Tag: asher grapes

ANZ Premiership: Southern Steel releases full squad while Pulse and Magic add to list

THERE has been plenty of player movement already in the ANZ Premiership with the Northern Stars and Northern Mystics releasing their player rosters a couple of weeks ago. Following on from that, the Southern Steel have announced their full squad for the 2021 ANZ Premiership season while both the Central Pulse and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic have released their midcourt and defensive units with the shooters still to be announced.

Arguably one of the biggest signings was that of England Roses goaler George Fisher. The Roses shooter is set to join the Southern Steel in 2021 and will be a great inclusion with her strong holds and accuracy to post a couple of focal points in her game play. The Steel will have a completely different looking shooting duo next season with two-time premiership player Tiana Metuarau making the jump from Pulse to Steel. The goal attack oozes class, impeccable timing and is not afraid to back herself range making the goaling duo an exciting prospect. Metuarau is not the only one to depart the Pulse and join the Steel with former defender-come-midcourter Renee Savai’inaea also joining the fold in 2021. The Steel also welcome Shannon Saunders and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit back for another season with the duo taking up co-captaincy roles. Youngster Taneisha Fifita, who was named in the Under 21 New Zealand squad, returns with her tenacity and physicality paramount to the way she approaches the game, while exciting wing defence Kate Heffernan is set to return after a solid season.

After spending a season with the Magic, Whitney Souness has made her way back to the Central Pulse and is set to join a stacked midcourt with Claire Kersten and new Silver Ferns squad member Maddy Gordon both re-signing to the club. There is no denying that the Pulse will have speed to burn in 2021 with Souness and Gordon renowned for their quick hands, fancy footwork and speed off the mark. In terms of defence, captain Katrina Rore has committed for another season while Kelly Jury is also set to pull on the yellow and black dress again. the duo formed a formidable combination in 2020 and will be hoping to inflict the same defensive pressure again in 2021 albeit without the services of Karin Burger who has made the switch to the Tactix. The Pulse have secured some young up and coming players with Parris Mason and Paris Lokotui who will relish the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.

It was a challenging 2020 season for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, however heading into next year the Magic have recruited some highly experience and talented players in Temalisi Fakahokotau down back and Grace Kara through the midcourt. Fakahokotau is a game winner, able to go out hunting and change the course of a game with her tenacity and excitement. Joining her down back are Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong and while all three are typically accustomed to the goal keeper position, they have shown they can swing into goal defence when required. With Souness departing, Kara has made the change from the Stars to the Magic and will offer a great deal of experience in the frontend with her ball placement and composure. Captain Sam Winders returns for 2020 while newbies in Asher Grapes and Georgie Edgecombe round out the team so far.

2020 ANZ Premiership season review – Northern Mystics

IT was an unprecedented season as the ANZ Premiership came to a halt after Round 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but later returned in June to round out the remainder of the season, bar Round 10. The season saw plenty of intriguing battles as teams plied their trade across the court in hope to work their way up the ladder. Draft Central takes a look back at the year that was, with the Northern Mystics narrowly missing out on the finals after what was a strong 2020 season.

Win-loss: 7-2-6
Ladder position: 3rd
Captain: Phoenix Karaka

Overall season review:

Despite being struck with injury early, as goaler Bailey Mes was ruled out of the season, the Northern Mystics piled on the pressure throughout the season to become a serious finals contender. A disappointing end to the season saw those hopes dashed but that did not discount the impressive performances they put out throughout the home and away season. The defensive combination of new-comer Sulu Fitzpatrick and captain Phoenix Karaka worked wonders as the duo were renowned for their impressive defensive pressure, ball hunting ability and physicality. Through the midcourt youngster Tayla Earle elevated her game throughout the season, taking the hard drive to the top of the circle and plying her trade in defence however it was Peta Toeava that was the real barometer for the Mystics. She was able to single-handedly change the course of a game with her speed of release, dynamic footwork and constant attack to drive the ball forward. One area the Mystics struggled with throughout the season however was the goal attack position with the likes of Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes often rotating through in hope to provide some scoreboard pressure. Although they did not finish the season on a high, there were plenty of positives to take out of the season as a whole, after just narrowly missing out on finals.

Star player:

It is hard to go past the efforts of teenage shooting prodigy Grace Nweke who was solid as ever under the post for the Northern Mystics. The goal shooter did not skip a beat often leading the way under the post with her strong holds and sheer scoreboard dominance. She was often a lone hand in the goal circle left to fend off both defenders but that did not seem to faze the youngster who took every encounter in her stride. Nweke put on a masterclass with her aerial presence second to none while her footwork also impressed, consistently able to edge herself closer to the post. Her ability to command ball and withstand the contest in the air to strongly reel in the ball was a testament to her development throughout the season, as she was a lynchpin in attack for the Mystics.

Surprise packet:

With the goal attack position up for grabs it was Filda Vui that brought the intensity and commitment. While she did not get a wealth of court time the youngster plied her trade effectively and most importantly proved that she was not afraid to take the game on. Vui made her way onto the list midway through the season and showcased her impressive footspeed and spatial awareness to continuously deliver ball into Nweke on the hold. Her injection of speed paired flawlessly with Toeava in the attacking third while her drive along the baseline also opened up the goal circle for the Mystics. Having played in the Beko League with Nweke the combination between the two was strong often showcased through their crafty shooter to shooter interplay while Vui also highlighted her skill to shoot from range.

2020 ANZ Premiership: Most developed players

WITH Round 10 of the ANZ Premiership season cancelled due to a change in COVID-19 restrictions, Draft Central casts an eye over each side’s most developed players for 2020 ahead of the finals. It has been an unconventional season to say the least with the ANZ Premiership season brought to a halt back March due to the pandemic and teams forced to fly in and out of Auckland to comply with the restrictions in place. But that did not stop each team from performing on the big stage, with the development of a couple of key youngsters front and centre.

NORTHERN MYSTICS – Grace Nweke

Without Silver Ferns goal attack Bailey Mes, the load landed on Grace Nweke and the teenager did not disappoint. The goal shooter was formidable under the post and constantly double teamed in the goal circle thanks to her prowess and ability to score with such ease. She leads all comers when it comes to goals with a whopping 471 at an impressive 89 per cent showcasing her complete and utter dominance. Nweke was the lynchpin for the Mystics in attack, using her height, read of the play, long arms and physicality to win majority of the passes that came her way. Her ability to work within the confined space and strong connection with Peta Toeava were simply unstoppable with the two able to sync up and score within seconds. Starring last season, there were plenty of questions about whether or not she would be able to back up this season, but it is fair to say that the 18-year-old went above and beyond. Her confidence grew throughout the season and allowed Saviour Tui, Asher Grapes and Filda Vui to ply their trade out the front.

NORTHERN STARS – Mila Reuelu-Buchanan

Northern Stars centre, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan has really come into her own in 2020 earning herself back-to-back appearances in Draft Central’s Team of the Week thanks to her dynamic movement. Her vision has developed tenfold in the latter half of the year, able to sight Maia Wilson with ease under the post and become a commanding figure in attack. Reuelu-Buchanan has been key for the Stars through the centre court, often organising traffic with her well-directed passes and applying strong hands over pressure to try and slow down her opposition. The 22-year-old stepped up in the absence of Temepara Bailey who retired last year, getting down to business each and every time she takes the court. She consistently showcases her high endurance to run out full games in the centre position and not tire while combining well with Grace Kara and Jamie Hume on the front line. Her adaptability to cater for the frequent changes in wing defence with Lisa Mather and Fa’amu Ioane rotating through was also on show.

WAIKATO BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC – Kelsey McPhee

Although it was a challenging season for the Magic, Kelsey McPhee proved to be a shining light for Waikato Bay of Plenty with the goal shooter increasing her accuracy and volume to post. Shaky on the shot at times, McPhee displayed her strength to reel in the rebound and block out defenders to give her side a second chance on the shot. Carrying a knee injury later in the season the shooter rose above highlighting her grit and determination. Her ability to shake up her game play was also crucial for the Magic as she got on the move more frequently to drive out of the circle and allow either Abigail Latu-Meafou or Khiarna Williams to float in while her strong holds also allowed the Magic to score quickly. Her 1-2 connection with Whitney Souness was also solid as the two combined on circle edge and from distance credit to her aerial presence.

CENTRAL PULSE – Maddy Gordon

It became apparent in the Pulse’s Round 9 loss to the Tactix just how influential Maddy Gordon is with the pocket rocket able to set the court alight with her turn of pace and slick hands. Relishing the extra court time in 2020 Gordon has taken everything in her stride, hitting the circle edge with speed and precision to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio. She is crafty with ball in hand and at times can fly under the radar given the amount of big names across the court but has made a name for herself this season with her constant give and go. Strong in attack her defensive pressure is also a key asset of her game able to win back through the centre third with her three-foot marking and deceptive leap. Her connection with Claire Kersten has developed at a rate of knots throughout the season allowing the two to swing the ball across the court with ease to create space and keep the defenders head on a swivel.

MAINLAND TACTIX – Kimiora Poi

Kimiora Poi is another centre court player who has been in ripping form throughout 2020 and put her hand up for Silver Ferns contention thanks to her strong drives and endurance. She has been a key cog through the midcourt for the Tactix, using her zippy speed to cut through the defence and claim possession. She is quick off the mark and is patient with ball in hand, not afraid to work the ball to circle edge or deliver from distance into the goalers. Her high release on the pass allows Ellie Bird to grab the ball at its peak and keep defenders at bay while her short and sharp interactions with Te Paea Selby-Rickit is a testament to her ability to read the play and play accordingly. Poi is constantly on the move, rotating around the circle edge and setting up clever triangle plays with the goalers and Erikana Pedersen to keep the defenders guessing.

SOUTHERN STEEL – Kate Heffernan

A relatively unknown quantity heading into the season, Kate Heffernan took the competition by storm in 2020 and all but cemented her spot as the starting wing defence for the Steel. She is electric across the court credit to her impressive closing speed to create doubt in the receivers mind and force turnovers. her long wingspan is a crucial to the Steel in defence able to apply strong hands over pressure to block her oppositions vision into the circle and make life hard for them around circle edge. Heffernan is also strong in transition constantly reoffering on the transverse line to reset play or drive through the centre third to punch through and open up space. Her connection with the experienced Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and youngster Taneisha Fifita in defence and combine with Shannon Saunders through the midcourt allows her to play with confidence and back herself to go out hunting for an intercept.

ANZ Premiership – Round 8: Mystics end Pulse’s 10-match winning streak

FIGHTING for a potential second spot on the ladder the Northern Mystics knew they had to play hard for a win against Central Pulse, and fight they did, in a season-defining match in Round 8 of the ANZ Premiership. The Mystics stood tall for their greatest win of the season so far, defeating Pulse by two goals (44-42) with a phenomenal final quarter effort doing the job after trailing at every change.

With Karin Burger having the upper hand in their last contest everything needed to go Peta Toeava’s way in the first quarter, with the quick feed into Grace Nweke critical if the Mystics were to get a win. Tayla Earle stepped up to take on some of the pressure on the assist, with the centre-wing attack interplay and speed on the feed crucial to ensure Claire Kersten and Burger were not able to set up. But where the Pulse had confidence shutting down the Mystics attack they had a bumpy start in their own offence, with the pressure from Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka impactful from the get-go. The duo forced uncharacteristic misses at the post from Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio, though the amount of ball turned over by the Mystics was getting the job done and forcing messiness through the midcourt, seeing the Pulse maintain much of the upper hand.

The one on one between Nweke and Kelly Jury saw Nweke have much of the early control, pulling in a couple of tough lobs with Jury’s elevation on the leap giving her a great chance at turning over that ball but to no avail with sticky fingers from Nweke. Pulse’s ability to crowd the play was clear early, bunching up the Mystics to the corners of each third but Fitzpatrick’s phenomenal start ensured the Mystics were always on the case, winning ball back. With the crucial cog still Toeava, ball placement in attack was shaky early as the zippy wing attack gave away a couple easy penalties, allowing Burger to get a hand to a couple of loose balls and seeing the Pulse ahead by two at the first change.

The second quarter started with much the same intensity, with Asher Grapes rotated off for Filda Vui who was quick to have an impact dragging Katrina Rore away from the circle and forcing a one-on-one contest for Nweke. While the Pulse had the speed in attack the Mystics were able to work through a couple messy patches and turn over ball defensively to draw level.

Pulse were able to extend their lead with a couple impressive turnovers and impressive spots into the circle, though Karaka and Fitzpatrick fought back to create errors and inaccuracy within the circle. Ekenasio and Dunn still had control but were a bit shaky, with the Mystics defenders doing a wealth of work to confuse the space and trick the feeders. While ahead by three goals at half time, the Mystics were well and truly in with a chance, having challenged the Pulse and been in the contest for much of the first half.

Tiana Metuarau joined the fray in the third, with the super sub injected to bring some speed and doing just that in attack for the Pulse. The score extended for the Pulse with little movement happening in attack for the Mystics credit to Burger and Kersten keeping the attackers quiet and their hands over pressure paying dividends. With more space in attack and plenty of speed down court the Pulse were able to keep on top of any turnovers, working their way back and causing havoc through the midcourt.

Ekenasio was removed from the court briefly for the blood rule, with the Mystics immediately having an impact and taking advantage of the star player being off the court, though Metuarau was more than capable of holding up out the front too and allowed the Pulse to create a five goal buffer at the final change, leading 35-30.

While the Pulse still had much of the control they could not afford to take the foot off the accelerator in the last quarter, with the Mystics well and truly still in the contest and willing to fight down to the nitty-gritty. With a one-goal margin and under 10 on the clock the Pulse needed to put the foot down, but it was the Mystics that took control, forcing a change and Burger leaving the court, getting plenty of hand to ball but unable to consistently limit the efforts of Toeava.

With Nweke winning the battle inside the goal circle frustration was plain on Jury’s face, while Rore’s cleanliness reduced as the Mystics had nothing to lose and played like it. Clogging up the Pulse centre pass at every chance, the Mystics caused the ball to go across the goal line when aimed for Dunn, then able to transition well with speed down the court to draw even with just over five minutes on the clock. 

Needing to play the safe options down court, the work ethic from the Mystics was second to none with the side in an unprecedented position leading with minutes on the clock and unwilling to hand off a crucial lead after trailing early. With plenty of hustle and cautions flying around the court, a three goal lead was taken by the Mystics who were playing with confidence and building off the Pulse home crowd.

With 30 seconds on the clock the Mystics were still ahead but needed to maintain possession, running away with an excellent and critical two-goal victory, ending the Pulse’s 10 game winning streak in the 44-42 win.

Player of the match Nweke was influential as ever with ball in hand, shooting 38 goals at 86 per cent in a phenomenal outing, while Saviour Tui (four from four) and Vui (two from two) assisted around the circle. Toeava and Earle shared the feeding load with 19 and 17 assists respectively, while Karaka (five gains) and Fitzpatrick (three) both racked up two intercepts and just the 10 penalties apiece. Jury picked up two intercepts while both Rore and Dunn picked up one apiece, with Dunn shooting 21 goals from 23 attempts in a solid performance. Both Kersten and Burger tallied three deflections but none to advantage, while Ekenasio was down on her regular accuracy with 20 from 28 at an uncharacteristic 71 per cent. 

It was both teams’ sole outing for the round, with both taking the court twice next round against the same opposition on alternate days. Mystics are next up on Friday against Southern Steel before taking on Mainland Tactix on Sunday, while Pulse face the Steel on Saturday and Tactix on Monday in a blockbuster penultimate round.

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 10 | 13 | 12 | 7 (42)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 8 | 12 | 10 | 14 (44)

STARTING SEVEN

Pulse

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

Mystics 

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

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 8

WITH one game already down, Round 8 of the ANZ Premiership will bring plenty of excitement and intense battles with a couple of ladder defining clashes. The top two match-up between the Central Pulse and Northern Mystics headlines the round while up the other end of the ladder the Magic and Steel do battle.

Northern Stars v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 1 August

Coming off a game the night before the Northern Stars might suffer from a bit of fatigue while the Southern Steel will be fresh and raring to go. Likely to be without goal attack Kalifa McCollin with the Trinidad and Tobago shooter going down with a rolled ankle last round, the Stars will be eager to expose their understrength shooting circle.

Maia Wilson is the key cog for the Stars in attack with the goal shooter able to command the ball time and time again and most importantly score freely. She consistently absorbs pressure in the circle to stand strong and back herself posting high tallies every week. Although Wilson is a formidable option it will be up to the likes of Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto to step up to the challenge and showcase their scoring prowess and clever ball movement to draw the attention of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita. Selby-Rickit is one of the most experienced members in the Steel squad and will be in charge of leading the defensive end with her ball winning ways and persistence while Fifita can do the unthinkable thanks to her raw talent and athleticism.

With a weakened shooting unit with McCollin likely to not take the court the load falls to Ellen Halpenny to steer the ship in attack and apply scoreboard pressure. Commonly coming on after half time, Halpenny could be forced to play an entire game which might spark questions of endurance. However Halpenny is a smart netballer that can make shooting look easy with her dynamic footwork and spatial awareness. Expect Kiana Pelasio to get a run out in goal attack with the young shooter able to create a wealth of space and not afraid to go to post. The Stars defence has come along in leaps and bounds in 2020 with Storm Purvis and Kate Burley working exceptionally well together to create a wall in defence and win ball back. They are both strong in the air able to swat away passes and force turnovers to propel the ball back down the court while the chance of Daystar Swift and Oceane Maihi entering the contest also gives them another option if things are not going to plan.

With the Stars hoping to work their way up the ladder and Steel plagued by injury the Stars should have the upper hand in this contest.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 2 August

In their second game of the round the Mainland Tactix will be searching for a win and edge closer to top two contention. Despite putting up competitive performances the Magic have failed to register a win since the season restart and will once again have their work cut out for them against a gallant Tactix outfit.

The Magic have a wealth of options in defence with Georgia Tong and Erena Mikaere both able to rotate through the goal keeper position while Holly Fowler can interchange between circle and wing defence. Tong has an impressive leap able to get hands to ball and disrupt any easy avenue into goal while Mikaere uses her height to apply pressure over the shot. But Ellie Bird has been in hot form recently able to hold strong and use her clever footwork to position herself closer to the post making her a real threat for the Tactix. While Bird is a commanding presence under the post the Magic cannot afford to leave Te Paea Selby-Rickit unattended to roam free both in the goal circle and attacking third as she is often the key to unlocking the Tactix rhythm in attack. Selby-Rickit is a real playmaker in attack for the Tactix, able to create plays with her pinpoint precision passes into the goal circle while pairing that with her ability to go to post especially from long range.

With Kelsey McPhee dealing with a knee complaint it will be up to the likes of Khiarna Williams and Abigail Latu-Meafou to take the court and showcase their dominance. Williams showcased her brilliance and raw talent last week with her ability to hold strong and move cleverly around the circle to create space for her to receive the ball under the post. However she is still young, something that the Tactix defenders will be hoping to exploit given their experience and dominance in the air to swat away balls and simply shut down any sort of movement inside the goal circle. The combination between Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson is incredibly strong with the two able to rotate through the circle with ease and read the play off one another to gobble up loose ball. Watson’s ability to stay away from the whistle and remain in play is what makes her such a commanding figure for the Tactix in defence while she can also ply her trade through the midcourt with her drive and clever ball movement.

The Tactix have a strong core group across the court with their connections able to link up and cause havoc for the Magic who at times have struggled with consistency and often fall off the boil when the pressure is on.

Central Pulse v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 2 August

Sitting undefeated at the top of the ladder the Central Pulse will be hoping to leave no stone unturned in their soul game of the round against the second place Northern Mystics. These two sides played back in Round 6 with the Pulse dominating from start to finish and showcasing their ability to keep teams at bay with their suffocating pressure across the court something the Mystics will be hoping to rectify this round.

Struggling to find her mojo and form in recent weeks it will be up to Peta Toeava to really lead the attacking unit and deliver clean and clever ball into Grace Nweke under the post. Toeava has speed to burn while her vision into the circle is second to none meaning the likes of Central Pulse wing defence Karin Burger will have to go with her every step of the way to ensure that the Mystics frontend is shut down. Nweke is a real powerhouse under the post with her aerial ability ball control an impressive balance to stay in play time and time again. However it is the goal attack position that often causes issues for the Mystics with Asher Grapes, Saviour Tui and Filda Vui all rotating through that position in hope to find some type of continuity and alleviate the pressure on Nweke. With a somewhat unsettled shooting combination it allows the likes of Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore to get to work and wreak havoc with their hunting mentality and ability to read the play. Jury has been in ripping form, causing tips and turnovers while Rore has simply gotten better with age shutting down every goal attack that comes her way meaning the Mystics will have their work cut out for them.

Similar to the Pulse, the Mystics boast an impressive defensive line-up with Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka a damaging duo down back. Their tenacity and physicality can often offset opponents with the duo fighting for every inch of space and clogging up the circle credit to their fancy footwork. But they will have to bring their a-game if they are to rattle the Pulse with Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio hardly ever fazed by the intensity. Dunn is a thorn in the side for many teams with her accuracy to post and skill to edge closer to the post while Ekenasio often seems to have the ball on a string both inside and outside the goal circle. Both are incredibly accurate not giving the Mystics a chance to win ball back while Tiana Metuarau is also a force to be reckoned with given her injection of speed and high netball IQ.

Looking to make it 11 wins straight expect the Pulse to come out firing but if the Mystics can pull off an upset here it will do a wealth of good to their confidence only weeks out from the finals.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Southern Steel
Monday, 3 August

Having only played two rounds ago the Magic will be keen to exact revenge on the Southern Steel and claim that all elusive win that they have been searching for. On the other hand the Steel will be keen to showcase that they are not easy beats and continue to climb their way up the ladder.

The midcourt battle is where it will all unfold with Sam Winders a key cog for the Magic in attack and in defence given her ball winning abilities and skill to change the course of a game within an instant. Winders is a real workhorse across the court constantly plying her trade and encouraging her teammates to follow suit with her tenacity on court. The revelation of Fowler out in wing defence has worked wonders for the Magic, applying strong hands over pressure and creating havoc for opposition teams. However the Southern Steel are littered with key players through the mid court with Silver Ferns duo Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton both renowned for their ability to deliver the ball on a silver platter to their shooters. Crampton can hit the circle edge with great pace and precision to ensure that she keeps the defenders at bay and has easy vision into the goal circle.

In attack Whitney Souness will be key for the Magic if they are to get over the line. She is a real energiser bunny in the front half of the court given her speed off the mark and quick hands. If Souness is not shut down she will be able to link up with Latu-Meafou, McPhee and Williams with ease and give them plenty of opportunity to apply scoreboard pressure. Therefore it will be up to Kate Heffernan to nullify her influence through the centre and attacking third. Heffernan often flies under the radar but is crucial to the Steel defence with her three foot marking and intercepting ability.

There is plenty at stake for both sides with the Magic hoping to work their way off the bottom of the ladder and Steel keen to continue on their merry way and rectify their lacklustre start to the season.

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

 

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.

ANZ Premiership – Round 6: Dominant Pulse leave Mystics empty handed

THE hotly anticipated top of the table clash turned into a nightmare for the Northern Mystics, after a troublesome first half left them to chase the title favourites, Central Pulse for the remainder of the game. Off the back of a tough game against the Stars, fatigue seems to play a role for the Northern side. The Pulse, on the other hand, extended their winning streak to seven and it raises the question: Will anyone beat the Central Pulse this season? As we get towards the business end of the season, it is looking unlikely, especially after this convincing 44-38 win against the Mystics.

Both of these sides have heaps of talented players across all areas of the court. Before the game the matchup between Silver Ferns Phoenix Karaka and Ameliaranne Ekenasio was touted as the one to watch, however, the midcourt was the more crucial sticking point in this game, with the Mystics coming off worse. After a poor start to the game for the Mystics, with players lacking energy and giving away cheap turnover ball, they went down 4-1 in the opening few minutes and the quarter only got worse from there.

The defensive trio of Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury and Karin Burger was smothering the Mystics attack, with Asher Grapes looking bewildered and struggling to set up play. Pulse were forcing the Mystics wide from the start, creating turnovers, and then transitioning rapidly into attack leaving the Mystics trailing behind them. The combination of Maddy Gordon, Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn was really firing, they were finding each other easily with impeccable timing.

The Mystics defenders did not manage to secure a single one of the three rebounds in the opening quarter, and the combination of Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick looked unusually flat. The Pulse stormed out to an 11-3 lead and it became apparent that the Mystics needed a serious shakeup in the attack end. It was surprising to see Grapes get the start when she has struggled to make an impact on the scoreboard in previous games. Both teams were guilty of a few long bombs over the baseline and sloppy errors, but the Pulse had the score on their side and ended the quarter 13-5 after a shocking display from the Mystics.

In the second quarter, the change came for the Mystics, with Saviour Tui on in goal attack. She started to find good space and had confidence in the feed over the top to Grace Nweke. As the quarter progressed, Pulse pulled further ahead and the scoreline was starting to blow out. All seven players on the Pulse team were defending every inch of the court and were hungry for the ball, and when the wing attack begins to pick up intercepts in the second quarter, it showed how much the Pulse were doing right.

Claire Kersten was having a fantastic game in centre and really showing up talented youngster Tayla Earle. Frustration was written all over the Mystics as they trailed by twelve goals, and Peta Toeava was being completely shut down by the work of Burger. Another change by the Mystics saw Emma Iversen slot into wing attack, but it was clear that they were being outclassed by the Pulse.

At half-time they were down 27-13, and the reigning champions were all smiles heading into the break, knowing they had stamped their authority on the game and the competition. The stats tell the clear tale of the first half for the Mystics – no rebounds, no interceptions and a massive fifteen turnovers. The Pulse defense were taking advantage of some tired Mystics legs, running them down with close man-on marking, using their experience to outwit the young Mystics attack end.

After the break, it was more of the same for the Mystics. Burger was creating herself a highlight reel and the Mystics attack end had no answer. Courtney Elliot came on to replace Emily Burgess, in an attempt to shut down Gordon who was causing havoc in the midcourt. Pulse were picking off any cross-court or pocket balls, making the Mystics have to work incredibly hard to transition down court. Tiana Metuarau replaced Gordon in wing attack and there was a sense the Pulse were starting to use their bench and think ahead to the next game. As the Pulse started to take their foot off the pedal late in the third quarter, things started to look a bit better for the Mystics. They managed to win the quarter 14-11 and it looked like the beginning of a huge comeback.

Fourth quarter changes saw Ellie Temu replace Jury in goal keeper and Metuarau slide into goal attack. The Mystics were still frustrated and error-ridden but had their sights set on a bonus point. The team started to come to life in the final term, and even though they couldn’t win they wanted to fight to take something away from the game. Fitzpatrick came alive and roared her side on to a seven-goal run, bringing them within four near the end of the quarter, and keeping the Pulse down to just six goals. After such a blowout in the first half, this represents the huge effort from the Mystics, but sadly this came too late and the final score was 44-38 to the Pulse, leaving them without a bonus point.

Unfortunately for the Mystics, they suffered from a little bit of 2019 West Coast Fever syndrome. They have an extremely threatening goal shooter in Nweke who shot 37/39, but they need someone else to slot in and support her with confidence. Tui has the accuracy and the ability, but after only shooting one goal in three quarters of a game, she was not able to get into her typical rhythm. She needs to be given the confidence that comes with being named in the starting seven, and from there will grow into a threatening option for the Mystics.

Pulse let themselves slip in the second half, and will be disappointed that the score doesn’t reflect how much they dominated in the opening two quarters. They also weren’t their usual selves in terms of shooting accuracy, only obtaining 75 per cent. They take on the Tactix next, while the Mystics rest up and prepare to redeem themselves against the Steel next weekend.

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 13 | 14 | 11 | 6 (44)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 5 | 8 | 14 | 11 (38)

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

Northern Mystics:

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Saviour Tui
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Courtney Elliott
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 6

PASSING the midpoint of the season, expect Round 6 of the ANZ Premiership to deliver plenty of excitement and close games once again. The Central Pulse sit pretty atop of the ladder with six wins straight while the Northern Mystics, Northern Stars and Mainland Tactix continue to battle it out for a position in the top three.

Northern Mystics v. Northern Stars
Friday, 17 July

The top three clash between the second placed Mystics and third placed Stars will draw plenty of attention as they both hope to edge closer to the top of the table Pulse. The Stars have started to hit their straps in recent weeks finding their rhythm in attack while the Mystics have proved they have the explosivity to change the course of a game instantly.

Boasting one of the strongest defensive units in the league Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka will have their work cut out for them. The duo combine seamlessly in the goal circle to confuse the space, apply physical pressure and gobble up any errant pass that comes their way but will have to be on song from the opening minute of the quarter to upset the Stars shooting combo. Northern Stars goal shooter Maia Wilson has grown with confidence throughout season 2020 and will have to ensure That she is on her a game against both Karaka and Fitzpatrick. Wilson can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle given her range, accuracy and she dominance under the post. But in order for the Stars to get on top in this contest it will be up to Jamie Hume to stand up and deliver and take some of the pressure off Wilson under the post. If Hume can break free and provide an option whether it be in the circle or in the attacking third she will force Karaka and Fitzpatrick to come out and pay attention to her, leaving Wilson alone one on one under the post where she is most damaging.

Through the mid court the Mystics have one of the strongest and quickest players in the league with Peta Toeava able to slice through the defence credit to her impressive vision and spatial awareness. Her work at the transverse line is just as is just as impressive able to burst out at the centre pass and turn and deliver into the goal circle within seconds. Her connection with Tayla Earle in centre is another key element for the Mystics as the two are able to create space in the attacking third to keep the defenders guessing. Up the other end wing attack Grace Kara is one of the most experienced players in the stars line-up for the Stars. It will be up to Kara to lead the attacking third with her quick ball movement, strength around the circle edge and clever ball placement while Mila Reuelu-Buchanan is another key cog in centre with her drive and defensive tenacity.

With a host of key players across the court for both sides it will ultimately come down to whether or not the northern Mystics defensive unit can shut down the attacking prowess of Wilson under the post.

Central Pulse v. Northern Mystics
Saturday, 18 July

With an undefeated record still intact the Central Pulse will be keen to ensure that they make it seven wins in a row in a battle of one versus two. In their second game of the round and the Northern Mystics will be hoping to prove that they have developed since the last time these two sides met and claim the first victory against the Pulse in 2020.

After not starting Grace Nweke last week expect the Northern Mystics to pull out all the stops and start the 18-year-old goal shooter given her shooting prowess, accuracy under the post and high volume of shots. Nweke is in a league of her own able to reel in a wealth of passes and dictate the space with her clever body positioning, angles and fancy footwork to maintain front position. However if the Mystics are to get the wood over the Pulse they will need both Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes to stand up to the Pulse defensive unit and give them something to think about. Grapes has struggled for accuracy and volume in the past couple of weeks while Tui has shown that she is more than capable of sinking them from range and delivering when the pressure is on. For the Pulse they have no shortage of options when it comes to defence with Kelly Jury having one of her best seasons to date and Katrina Rore proving why she is considered a world class athlete. Jury is a menace in the air able to create timely tips and turnovers with her long reach and quick footwork to manoeuvre around the body of her opponent. Similarly Rore is able to detect when to double down on the gold shooter or when to focus on the goal attack something that the Pulse will have to be aware of throughout the contest against the Mystics.

The shooting combination between Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio is one of the most damaging connections in ANZ competition with the two able to slice through the defence with ease while their accuracy hardly ever falters. Dunn is prolific under the post, holding her space with ease and commanding the ball while Ekenasio is not afraid of the contest constantly throwing her body on the line and absorbing the hits. Ekenasio is a real playmaker for the Pulse able to dish the ball off to Dunn on a silver platter or go to post herself such is her dominance. Up against the tried and tested duo of Fitzpatrick and Karaka the Pulse will have to be smart with how they deliver the ball into the circle with both defenders renowned for their aerial presence. In recent weeks the injection of Tiana Metuarau has worked wonders for the Pulse with the youngster bringing a sense of vibrancy and enthusiasm into the goal circle, something they might look at implementing again this round to break through the pressure of Fitzpatrick and Karaka.

Fatigue could be a huge factor for the Mystics playing back to back games and up against quality opposition that is well oiled in both attack and defence.

Central Pulse v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 19 July

Fronting up from a big clash the night before the Mainland Tactix will be hoping to capitalise on the Pulse and exploit any potential fatigue they might have. Expect the Pulse to look to the bench to inject some speed and stability while the Tactix will be hoping to get on top early against the Pulse and keep their foot on the throat, something they have struggled to do the last couple of games. The last time these two sides met the Pulse racked up a convincing 12-goal victory but the Tactix have come a long way since Round 1.

With speed to burn through the midcourt the Pulse will be hoping that Maddy Gordon imposes herself from the opening minutes of the quarter with her lightning fast hands, nifty footwork, strength around circle edge and dynamic change of pace to open up space in the attacking third for the Pulse. Partner-in-crime and centre Claire Kirsten will also have to be on her a-game if she is to nullified the influence of Tactix speedster Kimiora Poi throughout the game. It will be an intriguing battle between Kersten and Poi as the two are renowned for their gut running and more defensive minded play. In recent weeks Charlotte Elley has proven that she has the skill and stamina to stick with the likes of Gordon throughout the four quarters making for an exciting contest between the youngsters. If Elley can get on top early and shut down Gordon’s leads in attack it will go a long way in giving the Tactix the upper hand.

For the Tactix to get on top both Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird will have to share the load in the gold circle to keep the Pulse constantly guessing. When Bird is covered at the post the Tactix have struggled to find their rhythm in attack and are forced to play the ball around which plays right into the hands of the Pulse given their tenacity and impressive vision to snatch up intercepts. Bird is strong at the post and will want to assert herself from the get-go while Selby-Rickit has a tendency to fade in and out of games and relies on confidence to have an impact. If Rore, Jury and the likes of Karin Burger out in wing defence and Elle Temu can get in her head early and offset her rhythm it will go a long way for the Pulse.

There is no denying that both teams have a plethora of players that can change the game instantaneously however it is the strength on the bench for the Pulse that gives them that edge, able to bring on a player at any given moment and know they will have a profound impact.

Southern Steel v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, 19 July

In their only game of the round Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic will be keen to secure that elusive win after falling victim to two draws in the past two rounds. The Southern Steel have been hit by injury and will have their work cut out for them against a hungry Magic side, determined to get reward for their effort.

The Magic frontline starred last week with Kelsey McPhee upping the ante under the post and growing with confidence as the round went on. Her clever movement in the goal circle and fancy footwork allowed her to dictate the space while partner in crime Abigail Latu-Meafou stepped up to the plate with her hard drives into the circle and impressive timing. The two combined seamlessly and put up a high volume of shots something they will have to emulate again this round against the Steel. One of the most experienced players on the court, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit will have to impose herself early, to throw the Magic off in attack and win back possession. It will also be up to Taneisha Fifita to ensure she stays in play and can apply pressure over the shot while Abby Erwood is a solid option in defence with her tagging style of play to wear opponents down.

The midcourt battle will generate plenty of excitement with Silver Ferns aplenty running through the centre third. Sam Winders impressed in centre last week, relishing the extra court space and providing a real spark for the Magic in attack with her slick hands and excellent delivery into the circle. Her match-up whether it be against Shannon Saunders in centre or Gina Crampton in wing attack will be enthralling with neither midcourt player willing to take a backwards step. It will be up to Crampton and Saunders to lead the Steel in attack given the injuries and fresh faces. Fellow Magic midcourters Ariana Cable-Dixon and Whitney Souness are also key cogs in the frontline able to inject speed and create headaches for the opposition.

Given the fight and determination in recent weeks the Magic should have the upper hand but do not discount the Steel with ball winners across the court.

Southern Steel v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 20 July

In the final game of the round and second match for both teams the Mainland Tactix will be fighting to keep in touch with the top three while the Steel will be hoping to notch up their second win of the season.

The new Steel shooting combination will be well and truly tested coming up against one of the competitions biggest powerhouses in Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau. The Tactix defenders have been in ripping form with their profound aerial presence and ability to spring into action within the blink of an eye. The two combine seamlessly and know each other’s game inside out to read the play and gather the loose ball time and time again. Their pressure over the shot is second to none meaning the likes of Kalifa McCollin, youngster Kiana Pelasio and potentially Grace Namana will have their work cut out for them. Although Namana showed plenty of promise with her strong holds in the few minutes she was on court it will ultimately be up to McCollin to stand up and deliver to the post.

The Tactix have a stacked midcourt with Poi leading the way but it is the influence of Erikana Pedersen that has caused headaches for the opposition. Coming off an MVP performance the wing attack is silky smooth around circle edge with her quick hands and good vision to feed into the likes of Bird and Selby-Rickit. Samon Nathan is another solid option through the midcourt for the Tactix with her speed and spatial awareness. Boasting plenty of experience the developing Kate Heffernan will have to be on her a-game to nullify Pedersen or Nathan while Kendall Corkery is known for her niggle in defence, something the Steel might need to limit the ease in attack for the Tactix.

With a weakened shooting combination the Steel might find it difficult to pass through the defensive barrier of the Mainland Tactix given just how strong their defence is.

ANZ Premiership – Round 5: Tactix clench nail-biting one goal win over Mystics

HAVING only played nine days ago in Round 4, this clash went down to the wire, with the Mainland Tactix taking home a narrow one goal win over the Northern Mystics (40-41). The Mystics starred last round, but the Tactix were determined to ensure history did not repeat itself putting on a stunning defensive performance. Scoring the last five goals of the game, the Mystics almost pulled off one of the greatest comebacks but fell agonisingly short with Saviour Tui’s goal on the whistle not counting.

Mystics set tongues wagging in the opening quarter, with Grace Nweke starting on the bench allowing Tui and Asher Grapes to headline the shooting end. The first term started with plenty of intensity, despite the different starting seven for the Mystics, with neither side willing to give an inch. It was a defensive masterclass from Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson with the duo applying a wealth of pressure over the shot and simply denying any easy access into the circle. Watson collected an intercept within the first minute of the quarter ultimately setting the tone for what would be a defensive grind. It was a scrappy start to the game with neither side able to maintain clean possession, but it was the Tactix that settled first thanks to the efforts of Watson and Fakahokotau. Their impressive space marking shut down the Mystics in attack and allowed them to gobble up everything that came their way, causing a real ruckus down in defence. Despite the amount of defensive ball the Tactix were getting they simply could not blow the Mystics out of the water and really make them pay instead they were plagued by inaccuracy missing three goals for the term. Up the other end, Tui impressed for the Mystics with the young goal shooter displaying her strength on the hold and accuracy to post converting all six goals at 100 per cent. However it was Fakahokotau that starred throughout the term amassing a whopping four deflections, one pickup and one intercept while Watson managed two intercepts for the term to gift the Tactix a two goal lead.

Struggling to find their rhythm in attack it was no surprise that dominant goal shooter Nweke entered the game, replacing Tui under the post. Nweke imposed herself from the get-go with her commanding frame, leap and strength to snatch the ball out of the air. With Nweke on, the Tactix upped the ante in defence with wing defence Charlotte Elley showcasing her three-foot marking with an impressive block on Peta Toeava. Clogging up the centre pass the Tactix continued to impress down back while the effort from Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka did not go unnoticed for the Mystics. The defensive duo nullified Ellie Bird under the post forcing Te Paea Selby-Rickit to inject herself into the game with her clever front cuts and drive to the post to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Tactix. She grew with confidence as the quarter progressed, sinking them from range to extend her sides lead to four goals at the eight minute mark of the term. For the Mystics, the connection between Toeava, Tayla Earle and Nweke developed with the midcourters able to find her with ease and deliver the ball with confidence. However Grapes struggled to find her mojo in attack only sinking one goal from her two attempts for the quarter. The momentum well and truly swung into the Mystics’ favour as they started to rally both in offence and defence to worry the Tactix and draw back within one goal at half time.

After entering the contest in the dying stages of the second quarter both Courtney Elliott and Sophia Fenwick retained their wing defence position for their respective side heading into the second term, while Tui re-entered the game at goal attack for the Mystics. Her movement and ability to go to post paid dividends with the Tactix defenders having to account for both goalers. With the centre pass the Tactix surged forward but Fitzpatrick and Karaka were up to the challenge with the defenders blocking out Bird and Selby-Rickit to collect the timely rebound and send the ball streaming down court to even the scores once more. With a tick over 10 minutes left in the quarter the Mystics hit the front for the first time thanks to Nweke. Finding their rhythm in attack with Toeava, Nweke and Earle all combining effortlessly it was Kimiora Poi for the Tactix that stood up to the challenge with the speedy centre receiving what felt like every second pass and imposing herself both in attack and defence with her pace, quick hands, vision and strong second phase work. She sparked a lift from Selby-Rickit and wing attack Erikana Pedersen with the latter delivering an impressive seven goal assist for the term. Scores were level as the timer hit the seven minute mark before Fakahokotau once again delivered for the Tactix creating a crucial deflection coming around the body of Tui. It was turnover central throughout the third with both sides combining for 13 as neither team could gain any real continuity, however the Tactix held onto their narrow lead heading into the final change.

With centre pass in hand the Mystics attacked hard and lifted their intensity while the Tactix were content to be patient with ball in hand and watch the clock tick down. A costly turnover from Bird in the goal circle gifted the Mystics a chance to cut down the deficit further before Poi answered with a pick-up of her own. Nweke continued to be the rock in the goal circle for the Mystics with the midcourters hoisting the ball up to her and showcasing her extreme athleticism on every single take. The Tactix went on a three goal spree to extend their lead, with Fenwick putting in the hard yards to shut down Toeava in attack and limit the quick release into the goal circle. Another Fakahokotau intercept seemed to have a Tactix win in the bag with her side pushing out to five goals. But the Mystics refused to lie down rallying in the final three minutes of the quarter to go a five goal run and draw with a final shot on the whistle that ultimately did not count.

It was a huge performance from Fakahokotau with the goal keeper amassing a staggering four gains, one intercept, six deflections and one pick-up. partner in crime Watson collected two gains, two intercepts, six deflections and four pick-ups, a key reason why their side won. Nweke proved a menace under the post finishing with 29 goals from 31 attempts for the game while Tui also had an influence in the goal circle with 10 from 11 at 91 per cent. For the Mainland Tactix, Bird was stronger under the post sinking 20 goals from 25 attempts. Up on her accuracy and volume Selby-Rickit also showcased her range converting 21 goals at 88 per cent.

>>>TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>>MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

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MAINLAND TACTIX 8 | 12 | 12 | 9 (41)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 6 | 13 | 11 | 10 (40)

STARTING SEVEN: 

Mainland Tactix:

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

Northern Mystics:

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