Category: News

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.

Compare the Pair: Kelsey Browne and Peta Toeava

THE next instalment in the Draft Central’s Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from different competitions, with the next showcasing midcourt attackers, Australia’s Kelsey Browne and New Zealand’s Peta Toeava

With plenty of breakout speed, class and feeding expertise, the likes of dynamic attackers Browne and Toeava are a force to be reckoned with on court. While both on the shorter side, their respective ability to find not only the space but the ball too makes them crucial players on court, able to change a game in a split second. Meanwhile, the pair also provide handy cogs at the transverse line, taking on that first faze of the play and continually backing up their respective efforts with speed and vision. With plenty of strength, consistency and a workrate to match, both Browne and Toeava have plenty of quality attributes any team would want to have on their side.

An energiser bunny with quick thinking on the pass and an ability to serve the ball on a silver platter to her attackers, Browne is one of those players who cannot be left alone for a moment. Her innate ability to find space through the midcourt and attack the play allow her to be a consistent and threatening option across the court, using her game smarts to switch on and provide a quality option on circle edge. Her vision is second to none and gives her plenty of opportunity to propel ball into the goal circle, using her dynamic movement and quick feet to dart around her defender to apply pressure in attack. While Browne was expected to miss much of the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last year, fans will hope the Magpies will benefit off the delayed start to the season with potential for Browne to return earlier than expected.

With little hesitance and plenty of confidence on the assist, there is no doubt Toeava has been a quality midcourter for the Mystics this season, proving crucial with her quick hands and evasive footwork to find the ball with ease. Her ability to open up space for her teammates sees her play a critical role in every match, using her vision well to spot the way the play will head and provide a handy link through the midcourt. With impressive vision in attack, Toeava can ply her trade to feed into the circle from virtually anywhere in the goal third, using her evasive play to zip around her defender and propel ball straight to the post. Toeava is able to hold her ground well and while she is not the most defensively minded player, she is also consistently clean, able to apply pressure on the ball handler and attack the loose ball without finding too much of the whistle.

Kelsey Browne
18 caps, 2018-present

Peta Toeava
1 cap, 2018-present

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.

2020 SSN: Season preview – Melbourne Vixens

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 Melbourne Vixens up next on the list. 

Coach: Simone McKinnis
Captain: Kate Moloney
2019 finish: 3rd

A solid season culminated in a finals berth for the Vixens, with a close miss in 2018 pushing the side to the next level in 2019. With a quality pickup over the 2019 off-season in Caitlin Thwaites – along with South African talent Ine-Mari Venter – the Vixens lifted their intensity and pressure last year and were ultimately uninterrupted in their connections and season bar the break in the middle of the season for the Netball World Cup. The return of Mwai Kumwenda from injury added an extra string to the Vixens’ bow, with the Malawi goal shooter rotating seamlessly with Thwaites and Tegan Philip. Meanwhile, the hardworking midcourt of the Vixens worked wonders, though their predictability left something to be desired when it came to finals time, unable to compete off the bench as easily as some of their opposition could.

2020 predictions/expectations:

Well equipped to take advantage of the two goal super shot thanks to the versatile shooting trio of Thwaites, Kumwenda and Philip, the Vixens will hope to go one better than last year. While they lost Venter, young gun Lara Dunkley and powerhouse wing defence Renae Ingles over the off-season, the Vixens have more than enough talent to replace them, it is more about whether they have had the time to forge the connections needed to go far this season. Young talent Tayla Honey had a shaky start in 2018 with injury putting off her first season at SSN level, but she is back in business this season and surely raring to go. Joining an already quality midcourt of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney, the Vixens are not short of talent and experience making them a real force to be reckoned with. The Vixens will be hoping to build off their bench a bit more to provide a constant buffer and pressure through the contest. There is no denying that the Vixens have been a top team throughout the SSN and will be eager to assert themselves on the competition once again with their ability to treasure ball in offence and win ball back in defence. 

Key player to watch:

Kate Eddy is a quality pickup for the Melbourne side, which had a gaping hole at the end of last season given Ingles’ imminent retirement. Her versatility will allow her to slot in where required, likely playing in wing defence but with an ability to rotate further back with Emily Mannix and Jo Weston. With a season under her belt at the Swifts in 2019, Eddy has proved her growth defensively to provide a quality rotation through all three defensive positions. While she did not play in the 2019 grand final thanks to injury, the talented defender adjusted well to the top level and more than handled the job of holding down attackers. What’s more, Eddy is a former Vixens training partner meaning she already has forged connections with a number of players, something that will certainly come in handy given the side’s lack of time together prior to the season starting.

Team list:

Kate Moloney
Tegan Philip
Liz Watson
Caitlin Thwaites
Emily Mannix
Jo Weston
Kadie-Ann Dehaney
Mwai Kumwenda
Tayla Honey
Kate Eddy

2020 ANZ Premiership: Round 4- Player of the Week

EACH week Draft Central will analyse player performances from across the round in the ANZ Premiership and determine a “Player of the Week” based on game day performances. A player can be nominated as many times as deemed necessary given their individual performance across the round.

It is hard to go past the efforts of Ameliaranne Ekenasio with the Pulse superstar elevating her game to a whole other level and subsequently earning herself “Player of the Week” honours. With patience and skill to boot, Ekenasio was a key cog for the Pulse across both games in Round 4 well and truly leading from the front and dictating the flow of the game. Her composure with ball in hand was second to none, using her full three seconds to assess all of her options inside the attacking third and reverting to the transverse line when in need.

The goal attack was on song throughout both matches but starred particularly in the contest against the Steel, commanding the ball under the post. Her ability to take the heat off goal shooter Aliyah Dunn is a testament to her shooting prowess and sheer netball smarts. When she sensed the need to grab the game by the scruff of the neck she did exactly that, shooting at a whopping 100 per cent accuracy with 25 goals from 25 attempts. Ekenasio was unfazed by the physicality, riding every bump and most importantly delivering. Her skill to create space in the attacking third and take the hard drive into the goal circle kept the defenders head on a swivel allowing her to take full control in the goal circle.

Up against Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita, Ekenasio had to really think her way through the defensive pressure and double teaming of Dunn to have an influence at the post. With Maddy Gordon relatively well held throughout the game, Ekenasio picked up the slack with the goal attack doing a wealth of work at the centre pass to receive a team high 16 while her second phase work was just as impressive showcasing her impressive stamina.

The heavy workload did not seem to slow Ekenasio down with the goal attack going on a tear in the second game of the round, simply running rings around the Magic defence with her timing, silky ball movement and fancy footwork. Opposed to Holly Fowler, Georgia Tong and Erena Mikaere in the goal circle, Ekenasio was not bothered by their physicality and aerial presence instead backing herself from range and using her dynamic movement to edge closer to the post. Her smarts to lower her eyes and deliver bullet passes to Dunn or cut across the top of the circle allowed her to play with freedom for the Pulse and set them up for the win.

Although her accuracy was down compared to her previous outing- sitting at 88 per cent her output was just as dominant. Ekenasio managed 21 goals from 24 attempts while also amassing seven goal assists and another team high 12 centre pass receives. Her ability to constantly remain in the game and use her deceptive turn of speed to catch defenders off guard makes her impossible to stop, pair that with her impeccable balance and Ekenasio proved why she is such a commanding presence. Connecting well with Claire Kersten through the midcourt Ekenasio found good space both under the post and in the attacking third to create scoring opportunities.

The Silver Ferns captain, showcased her wealth of experience and skill to seamlessly transition into goal shooter, while also adjusting her game to allow the likes of Tiana Metuarau to have an influence in the goal circle. It was a complete performance by Ekenasio who once again starred and rose to the challenge each time.

Memorable Matches: Swifts deny Lightning three-peat for inaugural SSN premiership

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in recent history. Next up is NSW Swifts’ spectacular 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final performance against Sunshine Coast Lightning. Looking to make it three in a row, the Swifts put on a masterclass stopping the Lightning in their tracks and clinching their first premiership in over 10 years.

It was an impressive display from the Swifts, who came into the match as the underdogs despite spending a wealth of the season on top of the ladder. The Lightning had an impressive track record against the Swifts heading into the grand final, but that was all thrown out the window with New South Wales pouncing on every opportunity that came their way to blow the Lightning out of the water.

With youngster Cara Koenen getting the start over Peace Proscovia and Steph Wood struggling for accuracy, the hungry Swifts defensive unit of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner switched it on from the starting whistle, gobbling up a wealth of ball between them. While Karla Pretorius had a similarly strong start, the Swifts were careful and patient with ball in hand and it paid dividends, heading into the second quarter four goals up thanks to the clean movement down court.

Sam Wallace proved she was in for a big one from the get-go, and while the Lightning put some solid pressure on the goal shooter defensively, she used her improved aerial ability to post 20 goals by half time and provide a constant threat – aided by Helen Housby who consistently evaded Pretorius to be a handy option inside the circle. With plenty of young talent running around through the Swifts midcourt, many wondered whether the experienced strength of Lightning livewire Laura Langman and speedster Laura Scherian would run them down. But that was not the case with the Swifts midcourt well and truly rising to the occasion, unfazed by the Lightning’s experience and instead doing what they do best, treasuring the ball and using their cautious approach to feed into the goalers. With Paige Hadley, Nat Haythornthwaite and Katrina Rore firing on all cylinders early, the Lightning could not seem to find purchase to steal momentum away, seeing the Swifts lead 31-23 at half time.

With rotations all around, the Lightning seemed to lack consistency especially in the goal circle, and with Hadley holding off an unusually quiet Langman there was not enough drive through the midcourt for the Lightning to pull back the margin. While many expected the Lightning to fire back heading into the second half, the Swifts did not let up and came out firing once more, not allowing the home side to generate any easy passage of play and establish their signature ball movement across the court, that many had gotten to used to seeing. Hadley and Haythornthwaite continued to ply their trade out the front, providing constant ball into the circle and despite the slower quarter the Swifts were still well and truly in control ahead of a massive final quarter. 

The real turn in the game was in the final quarter, seeing the Swifts finally really pull away from the Lightning thanks to the defensive unit putting on a show and Wallace continuing to dominate under the post. Defensively, Klau was having a day out dominating the one-on-one contest, and the usually threatening duo of Pretorius and Phumza Maweni seemed to pale in comparison to the Swifts’ defensive prowess. A phenomenal shared final quarter effort saw Wallace, Housby and Sophie Garbin dominate the scoresheet, combining for 18 goals compared to the Lightning’s 11, with the reigning premiers unable to compare to the Swifts’ hunt across the court. With a final margin of 17 goals, the Swifts had come in hot and could not be matched, winning their first Suncorp Super Netball premiership and proving that trusting in their youth would continue to pay off after a rough season at the top. 

Looking to the stats, Wallace earned a well-deserved Player of the Match award, shooting 40 goals at 91 per cent, followed by Lightning youngster Koenen with 23 at 85 per cent. Housby was consistent as ever with 18 goals, 19 centre pass receives and an intercept, while Proscovia racked up 16 goals in her 31 minutes on court. Swifts’ Haythornthwaite (21 assists, one intercept) and Hadley (20 assists) proved crucial through the midcourt, and while Laangman and Scherian similarly shared the feeding role (16 and 15 respectively) there just was not enough ball that reached their goalers to be a winning side. Defensively, Klau was spectacular with 10 gains (five intercepts, four rebounds and 10 deflections – one to advantage), and was aided well by partner in crime, Turner (two intercepts). Both Pretorius and Maweni put in a solid effort to combine for five intercepts, but it was not enough against the Swifts sharpshooters.

SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 12 | 11 | 13 | 11 (47)
NSW SWIFTS 16 | 15 | 15 | 18 (64)

Lightning

GS: Cara Koenen
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Laura Scherian
C: Laura Langman
WD: Maddy McAuliffe
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Phumza Maweni

BENCH: Jacqui Russell, Peace Proscovia, Annika Lee-Jones
COACH: Noeline Taurua

Swifts

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Katrina Rore
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau

BENCH: Sophie Garbin, Sophie Halpin, Tayla Fraser
COACH: Briony Akle

SHOOTING STATS

Lightning

Cara Koenen 23/27
Peace Proscovia 16/18
Steph Wood 8/14

Swifts

Sam Wallace 40/44
Helen Housby 18/22
Sophie Garbin 6/7

2020 SSN: Season Preview – GIANTS Netball

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 GIANTS Netball. 

Coach: Julie Fitzgerald
Captain: Jo Harten
2019 finish: 5th

Falling just short of a finals berth the GIANTS will be disappointed with how 2019 ended and eager to make amends in 2020. Pipped at the post by Collingwood in terms of ladder positioning the GIANTS showed plenty of passion and determination throughout the season but simply did not do enough to warrant a spot in the top four and make a charge at a grand final opportunity. Without Serena Guthrie who returned home to England, the GIANTS at times seemed to lack that extra layer of grunt through the midcourt. However her absence allowed some young up and coming players to take the lead and hone their craft through the middle third. At the end of the season the GIANTS farewelled veteran and Diamonds sensation Kim Green with the talented midcourter hanging up the dress after an illustrious career. With some new faces in the mix and big shoes to fill expect the GIANTS to come out with a point to prove in 2020 and take advantage of the Super Shot. 

2020 predictions/expectations:

With Green retiring it leaves a chance for Kiera Austin to come in and really stamp her authority. Although more commonly known for her role as a goal attack, the talented youngster can double as a wing attack with her precision feeding the ball a key element of her game play. Throw in her vision and sheer netball smarts and Austin is an ideal candidate to replace Green. Although only 24-years-old, Jamie-Lee Price is the most experienced midcourter for the GIANTS and will have to lead the troops with the wing defence come centre responsible for the transition through court and tempo of the game. Despite boasting a young midcourt the GIANTS have a wealth of experience when it comes to the shooting circle headlined by two of netballs biggest names in Caitlin Bassett and Jo Harten. Bassett is deadly from under the post and while she had a shaky start to the 2019 season due to an injury will be hoping to impose herself in her second year with the club. On the other hand, Harten does some of her best work from around the perimeter of the circle with the goaler able to rock back on the shot and convert. The GIANTS captain can play both goal shooter and goal attack making her a highly versatile option for the GIANTS in the circle. Defensively the combination of Kristina Manu’a and Sam Poolman will have to kick it up another gear in season 2020 if they are to win more ball back and shut down opposition teams. There is plenty of excitement building around Matilda McDonell and Teigan O’Shannassy with the latter returning from injury and hoping to make an impact with her defensive prowess. 

Key player to watch:

There is no denying that Amy Parmenter took the competition by storm last year, bursting onto the scene and not looking back. Her explosiveness across the court and seamless transition between wing defence and centre makes her an integral member in the GIANTS outfit. Only entering her second year with the club the highly touted midcourter still has plenty to learn and a wealth of development left in but has already shown that she can change the course of a game in an instant. Her ability to read the play and spring into action while her speed off the mark also causes havoc for opposition attackers. She is not afraid to throw herself at the contest, using her tenacious mindset to hunt the ball. Parmenter is renowned for her hard work around the circle edge, applying strong hands over pressure and three-foot marking in the defensive third to block her opponents vision. With her defensive attributes quite profound her skill in attack is just as impressive, using her speed to create space and deliver into the goal circle when need be. Her vision is also highly impressive and will want to make sure she can continue to build on that throughout the 2020 season. 

Team list:

Kiera Austin
Caitlin Bassett
Jo Harten
Madeline Hay
Kristiana Manu’a
Matilda McDonnell
Teigan O’Shannassy
Amy Parmenter
Sam Poolman
Jamie-Lee Price

ANZ Premiership: Round 4 – Second quarter blitz gifts Pulse fifth straight win

DESPITE a slow start to their Round 4 ANZ Premiership match on Sunday, the Pulse proved why they are the team to beat, putting the foot down in the second quarter and asserting themselves on the last placed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic running out convincing victors (51-30). The 21 goal thumping was off the back of some impressive defensive efforts from the Pulse not allowing the Magic to generate enough scoring opportunities to trouble the Pulse.

It was an arm wrestle in the opening term with the Pulse looking a little worse for wear in their second game in less than 24 hours. Magic captain and wing defence Sam Winders quickly inserted herself in the game with a clever intercept on the circle edge to catch the Pulse off-guard. Her constant pressure caused a wealth of headaches for the Pulse attacking end forcing them to throw the ball around to open up space while the likes of defensive duo Erena Mikaere and Holly Fowler also impressed. Mikaere and Fowler shut down Aliyah Dunn at the post with the two double teaming the Pulse goal shooter and forcing her out of the contest. They simply shut down all of the space and contested every high ball coming into the circle. But that did not stop the likes of Ameliaranne Ekenasio from dominating with the goal attack coming off an MVP performance the night before. Ekenasio shouldered the load in attack, using her speed, spatial awareness and accuracy to post to keep her side within touch. With seven minutes left in the term the Magic hit the front as Kelsey McPhee started to really find her feet despite the constant pressure from Kelly Jury. The Pulse struggled to find momentum in attack with the Magic continuing to apply smothering defence with Winders really leading the way with her hands over pressure. But testament to the Pulse they withstood the waves to draw level with less than two minutes in the quarter and hit the front in the dying minutes.  

Holding a one goal lead the Magic kickstarted things in the second term with the centre pass and subsequent conversion to tie things up once again. But unfortunately it went downhill from there with the Pulse going on a goal scoring spree with Ekenasio leading the charge under the post. They really started to generate some better movement in the circle allowing both goalers to find space and create timely screens. The Magic simply had no answers for the Pulse who upped the ante both in attack and defence with Dunn finding a wealth of space under the ring, holding strong and commanding the ball. Defensively Karin Burger stepped up with the wing defence making the most of her three-foot marking and long arms to disrupt the flow of Whitney Souness and win ball back for the Pulse. The combination of Katrina Rore and Jury also stood up with the duo working more cohesively and backing each other up across the court. Jury racked up an impressive three gains throughout the term while wing attack Maddy Gordon also showcased her defensive traits, hustling hard at the transverse line to win the ball back for the Pulse and quickly transition back into attack. With the Magic defensive end up in arms, Georgia Tong entered the game replacing Mikaere but that did not stop the Pulse who continued their merry way with Burger running amok down back picking up another impressive intercept. It was all one way traffic with the Pulse notching up a whopping 17 goals to five despite the ball ping ponging around in the final minutes of the quarter. 

Struggling to generate any sort of momentum across the court the Magic made a couple of changes with Khiarna Williams coming on to replace Abigail Latu-Meafou in goal attack. Williams had her work cut out for her against Rore but proved that she was all class slotting four goals while teammate and goal shooter McPhee could not shake Jury in defence. The Magic were unable to convert on opportunities throwing the ball away on multiple occasions while the Pulse defence proved just how elite they are with each player able to stand up and play their role effectively. Holding a commanding lead the Pulse started to empty their bench with Elle Temu coming on in goal defence while Tiana Metuarau pulled on the goal attack bib pushing Ekenasio into goal shooter and Dunn to the bench. In her 50th game Metuarau impressed once again with her clever movement, attacking prowess and confidence to post. With the connection missing through the midcourt the Magic pulled the pin with Souness moving to the bench, Ariana Cable-Dixon swapping into wing attack, Winders into centre and Jenna O’Sullivan into wing defence in hope to stop the bleeding when it came to scoreboard pressure. Unfazed by the changes Central Pulse kept their foot on the throat extending the lead heading into the final change. 

With the game all but won the Pulse took the time to work on some developing connections across the court bringing on Renee Savai’inaea in wing defence. Her tenacity was on show throughout the term working hard to get hands to ball while centre Claire Kersten showcased her impressive endurance and stamina to run out the whole game and finish with 17 goal assists. Although it was a sloppy final term from both sides, unable to get any real consistency it was the Pulse that once again proved too strong for the Magic with their increased defensive pressure and quick ball speed causing all sorts of havoc. This marked the Pulse’s fifth consecutive win while the Magic are yet to register a win since the return to netball. 

Dunn found her form after a slow start with 23 goals from 27 attempts, Ekenasio was not far behind with 21 goals from 24 attempts while Metuarau managed seven from 11. Inaccuracy and lack of opportunity plagued the Magic front line with McPhee only managing 19 goals from 26 attempts at 73 per cent and Williams slotting eight from 11.

>>>PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>>MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

STARTING SEVEN:

Central Pulse

GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Maddy Gordon
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Kelly Jury

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:

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

ANZ Premiership: Round 4 – Pulse remain unbeaten after topsy-turvy victory over the Steel

COMING into the game with nothing to lose, the Steel put up a good fight over the Pulse but left empty-handed after the fiery Round 4 contest. While the Pulse did not have it all their own way, they were utterly dominant under the post and defensively it is hard to see any teams really coming close. At points, it was a lot closer than expected, with the Steel ahead at three quarter time, but the reigning champions were just too good and do not look likely to be giving up their crown any time soon, getting up with a 14-5 last term to run away with a 47-40 victory.

A held ball on the first centre pass meant the Steel were in chase mode from the very start. Ameliaranne Ekenasio put on an absolute clinic in the goal attack position, moving flawlessly and demonstrating her balanced and effortless shooting technique. She combined fantastically with Maddy Gordon at wing attack to provide plenty of options in the Pulse attack end. Despite a few early turnovers from both sides, Pulse started off in control, whilst the Steel seemed tense and took a while to find their feet. Through some smooth playmaking from Kalifa McCollin, the Steel pulled it back to within one, but the opening quarter was the Ekenasio show.

The Silver Ferns captain provides so much inspiration for her team, and they were contesting every ball and making transition play very difficult for the Steel. There were moments of fluency in the Steel attack but a couple of misplaced feeds were eaten alive by Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore. For the Steel, Kate Heffernan’s work rate was impressive, and they managed to claw their way back in through a timely intercept from Shannon Saunders. The Pulse demonstrated strong drives and plenty of punch while the Steel were struggling to get the ball over the transverse line and their feeding accuracy let them down. Towards the end of the first quarter, the Pulse took their foot off the pedal to finish the quarter with a slim three-goal lead.

In the second quarter, Jury’s height was causing all sorts of problems, and the Steel ended up giving away the ball several times by taking too many passes before going to post. The Pulse were lethal on their transitions, and though the Steel were clinging on there was a sense that the game may turn into a total washout. But Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had other ideas and was ready to take on the challenge of Ekenasio. She came to life in the second quarter and the Steel notched up five in a row with the chance to take the lead heading into the break.

Gina Crampton was finding great feeding position, letting the ball go easily and seemed to have the measure of Karin Burger. As the Pulse started to lose their connections and tense up, the Steel made it seven on the trot and forced Pulse to make a change in the defensive end. Elle Temu came on to offer another look but Jennifer O’Connell was confident and really firing, so Temu struggled to have the desired impact.

The experienced pair of Saunders and Claire Kersten were having a good tussle in the midcourt, but this quarter was all about the wing attacks. When Crampton started to lift, Gordon did the same and the vision and pinpoint feeds helped keep shooting percentages very high for both teams. Through pure willpower, and with help from a couple of Pulse errors, the Steel steamed on ahead with a defiant display and the score was 24-23 at half-time.

The Steel attack combination of Crampton, O’Connell and McCollin really started to sing in the second and third quarters. Steel came out of the blocks very strong defensively in the third, with Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita getting hands everywhere. The Pulse defence, in contrast, seemed flat. Changes for the Pulse saw Jury return to the court and Tiana Metuarau come into wing attack, replacing Gordon. Fifita was doing a lot of work at the back keeping Aliyah Dunn busy, she had actually shot fewer goals than Ekenasio in the first half. In a total switch from the first quarter, it was now the Pulse clinging on to the game, trailing by two when the whistle blew for three-quarter time.

In a game that was expected to be a blowout, it was now danger time for the Pulse and they knew they needed a big effort for the final quarter. Gordon replaced Kersten at centre and the talented youngster Metuarau stayed on in wing attack. Pulse equalised and started the quarter all guns blazing, playing with power and presence. In a complete turnaround from the third quarter, Pulse began to dominate defensively and really punish the Steel.

After scoring eight in a row, the Pulse finally let the Steel score their first goal of the final quarter with six minutes remaining – the score was now 42-36 to the Pulse. Steel had lost their fluency in attack and the Pulse were taking advantage of the slower ball speed and miscommunication. The champions were ruthless in the final quarter, pushing the score out to 47-40 and denying the Steel a much-needed bonus point. Too many errors for Steel and their final quarter let them down, it was a shame they could not come away with something after such a strong opening three quarters.

The Pulse finished the game on 100 per cent shooting accuracy, and it is hard to know what teams can really do to stop them. The Magic will take on this challenge next, while the Steel will need to maintain a full performance when they take on the Pulse for the second time next week.

>>>PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>>STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 14 | 9 | 10 | 14 (47)
SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 13 | 5 (40)

STARTING SEVEN:

PULSE:

GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Maddy Gordon
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Kelly Jury

STEEL:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita