned the title as Player of the Week.

Making both her Southern Steel and ANZ Premiership debut, Fisher made an immediate impact with her crafty court play and ability to read the flight of the ball. The England Roses goaler finished with an impressive 46 goals from 49 attempts at 94 per cent accuracy, while also reeling in a rebound to cap off her impressive performance. She was an all-round rock for the Steel not skipping a beat and just backing herself in, in every situation to not only control the airwaves but the overall momentum of the attacking unit.

Her strong holds and composed nature allowed her to edge closer to the post and keep the scoreboard ticking over. She was not overwhelmed by the constant physical pressure stemming from both Mainland Tactix and Silver Ferns defenders Jane Watson and Karin Burger instead using her fancy footwork to manoeuvre around them. Her ability to consistently re-position and twist herself inside and out was second to none while her use of the split allowed her to edge closer to the post.

Fisher looked comfortable out on court, taking like a duck to water with her new partnership with Tiana Metuarau out the front. They caused all sorts of havoc in attack with their change of angles and pace enabling them to steadily add to their growing margin. The two balanced the circle nicely to keep the defenders guessing while providing clear options for the feeders. Shannon Saunders spotted Fisher well under the post, while Kate Heffernan also seemed to thread the ball with great ease into the circle in a strong win for the Steel.

Other contenders included Maia Wilson given her performance under the post for the Northern Stars, while Anna Harrison also put together a strong performance in her first game back from retirement. Caitlin Bassett also dished out a commanding performance but was pipped at the post by Fisher.