Tag: Abigail Latu-Meafou

2020 ANZ Premiership- Preview: Round 9

TWO weeks out from ANZ Premiership finals, it is do or die for the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix who are battling for second spot on the ladder while the Central Pulse have first spot all but sewn up. Conversely, up the other end of the ladder the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Southern Steel are keen to avoid the wooden spoon and progress up the rankings with a strong finish to the season.

Southern Steel v. Northern Mystics
Friday, 7 August

The round starts with a clash between fifth and third on the ladder with the Steel hosting the Mystics. The Steel will take plenty of confidence out of their last outing downing the Mystics by six goals in Round 7 and while they cannot make finals will be eager to influence how the rest of the season pans out.

The injuries for the Steel have come hard and fast especially in the goal circle but with a couple of games under their belts the connection between Ellen Halpenny and Kalifa McCollin is starting to blossom. Halpenny provides that calming element to the goal circle with her precise movements and impeccable timing to pop out right on cue while McCollin has plenty of flair and dynamism to keep the Mystics defenders busy. The two share the shooting load between them meaning the Mystics will have to focus their energy on both goalers if they are to shut down any easy avenue to post. Sulu Fitzpatrick is a seasoned campaigner able to hold her own in the goal circle and win back ball with her long arms and quick feet to get around the body of her opponent. Partner in crime Phoenix Karaka is just as damaging down back able to shut down her opponent with her smothering pressure and three-foot marking. Although the combination with McCollin and Halpenny is developing, Karaka and Fitzpatrick have proven to be a formidable force meaning the Steel will have to be on their a-game.

Wing defence Kate Heffernan has been in ripping form lately with the young midcourter taking everything in her stride and working hard to own that defensive position. She is a constant threat around circle edge with her long arms but will take on speedster Peta Toeava who not only oozes pace but is renowned for her quick release into the circle. The Steel have options if Heffernan is unable to shut down powerhouse wing attack with Kendall Corkery a more physical and niggly style of player, able to get under the skin of Toeava and reduce her efficiency in attack.

With second spot still up for grabs expect the Mystics to throw everything they have at the Steel and exploit their new connections across the court.

 

Southern Steel v. Central Pulse
Saturday, 8 August

Dropping their first game for this season last round expect the Central Pulse to come out with a real fire in the belly and get the job done early against the Southern Steel. Renowned for their full court pressure and ability to treasure ball the Pulse will be keen to rectify last week’s shortcomings but the Steel will take in a sense of belief after pushing the reigning premiers to their limits in their last meeting.

The midcourt battle will be ferocious with a couple of Silver Ferns lining up against each other. After somewhat of a quiet performance last week Karin Burger will be hoping to assert herself against the Steel and shut down Gina Crampton‘s drive to the top of the circle. Burger is recognised for her three foot marking and long arms to block vision into the goal circle, something that she will be hoping to bring against the Steel in order to limit the influence of Crampton in attack. Partner in crime Shannon Saunders is a real workhorse through the midcourt for the Steel able to have an influence both in an attack in attack and in defence. She will have the job on Pulse centre Claire Kersten making for an intriguing battle between the two given their similarities in game style. Kersten is the key for the Pulse through the midcourt able to provide that consistency and link between attack and defence.

Down on their usual accuracy last week the Central Pulse will be hoping that Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn deliver to post. Ekenasio is a real player maker through the attacking third with her impeccable timing and clever touch to deliver ball on a silver platter to Dunn. They have one of the strongest connections in the competition with the two able to light up the court with their flair and clever ability to create space time and time again. Dunn is a strong holding shooter that is able to post up and command the ball no matter the defensive pressure. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit is the most experienced defender in the Steel defensive unit and will have to lead by example if they are to win ball back. Goal keeper Taneisha Fifita has struggled in the past couple of weeks drawing a lot of attention from the umpires, something she will have to address this game if she is to mount pressure on the Pulse and not give them free attempts at goal. The introduction of Abby Erwood could provide that extra element of composure in defence.

Coming off a loss expect the Pulse to bounce back and showcase why they are the reigning premiers with a strong performance across all four quarters against the Steel.

Northern Mystics v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 9 August

In their second game of the round the Mystics will want to leave nothing to chance against the second placed Tactix in hope to progress up the ladder and get one step closer to securing a finals berth. In arguably the game of the round both teams will be hoping to prove their worth and showcase why they deserve a spot in the finals. These two teams have a decorated history and are evenly poised heading into the match.

It will all come down to the battle in the goal circle with teenage shooting prodigy Grace Nweke the key to Mystics success given her impressive holds, high volume and accuracy the post. Nweke is a commanding figure under the post and can change the course of a game in an instant given the speed with which she can score and her strength in the air to reel in errant passes time and time again. However their weakness lies within the goal attack position with the likes of Saviour Tui and Filda Vui exciting young prospects but unable to consistently deliver the output required. Tui and Vui are clever with ball in hand but sometimes lack the confidence to go to post piling a wealth of pressure on Nweke to deliver and steer the ship for the Mystics. On the other hand, the Tactix have one of the best defensive units in the competition with Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson ball magnets down back. Watson is exceptionally clean in defence, able to pick up ball without getting penalised and making her a constant threat for any team, while her drive through the midcourt provides an added boost to the Tactix transition. Impressive individually, the connection between the two defenders is what really puts them ahead of the pack given Fakahokotau can read the play with ease and dictate Watson’s position according to what is unfolding in front of her. It will be up to Vui and Tui to draw the attention of Watson to isolate Fakahokotau and Nweke under the post.

With speed to burn through the midcourt it will be an exciting battle between Tayla Earle and Tactix centre Kimiora Poi as the two possess very similar attributes in the way they hunt the ball and then seamlessly switch into attack. They will match each other for speed and vision into the circle making for a tight tussle. Toeava is another key cog for the Mystics in attack while for the Tactix Erikana Pedersen has proven to be the link into the goalers with her dynamic footwork, quick hands and confidence on the pass to bypass the defenders and look long.

The last time these two sides met the Tactix clinched the narrowest of victories and will be hoping to build on that momentum to edge further ahead on the ladder.

 

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Northern Stars
Sunday, 9 August

In their sole game of the round expect both the Magic and Stars to go toe-to-toe throughout the four quarters. With a renewed sense of confidence and a win under their belt the Magic will be keen to keep the good times rolling and secure their second win in as many days. Plagued by inconsistency this season the Stars will be hoping to rectify their issues and record their fifth win.

There is no denying that Maia Wilson is the lynchpin in attack for the Stars with the goal shooter a commanding target under the post with her strong holds and high scoring nature. Wilson is incredibly accurate shooting at a combined 94 per cent last round, a feat she will be hoping to replicate once again this week to lead her side to victory. Although Wilson is the go to girl the Stars do their most damage when goal attack Jamie Hume goes to post and troubles the scoreboard. If she can draw the attention of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong it will alleviate the pressure on Wilson under the post and help split the circle to create more one on ones at the post. While Tong is not the tallest defender in the league she makes up for it with her aerial presence and impressive leap to get hands to ball and disrupt the flow in attack, something the Magic will be relying on throughout the contest.

Khiarna Williams has been a revelation for the Magic in attack proving she can play both goal shooter and goal attack with the 17-year-old taking like a duck to water each time she steps out on court. Her growing connection with Kelsey McPhee under the post and Abigail Latu-Meafou is something to behold as the trio are getting stronger and stronger each week. McPhee is an easy target under the post for the Magic meaning the Stars defensive unit of Storm Purvis, Kate Burley and Daystar Swift will have to put in the hard yards out the front to limit her influence to post. The high ball into the circle is often the go to passage of play for the Magic which plays into the tenacious and ball hungry Stars defence.

With relatively even match ups across the court it will come down to the midcourt battle with captain Sam Winders the barometer for the Magic and Grace Kara the playmaker for the Stars. If Winders can dictate the flow through the middle and win ball back the Magic could register another victory.

 

Central Pulse v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 10 August

The final game of the round sees a battle of the top two teams with the Central Pulse hoping to make it three straight wins against the Mainland Tactix. Falling agonisingly short in Round 6 the Tactix will be hoping to go one better and upset the Pulse to prove that they are a real finals contender. Playing in their second game of the round it could come down to the depth on the bench and who can withstand the high intensity battle.

Ellie Bird has really hit her strides in the past couple of weeks with the goal shooter dictating the space and using her height to full advantage to reel in passes and shoot truly. Bird is an exciting prospect when she is on song able to nullify the influence of her defender and use her clever footwork to move around the body of her defender and allow the likes of Te Paea Selby-Rickit to come through and have an influence in the goal circle. Selby-Rickit, while she might not put up a wealth of shots, does a plethora of work out the front to deliver the ball into Bird and create attacking forays. In saying that, the Pulse have their own star power down in defence with Kelly Jury having a breakout season, showcasing her exceptional lean over the shot and read of the play to create constant disruption down back. Her ever developing connection with Katrina Rore causes plenty of headaches for opposition teams with the two able to hunt the ball while Elle Temu is a solid option off the bench, able to come on and have an immediate impact with her hands over pressure.

The Pulse have speed to burn through the centre court with Maddy Gordon a real excitement machine and energiser bunny able to hit the circle edge with great speed and tenacity. Impressive in attack it is Gordon’s work through the centre third and defensive pressure to try and win ball back that makes her such a dominant threat. Able to play both goal and wing attack Tiana Metuarau is another player to keep an eye on for the Pulse with her spatial awareness and pinpoint passes into the circle. It will be up to wing defence Charlotte Elley to really shut down the influence of Gordon and Metuarau to ensure that the Pulse have limited opportunity to go forward and score. In recent weeks the inclusion of Samon Nathan into wing defence has provided a different element for the Tactix down back.

Expect this game to go down to the wire with neither side willing to give an inch and fighting not only for the win but momentum heading into finals.

2020 ANZ & SSN: Five talking points – Rounds 1/8

IT was the first round of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) with a host of new rules coming into play and fresh faces gracing the court. Across the ditch things heated up in the ANZ Premiership as the fight for a spot in the top two continued with a couple of surprise results headlining the round.

Return of Suncorp Super Netball
There was plenty of debate around whether or not we would even see an SSN season with COVID-19 restrictions forcing teams to flee their state and seek refuge elsewhere to make the season viable. Queensland become home to the Vixens and Magpies as the Fever and Thunderbirds were set to travel to New South Wales. But only days out from the season opener a scare in COVID-19 numbers saw the SSN shift all teams to a hub in Queensland meaning both the GIANTS and NSW Swifts were now also on the move in hope to keep the season alive. Despite all the last minute changes to accommodation and fixture alterations, Round 1 kicked off with a bang with all eight teams putting on a competitive display and making full use of the new rules.

Super Shot in SSN
The controversial rule provided an element of theatrics throughout the round with youngster and Queensland Firebirds goaler Tippah Dwan the first player in the competition to sink the super shot. Each team approached the two point goal in a different way with Sunshine Coast Lightning the most effective of the eight teams thanks to the hot hand of Diamonds goaler, Steph Wood. The goal attack slotted a whopping 10 goals from 11 attempts at 91 per cent showcasing her rangy shot and accuracy. Her influence from perimeter edge single handedly changed the flow of the game for the Lightning. Newcomer Sam Gooden also took full advantage of the super shot with nine from 10 for the Thunderbirds. The super shot saw teams employ unconventional methods in the final minutes of the quarter with players opting to pass out from under the post in hope to score the maximum and worry the scoreboard.

Mystics put an end to Pulse’s winning streak
After leading for the entire game the Pulse fell off the boil in the final term with the Mystics sensing their lack of intensity and pouncing to claim the biggest upset of the season. it was a season defining game for the Mystics who are just off the Tactix in second on the ladder. The win against the reigning premiers gives them a huge confidence boost heading into the last couple of games. Their never say die attitude and effort on the last line of defence from Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka is what kept them in the game amassing a combined eight gains, four intercepts and 10 deflections. It was a return to form through the midcourt for Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle who after being well held in her previous outings commanded the ball in the attacking third and delivered it with speed.

Plenty of young talent littered throughout the SSN
The introduction of the extended benches and rolling subs has paid dividends for the young up and coming players in Australian netball with a host of exciting prospects debuting across Round 1. Adelaide Thunderbirds goaler Georgie Horjus made a name for herself in her first outing for the club with her inclination to go to post, silky movement out the front and playmaking abilities. Goaler Nyah Allen and midcourter Molly Jovic also debuted for Collingwood Magpies while Jacqui Newton also hit the court for the first time for the Vixens. Dwan impressed for the Firebirds with her attack to post while Lauren Moore took the competition by storm, winning player of the match honours thanks to her defensive prowess for the Swifts. For the Fever Sunday Aryang wowed out in goal defence with her hands over pressure and speed off the mark. There was no shortage of breakout performances with a wealth of developing players pleading their case for more court time given their ability to burst out of the blocks and have an impact on the court.

Magic claim first win since Round 1
In a topsy turvy affair it was the Magic that reigned supreme in the dying seconds to claim a hard-fought and well deserved win over the Steel. Tears of elation graced the face of captain Sam Winders after the game with the centre leaving nothing to chance and contesting every ball that came her way throughout the game. Despite having their chances to put their foot down and run away the Magic’s ball movement and confidence wavered in patches throughout the match gifting the Southern Steel a chance to work their way into the match and hold control. Whitney Souness provided the spark the Magic needed with a game defining intercept on the transverse line as Abigail Latu-Meafou delivered under the post. But it was the defensive efforts from Erena Mikaere, Georgia Tong and Holly Fowler that shone true for the Magic with the trio working in overdrive to cause a ruckus and win ball back. After notching up two draws and being so close in previous weeks their hard work finally paid off and it was evident just how much it meant to every player.

Centre Pass Podcast: Georgie Horjus interview (Round 1 wrap)

Centre Pass Podcast: Molly Jovic interview (Round 1 preview)

2020 ANZ Premiership: Round 8 – 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.

Whitney Souness is a well-deserving recipient for Round 8, with the wing attack’s quickfire passes and ability to cleanly track the court allowing the Waikato Bay of Magic to come away with their second win of the season against Southern Steel on Monday night. While the Magic did not win their first match of the round against second-placed Mainland Tactix, Souness was instrumental out the front in the nine goal loss. With plenty of confidence and a critical link through both the midcourt and attacking thirds, Souness has made herself one to watch out on the court for defenders and fans alike.

With immense speed on the court and the feed, Souness impressed with her firepower and confidence to shoot ball into the circle with speed and precision, and while at times she was caught at a stand-still allowing her defender to get an intercept overall she was hard to stop when she got going, using her zippy agility and endurance to constant provide an option on the lead. With just one penalty in the first match and two to her name in the second. Souness’ clean play – despite her ability to get around the body and deflect crucial ball – sees the midcourter continuing to develop her craft in every match.

Her creative ball movement paid dividends while her patience alongside Sam Winders out the front grows with every match, with the duo not hesitating on the assist and creating movement with their switches around the goal circle. Souness has added another element to her game in recent weeks racking up an intercept and two deflections in both her outings in Round 8, showcasing her ability to not only transition between offensive and defensive play but also her potential to grow as an even more well-rounded midcourter. Her first outing saw Souness as a major ball-handler in attack with 16 assists from 28 feeds along with her  defensive ball gets before backing it up with 19 assists from 30 feeds in the second, really proving her reliability and consistency, rarely putting a foot wrong.

With plenty of speed and excitement, Souness is more than capable of winning a game off her own back and proved it in her Round 8 effort against the Steel. A transverse line ball get and following penalty from opposition Kate Heffernan were what allowed Souness to transition down the court with speed and cleanliness to get the ball to Abigail Latu-Meafou in the circle in the dying moments of the game. Souness’ ability to stand up in such a crucial moment allowed patience and breathing room from the side which, despite a shaky start to the quarter, managed to run away with the one goal victory at home for their first win since Round 1 – also against the Steel.

ANZ Premiership – Round 8: Tactix star notching up seventh win of the season

IN their second game of the round it was the Mainland Tactix that notched up their seventh win of the season, getting the job done comfortably against Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (44-35). The Tactix held control from start to finish despite a couple of flourishes from the Magic to solidify second spot on the ladder.

It was a relatively even start to the game before the Tactix kicked into gear and really found their rhythm in attack. Their dazzling speed in transition caught the Magic defence off guard multiple times with Waikato Bay of Plenty struggling to keep up with their quick ball movement. Goal shooter Ellie Bird picked up where she left off, finding the front space with ease time and time again and not missing a single shot in the first quarter of play. With Bird firing on all cylinders early, the efforts of her goaling counterpart Te Paea Selby-Rickit did not go unnoticed as she plied her trade to post with six straight goals and her clever ball placement into the goal circle. Her ability to outrun Erena Mikaere at every turn and force the Magic defenders into one-on-ones in the circle gave the Tactix the upper hand under the post.

Up the other end the Tactix defence wowed, nullifying the Magic shooters at the post with Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau applying a wealth of pressure to force the goalers off balance and into turnovers. Their constant attack and ability to convert off turnovers gifted the Tactix with a three goal lead, steadily building on it as the game went on. Their smooth transition down court was aided by Watson’s drive through the midcourt providing an additional option to bolster the Tactix attack. Nailing three goals in a row the Tactix enhanced their lead to five as they maintained full control across the court heading into the quarter time break.

Sam Winders kickstarted the action in the second quarter with Abigail Latu-Meafou landing the first goal to get back within four goals. Increased defensive pressure from the Magic shut down Tactix movement at the centre pass, making them work for every single pass. But it was Mainland Tactix centre Kimiora Poi who inserted herself into the action in defence picking up an impressive intercept, capitalising on the stagnant Magic attack. With Bird and Selby-Rickit continuing their scintillating form Georgia Tong stamped her authority on the game with the goal keeper providing a spark in defence to hunt the ball and create timely tips.

Wing defence Charlotte Elley upped the ante in defence to reduce the impact of Whitney Souness around circle edge, using her three foot marking to block her vision into the goalers. Elley combined seamlessly with Poi through the middle as the centre had a field day using her speed to hit the circle edge with precision and accuracy to deliver into the goalers. The connections across the court for the Tactix were impressive as Erikana Pedersen and Selby-Rickit appeared to have the ball on a string, receiving every second pass. With the lead out to as much as eight goals the Magic rallied in the final couple of minutes nailing three consecutive goals as Holly Fowler sparked her side into action with her tenacity and rangy arms. Their increased intensity across the court saw the Magic steal the momentum from the Tactix and reduce the margin to five goals at half time.

It was goal for goal in the opening couple of minutes as both sides wrestled for continuity and momentum to start the third term. After going at 100 per cent in the opening half playmaker and Tactix goal attack, Selby-Rickit missed her first shot of the game however the Magic failed to capitalise on their opportunities and make them pay as Watson proved to be a real menace in the goal circle. The shaky start to the term continued as the ball ping ponged up and down the court thanks to errant passes and sloppy hands. Relatively well held for the first two quarters, Souness came out with a real fire in the belly and intensity using her speed to dart around the attacking third and sight Kelsey McPhee under the post. The towering goaler came into the game more as Souness and Latu-Meafou lifted around her to deliver the ball on a silver platter. With the three working in tandem the Magic cut the deficit to three goals and looked to be a real threat.

With McPhee finding her mojo under the post, Tong showcased her class and excitement up the other end as the defender gobbled up a huge intercept. Tong’s increased aerial presence allowed her to shut down Bird at the post stifling the Tactix movement in attack and creating headaches for the second placed team. But Magic were not done yet, piling on the pressure through the midcourt and hitting the circle edge with great precision. A breaking call from Selby-Rickit at the Tactix centre pass gave the Magic a chance to level scores, something they had not been able to do since the opening stages of the game. Ruing her mistake, Selby-Rickit got to work in the last minute of the game to nail back to back goals and re-establish a two goal lead.

Only separated by two goals the Tactix were eager to hold onto their lead and notch up another win as Elley backed up the efforts of Watson and Fakahokotau around circle edge before moving to the bench. Samon Nathan provided a different element in defence as the Tactix looked to put the foot down despite the best efforts of Magic captain Winders. A scrappy couple of minutes of play from both sides saw them struggled to convert and cleanly transition the ball down the court but in the end it was the Tacitx that showed their class to run away with a nine goal win.

Bird was a strong force at the post for the Tactix sinking 26 goals from 30 attempts while Selby-Rickit plied her trade both out the front with 15 goal assists and on the scoreboard with 16 goals. For the Magic, Latu-Meafou imposed herself at the post nailing 18 goals while McPhee had a commanding influence with 17 goals from 22 attempts. Through the midcourt Pedersen was unbeatable with the wing attack registering 15 feeds while Souness collected 16 for the Magic. But it was once again the defensive combination of Fakahokotau and Watson that caused chaos with the duo amassing 16 deflections and three gains.

>>> MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

WAIKATO BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC 10 | 10 | 12 | 3 (35)
MAINLAND TACTIX 15 | 10 | 9 | 10 (44)

STARTING SEVEN

Magic

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

Tactix

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

2020 ANZ Premiership – Head to head: Round 8

IN each round we will identify one key match-up, provide an in-depth analysis of both players and compare the two styles. This week sees a couple of talented centres and Silver Ferns pitted against each other.

WAIKATO BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC v. SOUTHERN STEEL
Sam Winders (C) v. Shannon Saunders

There is no denying that both Sam Winders and Shannon Saunders are barometers for their respective sides, able to dictate the play and turn a game on its head. Both with Silver Ferns experience and a never say die attitude, the contest through the middle will be interesting to say the least.

Renowned for her role normally in at wing defence, Winders has relished the extra court space in recent weeks able to help out in attack and supply key ball into the shooters. Her patience around circle edge and ability to turn on the afterburners in transition is exciting to watch. Throw in her tenacity and high intensity, Winders is a real livewire for the Magic constantly imploring her team to follow her lead and win turnover ball. She is clever with ball in hand, able to read the play and slot into the holes to gobble up passes or swat them away depending on what she sees fit. Winders is a real general through the centre court able to dictate the tempo of the game with her speed or calming notion. Her connections with the likes of Erena Mikaere and Holly Fowler in defence are strong while her combination with goalers Kelsey McPhee, Abigail Latu-Meafou and Khiarna Williams is developing at a rate of knots. Winders is not afraid to lay her body on the line and contest every pass. Her spatial awareness is another key attribute of her game play able to deliver pin point feeds into the circle while her rotation with speedster Whitney Souness is also prominent. She really sets the tone for the Magic, leading from the front and hustling for every loose ball.

Fellow centre, Saunders is also instrumental both in attack and defence for the Steel with her turn of speed and undeniable defensive pressure. Her three foot marking is strong, evident in her ability to win ball back and create timely deflections to disrupt her oppositions flow in attack. her experience is paramount to the Steel’s attack given the number of injuries with Kalifa McCollin, Jennifer O’Connell and Georgia Heffernan all sustaining injuries with the latter two ruled out for the season. Saunders has take like a duck to water with all the changes in attack, finding her rhythm to deliver ball into the goal circle and using her quick footwork and precise ball movement to bypass the defenders. There is no denying that her connection with teammate Gina Crampton is also critical to the Steel’s success with the two able to rotate the ball around inside the attacking third and create space when there isn’t any. Still solidifying her combination with Ellen Halpenny, Saunders has led the way with her ability to look long into the circle and deliver the ball with confidence.

Expect a tight tussle in the centre third with neither player willing to give an inch even though both sides are out of the race for finals. Saunders and Winders are renowned for their high endurance and skill with Winders doing most of her damage in the defensive third with her ability to pick up ball and propel it down court. If the Steel can get on top of Winders early it will shut down their midcourt and ultimately give them the upper hand to potentially claim their fourth win of the season.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Five talking points: Round 7

ROUND 7 of the ANZ Premiership saw some blowout performances and some surprise wins with the Steel toppling the second placed Mystics in a strong showing. The Tactix took their game to the next level while the Pulse kept their winning run intact.

Pulse are the team to beat
The reigning premiers continue to go from strength to strength with Round 7 no exception, going on a rampage against Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic to record a 23 goal win. They dominated from start to finish with their clean ball movement and accuracy to post framing up to the favourites for the premiership. Goalers Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio led the way with a combined 47 goals from 49 attempts highlighting their prowess in the goal circle. The Pulse simply outclassed the Magic at every turn with their full court press and ability to bring on bench players to inflict the same pain. Their dominance did not stop there with the Pulse also downing the Stars by 10 goals showcasing their competitive edge and winning ways. Kelly Jury starred in her side’s victory over the Stars racking up a whopping four gains from one intercept, six deflections and two rebounds while Katrina Rore’s influence did not go unnoticed with the goal defence collecting three gains, one intercept, two deflections and three pickups.

Super-sub Ellen Halpenny
No matter the time or situation, the injection of Ellen Halpenny pays dividends for the Steel with the cool, calm and collected goaler owning the circle. Halpenny once again proved to be the difference for the Steel, taking ownership and demanding the ball while also showcasing her array of tricks to drag and drop and receive the ball along the baseline. Her effortless movement in the circle makes it easy for Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders to spot her and subsequently feed into her. Up against both Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka, Halpenny held her own and led from the front converting 15 goals from 20 and while she was not overly accurate sitting at 75 per cent it was her work and adaptability in the attacking third that allowed her side to settle when the pressure was on.

Khiarna Williams is an exciting prospect for the Magic
Although only 17, Magic goal shooter Khiarna Williams really announced herself as a serious competitor taking everything in her stride and coming out with a real presence. Not the tallest of shooters, Williams got to work with her nimble footwork and spatial awareness to glide in and out of the circle. Working her way into the match after being injected in the third quarter against the Pulse, Williams took a while to find her feet and while not overly accurate showed plenty of promise with 12 goals from 17 attempts at 71 per cent. She got the start for the first time this season against the Mystics with the youngster taking it up to Fitzpatrick and giving the experienced goal keeper something to think about with her strong hands and willingness to go to post, slotting 10 goals from 13. Her connection with Abigail Latu-Meafou and midcourters Whitney Souness and Sam Winders steadily improved throughout the match giving the Magic plenty of hope for future games.

Accuracy masterclass in the circle
Round 7 proved to be a field day for the goal shooters with Mainland Tactix goaler Ellie Bird sitting at 100 per cent nailing an impressive 37 goals to lead her side to victory. Although no other player managed to record an unblemished shooting record Grace Nweke came close in her match against the Steel with 32 goals from 33 attempts while Dunn also only missed the one goal in her first outing with 19 from 20 attempts. For the Northern Stars the output of Maia Wilson at the post was impressive with the goaler carrying the load in both matches with a combined 61 goals from 71 attempts.

Mainland Tactix should not be underestimated
The Tactix showed exactly what they can do when all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and the attack, midcourt and defensive units firing on all cylinders. With the likes of Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau renowned for their ability to turn over possession, the attack kicked it up a gear going at 96 per cent shooting accuracy thanks to Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit. The two combined seamlessly able to rotate around the circle edge and shoot from range while Watson and Fakahokotau continued their merry way with a collective nine gains made up of 10 deflections, six pickups and five rebounds. The youthful midcourt of Kimiora Poi, Erikana Pedersen and Charlotte Elley all stood up using their speed and class ball movement to keep their opposition at bay.

ANZ Premiership – Round 7: Mystics bounce back to deliver Magic an eighth straight loss

WITH both the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Northern Mystics coming into the last match of ANZ Premiership Round 7 off the back of frustrating losses, both teams came out with a fire in the belly in a must-win for the Mystics. The fading Magic are still yet to get a win on the board since the return of the season, with the Mystics bouncing back well to defeat Magic 45-39.

The Mystics may have put out a disappointing performance on Sunday night but had a fire in the belly and were ready to fight for a win from the get-go. A lack of communication across the court for both sides led to a mostly untidy start from both teams, with the Magic benefiting off uncharacteristic Mystics errors and with some indication now of how to shut down Grace Nweke and Peta Toeava aiding in winning ball back.

Magic’s defence was on from the first whistle, forcing errors from the usually confident Mystics. With Asher Grapes getting the start in goal attack but thus far in 2020 not having a huge impact on the scoreboard, the likes of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong put the pressure on Nweke to limit options at goal. With defenders all over Nweke, hesitance on the feed saw the Magic pick away air ball, with Mikaere starting strong at one end and youngster Khiarna Williams holding up well at the other.

Making her first ANZ Premiership start, 17-year-old Williams impressed early and held up well in attack, with her shorter height and speed seeing a solid combination between her and Abigail Latu-Meafou with a moving circle paying dividends early. While both sides were applying a wealth of defensive pressure, the lack of offensive pressure from both sides saw a low scoring and relatively even first quarter. Both were inaccurate for the most part in the beginning, though the two teams settled into the game well for 11 goals apiece at quarter time.

But the Mystics switched on the defensive gears in the second, with Sulu Fitzpatrick out hunting and forcing slower ball movement and resets from the Magic to limit avenues to circle edge. A held ball call and a couple of timely deflections from Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka saw the Mystics gain the upper hand, though their frequent errors and lack of support from Grapes in goal attack kept the Magic within touching distance. 

A couple of confident feeds from Toeava kept the Mystics ahead but with plenty of drive the Magic were still in it, attacking every ball and doing their bit across the court to force errors from the Mystics. Nweke began to gain the upper hand towards the end of the quarter, finding much better control of the space against Tong and benefiting off Grapes drawing Mikaere out of the circle. Ahead by three goals at half-time (24-21), the Mystics could not afford to take the foot off the accelerator in the second half.

The second half saw huge circle changes from both teams, with Magic tall timber Kelsey McPhee sitting at the post and the unafraid Filda Vui assisting Nweke in goal attack for the Mystics. The changes made by both teams saw immediate benefits, with both teams having a bit more freedom across their attack units and fresh connections seeing the see-sawing affair continue. While both teams took some time to work into the new connections, the Mystics began to take control midway through the quarter, applying a wealth of defensive pressure to extend to a six-goal lead. 

A plethora of defensive changes for the Magic midway through the term saw the Magic steal back some of the lead, with Mikaere switching into goal keeper and immediately forcing a missed shot from Nweke. While still playing a moving circle, the Magic attack opened up a fraction with McPhee adding a crucial tall option but still seeing plenty of rotation as Latu-Meafou worked the circle around the creative movement of Whitney Souness and Sam Winders. An unexpected switch up in attack by the Mystics saw Vui leave the court for Saviour Tui with just a few minutes left on the clock, adding another layer in attack as the Mystics well and truly ran away with an eight goal margin at the final change.

Fitzpatrick continued to have a flyer, dominating and not allowing McPhee an inch of space, but so did Mikaere who was crucial deflecting shots on goal, with her timing and elevation allowing her to bat away Tui’s attempts at the post. Changes continued to rain on both sides, with a highly physical contest seeing the Magic inch back the margin but unable to really take back control in the dying minutes, leaving their comeback too late and going down by six goals, 45-39.

Player of the match Toeava was a key difference in this one, plying her trade with ease and racking up 23 goal assists from a whopping 43 feeds, using her speed to reposition and open up space in attack. For the Magic, Souness was just as impactful with 21 from 46 and was also a force to be reckoned with at the centre pass with 21 receives. All three Magic goalers were fairly accurate, with Latu-Meafou (17 goals from 21 attempts), McPhee (12 from 14) and Williams (10 from 13) plying their trade but putting up 12 less shots than the Mystics. 

Both Vui and Tui had much more impactful games than their output suggests, putting up four and two goals respectively but drawing attention away from Nweke at the post. Nweke was down on her usual accuracy with 39 goals from 47 attempts at 83 per cent, which was well and truly down to the work rate of Magic’s Mikaere who racked up two intercepts, a pickup and a rebound alongside her four ungathered deflections that put doubt in the Mystics’ minds. Up the other end, Fitzpatrick was consistent as ever with two intercepts and two deflections and was miles cleaner than Mikaere (18 penalties) with just six to her name.

>>>MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>>MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

NORTHERN MYSTICS 11 | 13 | 14 | 7 (45)
WBOP MAGIC 11 | 10 | 9 | 9 (39)

NORTHERN MYSTICS

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

WBOP MAGIC

GS: Khiarna WIlliams
GA: Abigail Latu-Meafou
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Sam WI\inders
WD: Holly Fowler
GD: Erena Mikaere
GK: Georgia Tong

 

ANZ Premiership – Round 7: Pulse dominate Magic in attacking masterclass

IT was a masterclass both in attack and defence from reigning premiers, Central Pulse leading from start to finish and romping home a 23-goal win against the Magic (52-29). Pulse burst out of the blocks with their dynamic movement and impressive ball speed causing all sorts of headaches for the Magic. Their full court pressure proved difficult for Waikato Bay of Plenty with the fifth placed side unable to combat the Pulse’s relentless forays in attack and wall in defence.

Scoring three goals in 90 seconds, it was clear the Pulse were on from the get-go, with Aliyah Dunn landing the first blow of the evening and making the most of her opportunities under the post. However it was a different tale up the other end of the court, as Magic goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou missed the first and provided the Pulse with a chance to inflict early scoreboard pain. With the game being played at a frantic pace the ball darted up and down the court but it was the connections of the Pulse that stood strong and steadied the ship.

The physical pressure from Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong was undeniable, as the Magic defenders contested every ball refusing to give an inch under the post. With Mikaere and Tong mounting pressure, Pulse goal keeper Kelly Jury proved her worth up against her old side collecting an intercept credit to her clever footwork and body positioning. But Tong proved anything her opposition counterpart can do she can do better, answering the call with an intercept of her own. Seeming to have the upper hand the Magic were determined to fight applying a wealth of pressure at the centre pass and clogging up the transverse line to make life difficult for the Pulse through attack. A Pulse turnover allowed the Magic to capitalise and draw back within a goal, but an unlikely intercept from Dunn gave the Pulse the spark they needed. With less than two minutes left in the term, the Magic rallied once more going on a mini scoring spree thanks to Kelsey McPhee, stringing three goals together and slicing the margin to three at the first break.

The second term was a carbon copy of the first quarter, as Claire Kertsen started with ball in hand while Dunn delivered her sixth goal of the game to steadily extend the margin. The connection between Tong and Mikaere generated plenty of excitement with the two getting hands to a wealth of ball but it was simply not enough to upset the Pulse. Jury picked up where she left off wreaking havoc down back with her long arms with teammate and wing defence Karin Burger joining in on the action with an intercept of her own. Captain Katrina Rore also had a field down back with the goal defence nullifying Latu-Meafou while her presence inside the circle was extreme working in tandem with Jury to apply a wealth of pressure on the shot to make McPhee shoot from distance. With the defence humming and opening up a 10-goal lead Rore moved to the bench allowing Elle Temu to come on and ply her trade.

In attack Maddy Gordon was tearing up the court burning Holly Fowler on the drive to the top of the circle and dishing off bullet like passes into Dunn and Ameliranne Ekenasio. The Pulse goal attack upped the intensity in the second term, gliding into the circle with ease and showcasing her ability to change direction in a heartbeat to keep Tong and Mikaere guessing. The overall ball speed from the Pulse was exceptional, keeping the Magic players head on a swivel but the real damage lay with their accuracy sitting at 89 per cent accuracy compared to the Magics lowly 65 per cent. The 14 goals to six quarter gifted the Pulse an 11-goal lead heading into the main break.

Struggling to generate any scoreboard influence, the injection of Khiarna Williams paid dividends for the Magic, forcing Jury to approach the matchup differently. After missing her first shot of the evening the young goal shooter settled into the line-up well, finding her rhythm and connecting with Whitney Souness out in wing attack. But the Pulse continued their merry way showcasing good patience to work the ball down the court and not force anything, instead relying on their sound structures to deliver.

Gordon wowed with her speed off the mark and skill to chase down every loose ball while the move of Ekenasio into goal shooter and Tiana Metuarau into goal attack worked wonders with the Pulse sitting at 100 per cent from the term. Unfortunately the wheels started to fall off for the Magic with Tong and Mikaere not getting rewarded for their efforts down back as Ekenasio dominated under the post with her timing, accuracy, footwork and spatial awareness. The Pulse surpassed last week’s total of 33 goals by three quarter time with a 41-22 lead.

With victory out of their reach the Magic shuffled the defence around with Mikaere slotting back into the goal keeper position while Tong pushed out to goal defence in hope to quell the Pulse attack. The changes did not seem to trouble the Pulse however with Temu taking a strong rebound to push out to the biggest margin of the game 20 goals. Renee Savai’inaea entered the game at centre while moments later Grace McLean replaced Ekenasio at the post. The Pulse seemed to have a ball on a string in the final term, putting on a show in each third while the Magic looked to Harley Smith to come on in the final minutes but it was little too late.

The Pulse were faultless throughout the four quarter with each other their players coming on and starring. The influence and accuracy of Dunn with 19 goals from 20 attempts (95 per cent), Ekenasio with 28 goals from 29 (97 per cent) was key while Jury dominated defensively with a whopping eight gains, four intercepts, two deflections and four rebounds. For the Magic Williams was the leading goalscorer with 12 goals from 17 attempts while McPhee managed nine and Latu-Meafou slotted six at 60 per cent. Tong proved to be the real playmaker for the Magic amassing four gains, two intercepts and five deflections.

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 10 | 14 | 17 | 11 (52)
WBOP MAGIC 7 | 6 | 9 | 7 (29)

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: Sam Winders
WD: Holly Fowler
GD: Erena Mikaere
GK: Georgia Tong

2020 ANZ Premiership stats wrap: Round 6

ROUND 6 of the ANZ Premiership ultimately saw the beginning of the end for a couple of teams this season, with just four rounds left leaving two teams with little to no chance of playing finals unless something drastic happens in the next few weeks. A couple of bigger margins and back-to-back one-goal victories told the tale of the round, with some regular performers continuing to dominate once more and earning a Round 6 Team of the Week nomination.

Starting down in defence, there were a couple of defensive masterclasses across the round with Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson doing what they do best in a close loss against the Pulse while their follow-up match against the Southern Steel was just as impressive. Racking up three gains apiece in the first – all three made up of intercepts to Fakahokotau – and then three and six in the second, the duo were the most dominant defensive duo of the round. Joining the Tactix duo on the stats sheet were single-gamers Erena Mikaere who finished with seven gains against the Steel and Stars’ Kate Burley with five gains, while Katrina Rore was dominant as ever playing a shut-down role across her two appearances for the Pulse and Sulu Fitzpatrick was the silent assassin with nine gains for the weekend. Midcourters impressed defensively this round with a couple players racking up the gains, with Karin Burger (combined seven gains from two matches) Tayla Earle (combined five gains) and Shannon Saunders (combined four gains) all impressive turning over ball.

Continuing through the midcourt, it was a relatively even round on the assist to goalers with no real standouts bar a couple of energiser bunny performances which saw players dominate off the stats sheet. Maddy Gordon got the nod in wing attack for this week’s Team of the Week thanks to her 43 assists across two games, while Kimiora Poi had another solid week out of the blocks doing a wealth of work through the centre to win ball back. Peta Toeava (22 assists) and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (21 assists) topped the stats sheet for feeds this round, though Toeava only racked up an additional five feeds in her second match, well and truly outgunned by Burger. Gina Crampton and Whitney Souness were both reliable as ever for their respective sides, collecting 16 and 17 assists apiece in their matchup, while Saunders racked up a combined 40 assists to go with her gains for an all-round dominant round from the centre. Goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit was versatile as ever, racking up a combined 30 assists to go with her 18 goals from 23 attempts on back-to-back days. 

While Selby-Rickit was a solid feeding option, far and away the most impressive goal attack of the round was Kalifa McCollin, with the Trinidad and Tobago goaler racking up a combined 42 goals at 82 per cent. Also up there for output was Abigail Latu-Meafou who held up well for the Magic in their single outing, while Ameliaranne Ekenasio was down on her usual output and accuracy but still provided a tough prospect at the post, racking up 27 goals from 35 attempts at 77 per cent. Standing tall at the goal post, regular performer Maia Wilson continued her merry way with a bag of 36 goals for her single match this round, while Grace Nweke was down on accuracy in her first performance with 36 goals from 45 but came out strong in the second for 37 from 39, though the lack of scoreboard assistance from her goal attacks saw the side lose the second match. Like her partner in crime Ekenasio, Aliyah Dunn did not have as an impeccable performance as usual, shooting 24 goals in the first and 13 in the second, plying her trade well but also held by strong defensive units. Ellie Bird had a solid week on the court, shooting accurately 56 goals from 62 attempts in her two outings for a 90 per cent accuracy.

MORE MATCH STATS:

Northern Mystics (51) defeated Northern Stars (47)

Central Pulse (44) defeated Northern Mystics (38)

Central Pulse (33) defeated Mainland Tactix (32)

Southern Steel (41) defeated WBOP Magic (40)

Southern Steel (35) defeated by Mainland Tactix (48)

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 7

WITH the ANZ Premiership finals quickly approaching and the battle for third spot in hot dispute expect each team to come out firing and with a real intensity in Round 7. There are a number of key games across the round that will have a huge influence on ladder positioning, while the Magic and Steel will be fighting to keep their seasons alive.

Central Pulse v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Friday, 24 July

In the first of two games for both teams the Pulse will be hoping to make it nine in a row and impose themselves on the Magic given their prowess across the court and strong connections. Coming off a disappointing loss last round and yet to register a win since the season restart, the Magic will be eager to finally secure a win and prove they have the skill and grit to match it with the best.

The goal circle is one of the most inconsistent areas for the Magic with Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou still finding their feet and rhythm in attack. Carrying some form of a knee injury throughout last round, McPhee did not have her usual impact on the scoreboard and will be hoping to up the ante in their clash against the Pulse. Latu-Meafou will have to bring her a-game given the form Katrina Rore is in with the Pulse captain showcasing her dominance to nullify her opponent and render them inefficient in the circle with her immense pressure. Her combination with Kelly Jury has steadily developed over the course of the season with the two able to double down on the shooter or roam freely depending on the scenario. With McPhee known for her aerial strength, Jury will have to apply a wealth of pressure in the air to create tips and deflections to upset the flow in attack, something she is known to do.

Around circle edge and through the midcourt, Whitney Souness is the go-to girl for the Magic with the wing attack lightning quick and able to carve up the defence with her fancy footwork. Coming up against her old team, Souness will be eager to put her best foot forward and hit the circle edge with precision and purpose. Standing at 184cm Karin Burger is a challenging prospect for the smaller-sized Souness, with Burger renowned for her three-foot marking and hands over pressure to block the vision of her opponent. It will be up to Ariana Cable-Dixon to help out through the midcourt to alleviate the pressure on Souness and supply ball into the Magic frontline.

With the Central Pulse humming both in attack and defence it will be difficult for the Magic to rattle them and cause an upset, but given the closeness of the competition never say never.

Central Pulse v. Northern Stars
Saturday, 25 July

Looking to keep their winning record intact the Pulse will be keen to get the jump on the Stars with a strong showing. Dropping to fourth on the ladder after losing to the Mystics last round the Stars know how important it is to collect a win to stay in touch with the top of the table with finals closing in. The Stars have key players across the court but will have their work cut out for them against a cohesive and strong Pulse unit.

Down on their accuracy and output at times last week the shooting combination of Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio will be out to make amends. There is no denying that the two have an impressive connection able to tear up the goal circle with their movement and sheer volume to post. Well held against the Tactix last round, Dunn will be keen to showcase her movement and be a commanding figure with her accuracy to post and strength in the air while Ekenasio is a real playmaker in attack. The Stars have no shortage of options in defence with Storm Purvis a real menace with her ability to get hands to ball while goal defence Kate Burley is an excitement machine, able to generate an intercept or turnover out of nothing. The injection of Oceane Maihi is another positive for the Stars with the goal keeper able to come on and impress with her aerial presence and tenacity to go out and hunt the ball, meaning the Pulse will have to be aware of their oppositions whereabouts at all times.

It is a real mix of youth and experience through the midcourt for the Pulse with centre Claire Kersten a key cog with her drive and netball smarts on constant display. She is a real leader both in attack and defence given her ability to run both ways and have a profound impact. The excitement however lies with speedster Maddy Gordon with the young wing attack full of potential and rawness. She is not afraid to take the game on, is strong at the centre pass and has impressive vision to see into the circle time and time again while her athleticism is equally as impressive. The battle between Gordon and Fa’amu Ioane will bring plenty of excitement with Ioane a constant threat with her speed off the mark and read of the play. Centre Mila Reuelu-Buchanan will also need to have a big game if she is to nullify or match the output of Kersten through the middle.

Although in their second game in less than 24 hours the Pulse have a wealth of talent and a number of star bench players such as Tiana Metuarau that can come onto the court and have an influence something they will be counting on to get over the line against a strong Stars side.

Mainland Tactix v. Northern Stars
Sunday, 26 July

Fighting for a spot in the top three both sides know how much this game means and will be hoping to leave nothing to chance. Fatigue could be a factor for the Stars coming off a game the night before while the Tactix will be hoping to use their fresh legs and outrun the Stars to clench the victory and create some separation on the ladder.

Goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau is in ripping form with the defender a constant threat both in the air and at ground level using her speed to gobble up any loose ball. Fakahokotau while not the tallest defender in the league makes up for it with her aerial presence and impressive leap to consistently attack the high ball coming in. Her partnership with Jane Watson allows the Tactix to create a wall in defence and repel the ball each time it comes down the court. Watson boasts both class and netball smarts able to sense when to focus her attention on the goal shooter or tag the goal attack out of the game a method they will have to adapt against the Stars with Maia Wilson the focal point in the goal circle. The towering shooter is the main avenue to goal for the Stars with her prolific nature and accuracy. Wilson will have her work cut out for her against the defensive pairing of Fakahokotau and Watson meaning goal attack Jamie Hume will have to up the ante both in the goal circle and attacking third to hit the scoreboard and draw the attention of the defenders

Through the midcourt the Tactix have a plethora of options that can zip through the middle and cause chaos. Centre Kimiora Poi has taken her game to another level in 2020 with her ball movement, defensive pressure and vision into the circle a couple of key attributes. Since returning from injury, Erikana Pedersen has starred using her dynamic footwork and speed to light up the court and hit the circle edge with precision time and time again. Her ability to create space and thread the needle is second to none connecting with Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit under the post. Although Samon Nathan is more accustomed to the wing attack position she has found herself in wing defence in recent times making for an interesting potential match-up between the experienced Grace Kara. The Stars captain is a real general in attack with her nous to control the flow and deliver well-weighted passes into the circle.

With the Stars having a quick turnover from the game the night before and up against a strong defensive unit, the Mainland Tactix should have the upper hand. It will ultimately come down to whether or not the Tactix can quell Wilson and then capitalise up the other end.

Southern Steel v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 26 July

Coming off a topsy turvy round the Steel will be searching for some type of continuity in their game and rhythm in attack. On the other hand the Mystics will be keen to get back on the winners list and rectify their issues from last week with a convincing victory over the Steel.

Still working on their connections in the goal circle with Ellen Halpenny coming in as a replacement for Jennifer O’Connell the Steel are adjusting to her game play and finding what works in attack. The former Silver Ferns shooter is cool, calm and collected under the post able to post a wealth of shots and go at a high accuracy adding plenty of value to the Steel line-up. Most importantly though, she allows Kalifa McCollin to play out in goal attack and ply her trade through the middle third to create that flair and unpredictability. However they will be in for a tough battle as the Northern Mystics boast a high calibre defence. Sulu Fitzpatrick is no mean feat with the goal keeper able to adapt to anything thrown her way thanks to her high netball IQ and impressive skillset to read the unfolding play and take a big intercept. Partner in crime, Phoenix Karaka is also an ominous threat for the Steel with her tenacity and deceptive speed to get to contests and create turnovers. Expect Karaka and Fitzpatrick to exploit the new Steel combinations connection with their intense pressure and skill to isolate goalers.

The Steel have one of the most experienced midcourts in the competition with Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton providing that link between attack and defence. Saunders has impressed with her defensive pressure in recent outings collecting intercepts and deflections aplenty while Crampton has kicked it up a gear in the attacking third with her ball placement and drive to the top of the circle. Conversely the Mystics have a young and inexperienced midcourt with centre Tayla Earle still developing but proving to be a star of the future while the wing defence position often rotates between Australian Emily Burgess and Courtney Elliott.

Given the strong connections across the court the Mystics will be hoping to capitalise and cement second spot on the ladder however the Steel have proven they are no easy beats and have plenty of fight left in them.

Northern Mystics v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, 27 July

Both in the second game of the round expect both teams to come out firing and desperate to claim another win. Last time the Mystics and Magic went head to head it was the Mystics that came away with a seven goal win a feat they will be hoping to repeat once again and assert themselves as premiership contenders.

The two barometers for their respective sides go head to head with Magic captain Sam Winders likely to match-up against Mystics wing attack Peta Toeava. Winders is a tough competitor, never willing to give an inch and using her turn of speed to cover her opponents every move, something the Mystics will have to be wary of coming into the game. Toeava seems to have the ball on a string and can drag her side back into the contest with her quick release into the circle and nifty footwork both at the transverse line and circle edge. If Winders can shut down and limit Toeava’s influence in attack by blocking her vision and clogging up the space it will set the tone for the Magic and go a long way in rattling the Mystics front end.

Powerhouse Grace Nweke is a thorn in the side of many opposition teams with the 193cm shooter able to dictate the space with her strong holds, clever body positioning and sheer volume to post. Throw in her impressive accuracy and athleticism and the Magic have their hands full in stopping the young goaler at the post. Nweke is the main source to goal with Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes all making cameo appearances but not really troubling the scoreboard. Defensively the Magic have a multitude of options with Georgia Tong oozing athleticism to compete with Nweke in the air while Erena Mikaere has the height, long arms and experience to get in the head of Nweke and offset her game. Holly Fowler is another solid choice inside the defensive circle with her speed off the mark and skill to swat away ball but the Magic will have to work together as a unit if they are to shut down the Mystics.

The Mystics are a complete unit across the court that can explode out of the blocks and apply both attacking and defensive pressure making it hard for the Magic to generate any ball movement.