Tag: Abby Erwood

ANZ Premiership – Round 5: Mighty finish seals the deal for Stars

NORTHERN Stars have capitalised against a determined but understrength Southern Steel team that had to shuffle the magnets in the wake of key shooter, Jennifer O’Connell‘s injury. Despite the Steel coming close and giving the Stars a scare, the fourth quarter again proved to be the Steel’s downfall. The Stars, on the other hand, looked composed, fluent in attack, dogged in defense and are showing great form in Round 5, eventually getting the points in a 48-39 victory.

The Stars opened the game with determination and seemed to relish the opportunity to get their revenge for their Round 3 loss. Steel were working with a new shooting partnership of Kalifa McCollin at goal shooter and the youngster Kiana Pelasio getting the start at goal attack. This combination took a while to settle in which heaped pressure on Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton to dictate play and keep creating opportunities. There was hesitance in the Steel’s attacking end, and Storm Purvis and the Stars punished the Steel’s nervous start by getting out to an early lead. The contrast between the shooting partnerships was clear: Stars were well oiled, presenting holding and moving options, and Maia Wilson was backing herself at the post. A timely surge from the Steel midcourt towards the end of the first quarter brought the score back to within one, and the Stars kept a narrow lead of 12-11 going into the break. 

Both teams started the second quarter with intensity, and there was a sense that the game was very much up for grabs. A fierce battle was developing between plucky Georgia Heffernan and Stars’ captain Grace Kara, who was having to work hard to shake the tenacious wing defence. Miscommunication hampered the Steel’s attacking efforts and the Stars made no mistake at the post. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita were struggling to have an impact against dominant Wilson, supported by Jamie Hume. As the score crept out to 19-15, there was a sense that the game may start to unravel for Steel. A textbook interception from Kate Burley was answered by a gain from Selby-Rickit and the defence for both teams started to make their presence felt. Coming in at goal keeper for Steel Oceane Maihi had an immediate impact, allowing Purvis to roam and create more turnover ball at goal defense. With seconds remaining, the Steel failed to convert an attacking opportunity and went into half-time trailing by four goals. 

After the break, Abby Erwood came into goal defense for Steel with Selby-Rickit slotting into goal keeper, in an attempt to shut down the threat of Wilson who was shooting at 95 per cent. Maihi picked off a poor feed from Crampton and the Stars extended their lead. Steel were still struggling to find their timing in attack, and the midcourt were being effectively held up by Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Fa’amu Ioane playing at full strength. A change was inevitable for the Steel, resulting in McCollin switching out to goal attack (where she is most comfortable) and Grace Namana making her ANZ debut. As the third quarter progressed, both teams took things up a gear, and it started to get interesting. Steel clawed their way back in and narrowed the gap to just two goals at three quarter time. They were not about to let this game go without a fight.

Unfortunately Steel could not sustain this momentum in the final quarter. In a striking parallel to the previous game against the Pulse, errors in the fourth quarter proved to be the Steel’s downfall. Erwood had a standout quarter at goal defense, and although the partnership between McCollin and Namara was blossoming, it will need a little more time to click. The Steel fought tirelessly to cling on to the scoreline but the impressive hops and dynamism of the Stars defense end proved too much. Reuelu-Buchanan and Iowane were relentless, exploiting the Steel mistakes and really pushing for the win. After a ruthless final quarter, the Stars proved their worth in the competition and ended the game 48-39. 

Following an emotional and tiring few games for the Steel, they will be glad of a rest and chance to rebuild. Both teams will take a lot away from this game, and can be proud of the low overall turnover rate – 11 and 10 for Steel and Stars respectively – combined with impressive shooting stats from Wilson and McCollin in particular. Stars are certainly on the rise and will go into their next game against Magic with heaps of confidence following this strong performance.

>>>STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>>STARS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 9 | 11 | 8 (39)
NORTHERN STARS 12 | 12 | 9 | 15 (48)

STARTING SEVEN:

Southern Steel:

GS: Kalifa McCollin
GA: Kiana Pelasio
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

Northern Stars:

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Lisa Mather
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis

 

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 5

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

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Friday, 10 July

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

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

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

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

Southern Steel v. Northern Stars
Saturday, 11 July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mainland Tactix v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 12 July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Steel notch up opening win of the season

IN a rematch of the 2019 elimination final there was plenty of feeling in the game with the Steel claiming redemption and their first win of the season (49-47). Although the two goal win was marred with injury the Steel proved the short turnaround did not phase them, coming out hot from the get go, flicking the ball around with precision in the attacking third. Despite a strong win in Round 2 the Northern Stars did not seem to find their mojo for the full four quarters, rattled by the Steel’s pressure and tenacity. 

The Steel raced out of the blocks in the opening quarter with their connections in attack on full display. Stars goal shooter Maia Wilson slotted the first goal of the game, but from there on in it was all the Steel with their clever ball movement and defensive pressure causing all sorts of headaches. The Steel defenders pushed Wilson to shoot from range with the goaler missing two consecutive shots and making them pay with their 100 per cent shooting accuracy up the other end. The patient approach in attack paid dividends for the Steel with Jennifer O’Connell holding strong and owning the backspace. The Steel shooting end of O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin got on a roll sinking five goals straight and opening up a commanding lead. Their dominance was so profound it caused the Stars to make changes down back with Storm Purvis pushing out to goal defence and Oceane Maihi coming on at goal keeper to provide that aerial presence. The Northern Stars struggled to generate any second phase play in the attacking third giving the Steel plenty of chances to cause turnovers. Steel continued to put the foot down establishing a five goal lead despite the Stars pushing hard and rallying late in the term to try and create some attacking momentum. 

Down by five goals at quarter time the Stars came out with a real pep in their step and heightened defensive pressure. Clearly on the hunt for turnover ball Purvis got her hands to ball in the opening minute of the game contesting the high ball and placing doubt in the feeders minds. Moments later partner in crime Kate Burley delivered, taking a huge intercept and propelled the ball back down the court. With increased intensity in defence, Wilson found her groove under the post with her strong rebounding positioning and impressive balance to dance along the baseline and keep the ball in. With nine minutes left in the quarter the Steel were yet to score while the Stars went on a four goal shooting spree using the angles in attack to open up space and apply scoreboard pressure. Jamie Hume continued to impress from her first quarter output, proving to be a real playmaker in the attacking third with her well weighted passes and drive while teammate Grace Kara was crucial throughout the quarter using her vision to deliver into the circle. With the Stars pushing, Kate Heffernan was pinged with a caution, while Taneisha Fifita struggled to combat Wilson under the post. A mere goal separated the sides before Gina Crampton kicked it up a gear for the Steel with her impressive vision into the circle prompting the Steel to go on a surge in the final five minutes of the quarter. 

After getting within touching distance before the half time break the Stars continued with the same line-up while the Steel opted for some changes across the court. Georgia Heffernan replaced McCollin while Abby Erwood pulled on the goal defence bib pushing Selby-Rickit to goal keeper and Fifita to the bench. It was goal for goal for the opening few minutes of the quarter with both sides feeling each other out and adapting to the changes. Heffernan had a shaky start with a held ball on her first attempt before steadily building into the game. The Stars were getting plenty of hands to ball in defence with Burley and Purvis creating a strong wall in defence while up the other end the connection between Wilson and Hume was blossoming. With momentum swinging back and forth the Steel were struck by injury with Georgia Heffernan going down with a suspected knee injury. Crampton upped the ante in attack, releasing the ball from distance but that did not seem to phase the Stars who managed three goals in a row for and drew even with 10 seconds left in the quarter, showcasing just how intense the battle was. 

The final quarter lived up to the hype with the game going right down to the wire. Steel sunk the opening goal of the term with the Stars replying instantly. It was goal for goal once again with both sides treasuring possession and capitalising on their centre pass. Kendall Corkery had a profound impact for the Steel, niggling at Kara and making her work hard to win any ball circle edge. Shannon Saunders showcased her brilliance with a timely tip to turn the ball over and was the clear spark for the Steel who opened up a three goal lead and did not look back. With two minutes left Purvis took a key rebound to reduce the margin to three goals and give her side a fighting chance but it was to no avail with O’Connell landing the final blow. 

O’Connell was a constant under the post for the Steel with 32 goals from 36 attempts at 89 per cent while McCollin was deadly going at 93 per cent sinking 14 goals from her 15 attempts. For the Stars WIlson dominated with 37 goals from 42 attempts at 88 per cent while Hume was down on her accuracy sitting at 67 per cent missing five of her 15 shots. Defensively Purvis starred with three gains, three deflections and two rebounds. Fifita and Selby-Rickit combined for five gains and seven deflections.

 

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> STARS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

NORTHERN STARS 10 | 13 | 13 | 11 (47)
SOUTHERN STEEL 15 | 11 | 10 | 13 (49)

STARTING SEVEN:

Northern Stars:

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Fa’amu Ioane
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis

Southern 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

2020 ANZ Premiership Preview: Round 3

AFTER an action packed return of netball, teams will be eager to prove that it was not a one off with strong showings in Round 3. The Steel and Magic will both play two games this round with the remainder only taking part in the one game. Arguably the game of the round will be between the two unbeaten teams on Monday with Pulse and Mystics set to go to head to head. 

Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Friday, 26 June

Sitting on a win apiece heading into the round both teams will be searching for some consistency and more importantly their second win of the season. The Tactix had an up and down performance last round, struck down by a tummy bug in their second game which well and truly showed while the Magic simply could not generate enough accuracy to post to worry their opposition. 

With a stacked defensive end the Tactix will be hoping to use their physicality and ball winning abilities to stop the Magic from getting close to post. Copping a knock on her knee early in the last game, all eyes will turn to Jane Watson with the captain a real lynchpin for the Tactix as she can take huge game changing intercepts. After a hot start Temalisi Fakahokotau faded out of the game last round but will be wanting to showcase her prowess once again with her intercepting skills, leap and pressure over the shot to ruffle the feathers of Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou. The Magic shooters while they had plenty of opportunities struggled to convert and will have their work cut out for them again this round given the immense pressure Fakahokotau and Watson are renowned for.  

The midcourt battle will be another point of interest given the depth and speed that the Tactix have. Kimiora Poi is lightning quick in at centre, able to dart around the court and facilitate that second phase play for her side while also getting back and applying defensive pressure. Wing attack Samon Nathan and Erikana Pedersen also pose a threat for the Magic with their ability to come on and have an immediate impact with their quick ball movement, strength around circle edge and pin point precision passes into the circle. It will be up to Magic captain Sam Winders to really lead the midcourt with her defensive pressure, skill to clog up space and ability to keep her opposition off circle edge. In attack it will be up to Whitney Souness and Ariana Cable-Dixon to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Latu-Meafou and McPhee. 

It will be a tight battle between both sides but if the Tactix are at full strength they should be able to get the job done given the extra experience they have across the court both in attack and defence. 

Northern Mystics v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 27 June

Yet to register a win this season the Steel will be hoping to unlock something in their match-up against the Mystics and get their first “W” on the board. Meanwhile the Mystics will be hoping to keep their unbeaten record intact and notch up their third victory for the season after another impressive outing in Round 2.

With a developing attacking unit the Steel will have to be on their a-game if they are any chance to topple the Mystics. Kalifa McCollin proved to be a real pocket last round and has speed to boot, zipping around the attacking third and creating plays with her flair. The Trinidad and Tobago recruit is not afraid to go to post backing herself from anywhere in the circle and can adapt her game style to suit her fellow goalers. Youngster Georgia Heffernan is still working on her craft but has the potential to come on and have an impact with her athletic style of play and accuracy. While goal shooter Jennifer O’Connell is renowned for her holding shooter role and ability to score quickly and easily, something she will be hoping to capitalise on up against the likes of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka. The Mystics defenders are a formidable unit that can pick off passes with ease and use their quick footwork to maneuver around the body of their opponents and create timely deflections. Fitzpatrick is a strong driving force down back with her hands over pressure and aerial ability while Karaka is key through the midcourt. 

After starring in Round with her pace, strength and ball delivery Peta Toeava will be one to watch for the Steel. The Mystics wing attack is a key cog using her balance, impressive vision and variety of passes to seamlessly deliver the ball into the goal circle. Toeava is quick on her feet and strong around the circle edge to demand the ball and dish off well-weighted passes. Fellow midcourter and centre Tayla Earle also starred last week and will be hoping to replicate that form with her defensive pressure to force turnovers and pick off intercepts for the Mystics. Her battle with Shannon Saunders will generate plenty of interest given just how damaging Saunders can be with ball in hand. Her experience, speed and vision is second to none while her connection with Gina Crampton is exceptional. The two know each others game inside out making them extremely difficult to combat given their read of the play and space, stamina and general netball nous. 

Vying for their first win of the season, expect the Steel to throw everything they have at the Mystics in hope of securing that elusive victory. However the Mystics have proven that they have the firepower to withstand challenges and can use their defensive pressure to win ball back and create scoring opportunities. 

Northern Stars v. Southern Steel
Sunday, 28 June

In Steel’s second game of the round the element of fatigue could play a huge factor up against a developing Stars unit who will be still riding that winning wave after downing the Tactix in Round 2. It will be the first time these two sides have met since the final last year where the Stars bundled the Steel out of grand final contention, so expect plenty of feeling in this game. With young players on both sides it will be up to the experienced heads to lead the way and forge a way forward for their team to win. 

The tussle in the goal circle for the Stars will be exciting with Maia Wilson a commanding presence under the post as her strong holds and accuracy to post is hard to combat. Wilson is able to read the play with ease and use her feet to move to the ball or create space in the circle. Still developing her partnership with Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto it will be up to Wilson to shoulder a lot of the scoring load but will have her work cut out for her against Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, Taneisha Fifita and Abby Erwood. Fifita is a real livewire down in defence renowned for her spring in her step and skill to cause confusion with her quick footwork while both Selby-Rickit and Erwood ooze consistency.

Coming off a relatively disappointing outing expect O’Connell to come back with a vengeance and assert herself with her scoring ability. O’Connell can hit the scoreboard quickly and easily given her height and clever body positioning to ward off defenders. Partner in crime, McCollin is the playmaker for the Steel in the goal circle using her turn of speed and spatial awareness to full effect. But Stars defenders Storm Purvis and Kate Burley are no easy beats with the two strong in the air and able to swat away their fair share of ball. Burley impressed last round with her smothering style of play and skill to switch into transition with ease while Storm showcased her skillset to seamlessly push out to goal defence. Another prominent threat for the Stars is the inclusion of Oceane Maihi who is a serious competitor in the air given her leap and strong hands. 

Potentially still on the hunt for their first win the Steel will be eager to secure a win but come up against a strong unit, in the Stars who will be raring to go. With key players across the Stars are in the box seat heading into the contest having already notched up a win. 

Central Pulse v. Northern Mystics
Monday, 29 June

In what could be a battle of the two undefeated teams the clash between the Pulse and Mystics will be one of youth and experience. There is no denying that the Pulse are the team to beat, once again announcing themselves as a powerhouse of the competition last round while the Mystics continue to showcase their composure and pressure each time they step out on court. There will be all-star match ups across the court with both teams littered with Silver Ferns stars making for an intriguing contest.

Young talent Grace Nweke has continued to take the competition by storm, letting her goal scoring do all the talking. Hardly ever out positioned, Nweke is a staple hold for the Mystics under the post with her commanding figure, aerial strength, read of the play and sheer dominance, but could meet her match in fellow youngster Kelly Jury. The Pulse goal keeper really hit her straps last round with her quick footwork, long limbs, lean over the shot and skill to get hands to ball. Throw in defensive comrades in Katrina Rore and Karin Burger and the Pulse are incredibly difficult to match-up on given their ability to shut down space, hunt the ball and suffocate attacking forays. While Nweke is the go to girl for the Mystics the likes of Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui will have to up their output if they are to draw away the defence from Nweke and apply some serious scoreboard pressure. 

Moving down into the defensive end for the Mystics and they too have no shortage of fire power with Fitzpatrick and Karaka. Up against her old side, Fitzpatrick will be desperate to have an immediate impact with her hands over pressure, physicality under the post and intercepting ability. Directly opposed to Pulse goal shooter Aliyah Dunn, Fitzpatrick will have to be on her a-game to stop the high ball release into her with Dunn renowned for her height, ability to reel ball in and nifty footwork along the baseline to hold space. Goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio is another huge obstacle for the Mystics defensive unit to conquer with the Silver Ferns goaler in impressive form. Her vision is exceptional, able to see two passes ahead, while her ball placement, turn of speed and strong drives into the circle is second to none. Throw in the fact Ekenasio can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle and is cool, calm and composed with ball in hand and the Pulse are in a commanding position.

With star power across the court and tried and tested combinations the Pulse should reign supreme but the Mystics definitely have the players to cause an upset given their defensive pressure.

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Tactix topple Steel in the Southern Derby

AS the rest of the netball world looked on in envy, the ANZ Premiership once again displayed why their domestic league has produced some of the best talent on the planet. Much like the first game back after the break, the matchup between Mainland Tactix and Southern Steel lived up to the hype. It was a smothering defensive display from the Tactix and they certainly laid out their intentions for the season ahead thanks to a 43-36 triumph. 

Going into the game there were a few key matchups to note. Firstly, the tussle between World Cup Champion Shannon Saunders and zippy youngster Kimiora Poi. These two never gave each other an inch, both of them having a point to prove being at opposite ends of their netball career. Another hotly anticipated contest was the Selby-Rickit sisters, facing off against each other on opposing teams for the first time since 2015. Another Silver Fern with a reputation to uphold was the formidable Jane Watson, and she did just that against Trinidadian import, Kalifa McCollin. Watson has to be by far one of the most infuriating defenders in the game to play against, up there with Karla Pretorious, stealing balls for fun and disrupting play left, right and centre. She plays formidably at goal defence, that extra third giving her even more opportunities to cause chaos.

From the moment the toy car delivered the ball and Steel took the first centre pass, the pressure was on. Watson managed a steal after just one minute of play, and the battle between the Selby-Rickit sisters playing at goal attack and goal defense was very willing. The Tactix managed to exploit the height of their goaling duo in Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird, with Selby-Rickit shooting long bombs and oozing confidence from the outset. During the first quarter the Tactix had the opportunity to mount a sizeable lead but the Steel showed their grit and weren’t going down without a fight. Both teams opened the game by playing with real freedom and being totally fearless to let the ball go. After the first quarter the Tactix had their noses in front, leading the Steel by 12 goals to 11.

Southern Steel came out of the blocks with a fire in the belly for the second quarter, with McCollin’s cut and drives carving up the attack end and creating endless options – she actually ended up shooting more goals than Jennifer O’Connell in the first half. They started to really find flow in attack and ended up winning the quarter by one goal. Tactix showed great hustle, and were always first to a loose ball, backing this up with amazing vision into the circle, sometimes even from way back in the centre third. Watson’s “Mr Tickle” arms were causing a real mess for the Steel midcourt, and she combined with Temalisi Fakahokotau to form a ferocious defensive partnership. The sides ended the first half all tied up at 20 goals apiece, with both teams demonstrating real ease and flow in their play. 

Poi and Saunders kept each other busy in the midcourt, with Saunders’ ability to transition swiftly from attack to defense providing a good test for Poi’s speed and agility. Poi appeared determined to keep the ball alive at any cost and displayed some incredible acrobatics to do so. She looked like she was having an absolute day out and relishing the chance to match up against the experienced Saunders.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit silenced any potential critics about her shooting accuracy, remaining on 100 per cent at half-time and only missing two shots in the whole game, despite often shooting from range. With Noeline Taurua as assistant coach, the Tactix probably never really felt they were going to lose. Erikana Pedersen came on at wing attack after half-time and spurred on the Tactix to a deadly championship quarter. While both teams were heavily penalised, the Tactix managed to gain momentum in the third quarter, limiting the Steel to just seven goals. 

Wholesale changes in the fourth quarter for Steel gave them a chance to claw the score back, but the Tactix had their tails up after smashing the third quarter and the Steel ran out of time to make a comeback. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit moved back to goal keeper for the Steel with Abbey Erwood coming on in goal defence. At the other end, McCollin went into goal shooter and Georgia Heffernan slotted into goal attack, meaning there were two pairs of netball sisters on court during the final 12. For the Tactix, Bird’s shooting percentage started to dip, most likely due to the style of the physical Te Huinga Selby-Rickit. A held ball on the centre pass for the Steel added insult to injury and allowed the Tactix to pull away further. Unforced errors started to creep in for both teams, possibly due to fatigue setting in – something we may see a little more of with teams playing two games per weekend. There were also several attacking contacts from both goal shooters and Bird in particular got frustrated by the Steel defenders and ended up with two attacking contacts in a row. 

Tactix were ferocious, however both teams showed amazing vision, athleticism and slick play proving they are no worse for the break. As the Tactix started to relax in the final period, the Steel managed to notch up five in a row in what looked like the beginning of a comeback. However it was too little too late after their disappointing third quarter. After drawing the first half, the second half was 23-16 to the Tactix, meaning the final score was 43-36. The Tactix side were able to get early depth on the centre pass and have multiple options to ball, with Bird on a strong hold in the circle and Selby-Rickit setting up the attack end with ease. Both teams ended up fairly even across the board when it comes to penalties and turnovers, but the Tactix were able to pick up seven intercepts to the Steel’s two, and the large majority of rebounds to boot. 

The Tactix will have to maintain their enthusiasm and tenacity when they come up against the Stars on Monday, and the Steel can have another chance to notch up their first win of the season against the Mystics next weekend.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

STARTING SEVENS:

MAINLAND TACTIX

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

SOUTHERN 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

ANZ Premiership preview: Round 2 – Netball returns along with a grand final rematch

THE highly anticipated return of the ANZ Premiership kicks off on Friday. After an interrupted start to the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak and a subsequent two month hiatus expect all six teams to come out firing, with a grand final rematch headlining the return to netball. 

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Northern Mystics
Friday, 19 June 

The first cab off the ranks sees the Magic and Mystics face off with both teams hoping to make it two on the trot and maintain their unbeaten start to 2020. Magic showcased their defensive ability in Round 1 while also proving to have the answers in attack while the Northern Mystics also proved that they had plenty of depth and talent across the court to mix it with the best. Both teams only play one game this round so expect them to leave nothing to chance and put on a spectacle. 

The battle under the post is where all the excitement lies for the Mystics both defensively and offensively. With Silver Ferns goaler Bailey Mes ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a patella injury, the load falls to the three teenage shooting prodigies in Grace Nweke, Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui. Nweke took the competition by storm last year and will once again have her work cut out for her given her commanding style of play. She is accurate to post and can shoulder the load under the post while Tui played a starring role in their Round 1 outing. New to the attack end is Grapes with the youngster looking to have an impact with her drive to post and silky movement. But it will be no easy feat for the Mystics who are still working out their connections. Led by Erena Mikaere, the Magic will be hoping to exploit those connections and create plenty of turnover ball. Alongside Mikaere expect the likes of Holly Fowler and Jennifer O’Sullivan to be on the prowl, searching for an intercept or deflection of some type. Magic captain Sam Winders will have to put her defensively minded game play to work in order to stop the explosiveness of Peta Toeava who is a strong asset around circle edge given her experience. 

Defensively the Mystics also have some firepower with both Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick. The two are known for their defensive prowess, ability to read the play, quick footwork and speed off the mark. Although only in their second game together expect the duo to try and get in the heads of the Magic shooters and put them off their game with their lean over the shot and physical style. The shooting end for the Magic may look slightly different with Georgia Marshall stuck in Australia due to the COVID-19 restrictions meaning it will fall to Abigail Latu-Meafou and Kelsey McPhee to stand up under pressure and deliver once again with their growing connection, ability to read the space and confidence all on display in Round 1. 

Despite having a young shooting end, the Mystics have a strong defensive unit that can win ball back and propel it down the court, giving them that edge against the Magic.

Southern Steel v. Mainland Tactix
Saturday, 20 June 

In both teams’ first game of the round expect the Steel and Tactix to leave nothing to chance in order to claim their inaugural win for 2020. With aspirations to rise up the ladder the Tactix will be hoping to seriously announce themselves as a competitor this season credit to some handy pick-ups. 

The inexperienced shooting end could be a real focal point for the Steel with the Tactix boasting an impressive defensive combination in captain, Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau. The pair are renowned for their tenacity, desire to force turnovers and immense pressure. Watson is one of the cleanest defenders able to get around the body with ease and create tips and deflections while Fakahokotau’s more physical style often upsets the attackers providing her with chances to intercept the ball or force held balls. Throw in developing defender Sophia Fenwick and the Tactix have a wealth of options down back. The expected starting duo of McCollin and O’Sullivan will have their work cut out for them in the goal circle when it comes to creating space and putting up a high volume of shots given the intensity of the Tactix and their zone style of play. McCollin has plenty of flair and creativity with ball in hand something she will be hoping to make the most out of when delivering to O’Sullivan.

In her first game up against her old club, expect Te Paea Selby-Rickit to come out with plenty of fire in the belly. The Silver Ferns goaler and now Tactix shooter is a smooth mover, glides across the court and can hit the scoreboard with ease such is her netball smarts. Still developing her connection with goal shooter Ellie Bird who is recognised for her consistency to post, the two could prove a lot to handle for Steel duo Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Abby Erwood. Standing at 196cm, Bird is no easy beat in the goal circle with her long arms, strong holds and height making her a clear obstacle for the Steel to conquer inside the circle if they are any chance to win. 

With plenty of options in defence, speed through the midcourt and high quality shooters the Tactix should have the competitive edge heading into the game. 

Northern Stars v. Central Pulse
Sunday, 21 June

Sunday marks the grand final rematch between the Northern Stars and Central Pulse with the latter hoping to repeat their earlier triumphs. With a win already under their belt for season 2020 the Pulse will be out replicate their hot form of 2019 while the Stars on the other hand will be keen to put a stop to it and notch up their first victory for the season.

The Stars lost quite a couple of key players over the off-season but managed to retain the services of star goal shooter Maia Wilson. The young goaler will be their main port of call when it comes to scoring with the shooter able to slot them from anywhere and post a high number of goals. She is strong on her holds, quick on her feet and able to read the play with ease. In only their second game together the chemistry between Wilson and Jamie Hume in the goal circle will play a huge role given the depth and wealth of talent the Pulse have when it comes to defence. Boasting a defensive unit littered with stars such as Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury, versatile defender Karin Burger and youngster Elle Temu the Pulse have no shortage of options with each of them able to come on to the court and have a damaging impact. Rore and Burger are equally as impressive in the goal circle as they are out in wing defence, a clear testament to their skill and netball understanding.

Up the shooting end for the Pulse, Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn are arguably one of the league’s most damaging combinations. Ekenasio has an uncanny knack to read the play and glide across the court while her ability to shoot from long range makes her incredibly hard to stop. Her connection with Dunn is second to none, with the two able to rotate through the space with ease and consistently apply scoreboard pressure. Dunn is cool, calm and composed, often using her height to her advantage and capitalising on her scoring opportunities meaning the defensive unit of Storm Purvis, Daystar Swift and Kate Burley will have to be on their a-game. Expect Swift to rely on her height to match up against Dunn and try and put doubt in the feeders mind. 

If the Stars cannot get on top of the Pulse early it will be hard for them to reel them back in given their cleanliness with ball in hand and how quickly they can score. The Pulse treasure possession and are renowned for their ability to win ball back thanks to their strong defence unit. 

Northern Stars v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 22 June

In the final game of the round both the Stars and Tactix play out their second game of the round. With the changed fixture fatigue could be a huge factor for both teams especially the Stars who played the night before. Heading into the round both teams entered with no wins but will hoping to change that story and claim some early ascendancy and bragging rights.

With a strong defence, the Tactix also have plenty of talent throughout the midcourt with a host of nippy attackers that can interchange between positions. Kimiora Poi is one of those midcourters with the 168cm player able to dart around the court, hit the circle edge with speed and great balance while also displaying her impressive vision. The likes of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury returnee Erikana Pedersen and Samon Nathan are also handy options in either centre or wing attack. For the Stars, they too have a young midcourt core with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Lisa Mather however their ace lies with captain Grace Kara. In her second game back since giving birth expect the captain to provide that calming head through the midcourt and create a wealth of attacking forays for the Stars. 

In terms of wing defence both the Stars and Tactix have developing players in Fa’amu Ioane and Charlotte Elley meaning it will depend on which wing attack can get off the leash first and cause the most damage. The likes of Swift, Purvis and Burley will have to be firing on all cylinders in their clash in order to stop the flow into the goal circle for the Tactix. The shooting unit for Mainland  is quite strong with Bird and Selby-Rickit headlining the attack  while youngster Jess Prosser is also a viable option given her forged connection with Bird from last season and ability to go to post. 

Considering it is their second game in as many days expect factors such as experience, strong connections and structures to play a huge role in this game with the Tactix possibly more poised for a win given the number of international players on their list.

Southern Steel: What has changed?

THE ANZ Premiership returns this week after an enforced hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The break has done wonders for some teams allowing them to iron out issues and give time for players to focus on recovery. However some teams return to the season a little different than how they entered the 2020 season. Draft Central takes a look back at the Round 1 action, 2019 season and what has changed over the last couple of months. 

Coach: Reinga Bloxham
Captain: Gina Crampton
2019 finish: 3rd

Overview:
After falling short of the grand final in 2019, the Steel will be hoping to make amends in 2020 and go one further however they hit a roadblock in Round 1, going down by six goals. With a new look team, it will be up to the strong midcourt group to lead the way for the Steel in 2020 due to the number of young and inexperienced players joining the ranks. In saying that the Steel ooze plenty of excitement and potential given majority of their players are unknown quantities looking to make a name for themselves.

Changes:
With a wealth of changes over the off-season the COVID-19 forced break may have gifted the Steel with extra time to perfect and hone in connections across the court. Newbie Trinidad and Tobago goaler Kalifa McCollin is still adapting to the ANZ Premiership environment while the likes of Georgia Heffernan and Kate Heffernan are still both relatively new to the high paced environment. While McCollin has World Cup experience coming into a new team, country and league can be daunting. 

Looking ahead:
With youth on their side, the Steel will be hoping to exploit their opposition with their speed and quick ball movement. Expect the likes of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Abby Erwood to step up in defence and create plenty of turnover ball given their tenacity and hunt for the ball to allow for attacking forays. Meanwhile, the experience of Gina Crampton will pay dividends in the attacking third with her quick hands, vision into the circle and silky footwork around the circle edge. In the goal circle the responsibility could fall on 193cm shooter Jennifer O’Connell with the goal shooter already proving to be an easy target under the post who can stand up under pressure, deliver at a high accuracy and put up a high volume of goals. 

Key player:
Given the young and new shooting circle, the pressure lands on Shannon Saunders to stand up with the centre one of the most influential players on court. She can dictate space with her impressive leads, well-timed drives, strength around the top of the goal circle and dynamic footwork. Her ability to deliver into the circle will be crucial for the Steel’s success in 2020 as she will be the main provider and play maker in the attacking third. Her experience and vision will also play a pivotal role in defence, helping to shut down attacking options and using her quick transition play to link up attack and defence.

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Tactix, Stars and Steel search for first win

ROUND 2 of the ANZ Premiership will see three teams looking for their first win while the others will be hoping to make it two straight.

Northern Mystics v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 22 March
Eventfinda Stadium, Auckland

The Northern Mystics are coming off a narrow win, while the Tactix on the other hand will be hoping to notch up their first win of the season. The Tactix had a strong quarter and will want to build on that if they are to get over the line against a strong Mystics team that have plenty of firepower. But it will be a very tight battle given just how similar both sides are when it comes to game style and strengths.

The home side have arguably one of the strongest defence units in the competition thanks to the edition of Sulu Fitzpatrick and will be hoping to capitalise against a developing Tactix shooting combination. The battle between Fitzpatrick and goal shooter Ellie Bird will bring plenty of interest with Bird renowned for her holding style of game, something that Fitzpatrick is more than capable of disrupting given her aerial ability and hunt for the ball. Phoenix Karaka has also been in hot form, even if it is only after one round. The goal defence is strong in the air and at ground level able to track the ball and force timely turnovers with her long arms and speed. Her connection with Fitzpatrick will go a long way in stopping Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit who is still finding her feet in her new colours. Through the midcourt the combination of Kimiora Poi and Samon Nathan must stand up if the Tactix are any chance to win, as opposing wing attack Peta Toeava is deadly on the feed, able to quickly turn and deliver pin-point precision passes.

Defensively the Tactix are also strong with captain, Jane Watson the real barometer for the side. Watson is in a league of her own able to make something out of nothing with her quick feet and vision. Her partnership with Temalisi Fakahokotau will only develop as time goes on with the two able to cause havoc down back with their ball winning abilities and high netball IQ. However, they will have their work cut out for them up against teenage prodigy Grace Nweke who currently sits first for goals credit to her ability to score from anywhere and do accurately. If they can shut down Nweke the likes of Bailey Mes if available, Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes will have to stand up to help shoulder the load under the post.

In the end, it will be a battle of the defence ends with both sides boasting a plethora of game changers.

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Sunday, 22 March
TSB Bank Arena, Wellington

Coming off a win and their first home game despite it not being in front of a crowd the Central Pulse will be hoping to make it two on the trot and repeat the lengthy undefeated streak of last year. Meanwhile, the Southern Steel will be wanting to right the wrongs of last week and notch up their first win of the year.

With very limited change over the off-season the Pulse have one of the most formidable outfits in the competition headlined by their defensive unit. The trio of Katrina Rore, Karin Burger and Kelly Jury is one simply cannot resist. Both Rore and Burger can swap out to wing defence giving the Pulse that added bit of pressure and defensive prowess across the court making life hard for the likes of Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders who like to zip around the circle edge. While Crampton and Saunders have speed to boot if the Pulse defenders can shut down their avenue to goal and block their vision they will be able to gain the upper hand. Inside the circle, expect Jury to have an impact with her long lean over the shot and ability to contest the high ball especially up against the likes of Jennifer O’Connell. The Steel goal shooter will need further assistance from the likes of recruit Kalifa McCollin and youngster Georgia Heffernan to put up a damaging score and keep their respective defender busy.

The Pulse also boast a tried and tested duo in the goal circle with Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio one of the competitions strongest connections. They know each others game inside out able to dish off perfectly weighted passes and able to back themselves when inside the circle. While Dunn is the more prominent shooter, Ekenasio’s work out the front is what makes them such a dynamic team meaning the likes of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita will have to be on their a-game. If Fifita can win ball back like she did last round and receive support from the likes of Kate Heffernan and Abby Erwood it will go a long way in shutting the Pulse down.

However, given the strength and class across the court the Pulse should get the job done against a rebuilding Steel team.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Northern Stars
Monday, 23 March
Trustpower Arena, Tauranga

In a clash of second verse fourth expect plenty of action, with the Stars hoping to topple the Magic and claim their first win of 2020. The Stars underwent a massive change over the off-season and are still searching for that winning combination while the Magic seemed to have found their groove. Both sides have a couple of young, up and coming players that will be hoping to make an impact.

The Magic’s strength lies within their midcourt with newcomer Whitney Souness already lighting the court up with her dynamic movement and impressive vision. Souness has quickly become a key cog in the attacking third, not afraid to release the ball from distance and back herself while her connection with centre Ariana Cable-Dixon is steadily developing. The versatility of Sam Winders able to move between centre and wing defence given her defensive attributes is pivotal to the Magic’s success. But Winders will have to pull out all the stops against experienced campaigner Grace Kara to stop the wing attack from having an influence. Kara is cool, calm and collected able to think her way through scenarios and deliver well executed passes into the circle. Fellow midcourters Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Lisa Mather will also have to be on high alert. Stars, wing defence Fa’amu Ioane will be hoping to continue her ball winning ways after starring last round with a couple of timely intercepts.

With a relatively new defensive line-up with Daystar Swift and Kate Burley at the helm the Magic shooting combination of Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou will be hoping to capitalise. McPhee has shown that she can be explosive under the post able to post high numbers and relatively accurate. On the other hand, Maia Wilson is one of the highest scoring goalers in the competition able to find the net with ease and use her clever body positioning and strong holds to edge herself closer to the post. If she can have a big influence and Jamie Hume can chip in on the scoreboard then it will be hard work for Erena Mikaere and Holly Fowler. In only her second game for the club, Mikaere will be wanting to cause mayhem with her reach and speed making the goal circle match-up an exciting one.

The game could really go either way seeing just how evenly poised both teams are but it could be argued that the Magic have a little bit more depth and that could be the edge they need.

Magic Steels win on the road

THE Magic kicked off their season in style with a six-goal victory over Southern Steel 54-48. Playing in front of an empty stadium due to the coronavirus outbreak the home court advantage was all but stripped away with the Steel on the back foot from the opening term thanks to Waikato Bay’s hot start. While inaccuracy seemed to plague both sides throughout the match, it was the visitors who proved too strong in the end.

With Te Paea Selby-Rickit no longer amongst the fold, recruit Kalifa McCollin made her debut in the goal circle for the Steel but did not get off to an ideal start, only managing two goals from four attempts. While McCollin struggled to have a profound impact under the post, partner in crime Jennifer O’Connell led the way with eight goals from 12 attempts at a lowly 67 per cent accuracy. On the other hand, the Magic seemed to have no issues when it came to conversion thanks to Kelsey McPhee. The goal shooter made light work of the opposition, finding plenty of space in the circle especially along the baseline given her height and strong holds with nine goals from 10 at 90 per cent. Both centres came out with a real fire in the belly racking up five goal assists a piece, thanks to their similar attacking styles. Ariana Cable-Dixon was electric through the midcourt finding McPhee with ease on the hold while Shannon Saunders used her ball speed to cause havoc for the defenders.

Struggling to generate any real scoreboard pressure, the Steel made a change in the goal circle with youngster Georgia Heffernan making her way onto the court in the latter stage of the quarter. Her height, silky movement and connection with O’Connell had an immediate impact slotting two goals straight. Through the midcourt Gina Crampton upped the ante with the wing attack taking the bull by the horns and owning the attacking third. Crampton showcased her class with ball in hand, able to slice through the defence and find the shooters under the post with a team high seven feeds for the term while her work at the transverse line was equally as impressive with nine centre pass receives. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit played a huge role in tipping the goal scoring tally to their favour with three gains, one intercept and a rebound ultimately helping to nullify McPhee under the post. With McPhee receiving a wealth of attention Abigail Latu-Meafou tried gallantly to lift the load with her three goals at 100 per cent but it was not enough with Steel ultimately cutting the deficit to three at half times.

After reducing the lead heading into the main break the Steel were up and about in the third term working hard to win the ball and make the most of their chances. They changed things up defensively with Selby-Rickit making her way off the court late in the term despite her impressive efforts of three gains, two rebounds and two deflections with Abby Erwood making a brief appearance to provide some fresh legs. Kate Heffernan got some minutes into her, with the wing defence playing out the quarter and imposing herself with one gain and one intercept. However, the battle between Heffernan and Whitney Souness was intriguing with the latter using her speed and dynamic movement to have an impact for the Magic’s frontend amassing four goal assists from nine feeds highlighting her precise ball placement and good vision. Taneisha Fifita was the only one unchanged in the Steel defensive unit in the third quarter and while she did not have an overly dominant performance managed three deflections and a pick-up.

With the game there to be won, newcomer Erena Mikaere sensed the moment and capitalised with three gains, one deflection and two rebounds. The goal keeper stood tall in the defensive circle swatting away errant passes and propelling the ball back down the court while wing defence Sam Winders plied her trade out the front, putting up a strong wall with her three gains, one intercept and three deflections. The increased defensive effort of the Magic gave them the edge in the last quarter keeping O’Connell well held and while McCollin re-entered the game it was not enough to claim the win.

McPhee proved to be one of the most prolific shooters in the clash with 35 goals from 43 attempts at 81 per cent accuracy for Magic, while opposing goal shooter O’Connell also managed 35 goals but at a lesser percentage sitting at 70 per cent. The contributions from the goal attacks seemed to be the main difference between the two sides with Latu-Meafou able to find the net easier with 19 goals from 27 attempts at 70 per cent, while both McCollin and Georgia Heffernan combined for 13 goals.

ANZ Premiership: 2020 team preview – Southern Steel

WITH the ANZ Premiership season just around the corner we take a look at each teams chances heading into the year and a key player to keep an eye on. The final team on the list is the Southern Steel.

Coach: Reinga Bloxham
Captain: Gina Crampton
2019 finish: 3rd

Last year was a good year for the Southern Steel finishing in the top three at the end of the home and away season but simply could not continue that domination in the finals series bowing out in straight sets. There was plenty to like about the Steel side with key pillars at either end of the court and their slick ball movement able to slice opposition defences apart making them a team to beat. But they have lost a couple of key cogs heading into the 2020 season which place pressure on the side to back up their efforts of last year.

2020 predictions/expectations:

After an impressive 2019, it will be a challenge to live up to the hype once again this year and with goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit making the move to the Tactix the Southern Steel will be searching for someone to fill her role. The midcourt is arguably one of their strongest combinations across the court with Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton a formidable duo. Crampton is explosive in the attacking third with her change of pace, strong hands and good vision into the circle while Saunders uses her defensive attributes to win ball back through the middle third. The Steel have a plethora of young talent coming up through the ranks with twins Georgia and Kate Heffernan generating plenty of excitement albeit at different ends of the court while goal keeper Taneisha Fifita is another exciting prospect.  Defensively expect Te Huinga Selby-Rickit to lead the way given her experience and defensive prowess while Abby Erwood will be hoping to continue her solid form from last year. Tall timber Jennifer O’Connell will have to shoulder the load in the goal circle for the Steel using her height and long reach to provide a commanding presence under the post.

Key player/pick up: Kalifa McCollin

New recruit, McCollin will be desperate to make an immediate impact in the ANZ Premiership with her accuracy to post. Although she is small in stature the Trinidad and Tobago shooter offers plenty of excitement and rawness to a relatively experienced side. Her unpredictability, clever movement across the court and ability to read the space are a couple of key attributes in her game style. Although it may take her a while to find her feet in the high intensity competition expect her to have a big impact with her drive to post and work out the front. 

Team list:

Gina Crampton
Abby Erwood
Taneisha Fifita
Georgia Heffernan
Kate Heffernan
Kalifa McCollin (Trinidad & Tobago)
Kendall McMinn
Jennifer O’Connell
Shannon Saunders
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit