WE have passed the midpoint of the ANZ Premiership season with Round 10 approaching and only five games of the home and away season remaining. With this in mind every game counts as the Stars look to maintain top spot and the mid-table logjam continues to intensify.
Southern Steel vs. Northern Stars
Saturday, June 19 @5:15pm
The opening game of the round sees a top three battle as the third placed Southern Steel hosts top of the table Northern Stars. It is set to be an enthralling battle with the least experienced team going up against one of the most experienced sides in the competition.
Steel goal shooter, George Fisher holds the mantle as the most accurate shooter in the competition and will need to be at her damaging best if she is to assert herself against an incredibly strong Stars defensive unit. Fisher’s combination with the crafty Tiana Metuarau is what keeps them ticking along and makes them hard to stop as the two have an innate connection that allows them to release the ball and time their movements with great ease and precision. However, the Stars are littered with versatility as Anna Harrison, Elle Temu and Oceane Maihi can all seamlessly rotate through the back court and win ball back. Harrison is a real aerial threat as is Maihi with the two likely to attack the high ball coming into Fisher.
The midcourt contest will draw plenty of attention with Kate Heffernan in ripping form for the Steel and Mila Reuelu-Buchnan a real livewire for the Stars with her constant give and go. The two have incredibly different styles with Heffernan more defensive-minded given her wing defence background while Reuelu-Buchanan boasts a real attacking and hunting mindset. Heffernan will be hoping to help out the likes of Taneisha Fifita, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and even Sarahpheinna Woulf if she gets injected into the game to slow down the pace of the ball coming into Maia Wilson. The Stars goal shooter has been down on her volume to post in recent weeks but is still a force to be reckoned with while Jamie Hume has showcased her ability to kick it up a gear thanks to her long range shooting and silky movement.
Northern Mystics vs. Central Pulse
Sunday, June 20 @4:15pm
It has been a disappointing season for the Central Pulse while on the other hand the Northern Mystics are chugging along quite nicely and will be hoping to create some further ladder separation currently holding down second spot. It will all come down to whether or not the Pulse will be able to stop playmaker Peta Toeava with her sharp drives and speed.
In recent weeks, Claire Kersten has slotted back into the wing defence position which could be a good potential match for strength against Toeava however the Mystics wing attack also boasts exceptional take-off speed similar to that of Maddy Gordon meaning the Pulse have a big decision to make. Gordona and Kersten can play all three positions whether it be wing defence, centre or wing attack, making the midcourt highly versatile – something they will need to use in overdrive to eliminate the influence of Toeava who is renowned for her pinpoint feeds into Grace Nweke. The Mystics goal shooter is arguably one of the most consistent and prolific shooters in the business and it will take a team effort to stop her from single-handedly dominating the contest. Bailey Mes has proven to be a crucial cog with her crafty feeds while Filda Vui has also been a great addition with her ability and confidence to both dish off the pass or go to post. The Pulse have steadied into their new defensive look with Kelera Nawai down back and Kelly Jury out in goal defence and the two will be hoping to combine strongly and get a few early tips to put some real pressure on the Mystics.
Up the other end, speedster Whitney Souness is the main playmaker with her drive and dynamic movement to the top of the circle allowing her to feed into both Aliyah Dunn and Te Amo Amaru-Tibble. Dunn has increased her range this season while Amaru-Tibble has come along in leaps and bounds, knowing when to back herself to post or when to find a closer option to the ring. Sulu Fitzpatrick has been in hot form this season with the goal keeper able to gobble up anything that comes her way, while partner in crime Kate Burley also has a tendency to go out hunting for the cross court ball making the two hard to stop when they are up and about early.
Mainland Tactix vs. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, June 21 @7:15pm
The final game of the round sees Mainland Tactix take on Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic who have shown glimpses of brilliance but have been marred with an inability to put out a consistent four quarter effort. Both sides are coming off narrow losses once again and will be keen to put their best foot forward here to keep their slim finals chance alive.
Caitlin Bassett has really stepped up her intensity and control in the past few appearances, with the Magic finally looking confident to feed into her especially when Grace Kara has ball in hand. Bassett’s strong holds and clever footwork inside the circle enable her to edge closer to the post and complements the style of her fellow shooters who are both able to shoot from distance. Both goal attacks in Chiara Semple and Khiarna Williams offer different things inside the circle with Semple more of a smooth mover and Williams fast-footed and aerially creative. But they will not have it easy under the post with Karin Burger in scintillating form out in goal defence to create deflections aplenty while Jane Watson is a tough competitor down in goal keeper. Watson and Bassett are well known to each other and are both real warriors so expect the contest to be fierce and exciting.
The Tactix were without Ellie Bird last round and will be hoping the towering goal shooter is raring to go this round given her ability to score quickly. However, if she is unable to take the court the Tactix’s Round 9 debutants showed some real promise with Kate Grant bursting out of the blocks with her crafty court play and youngster Amelia Walmsley making a name for herself at the fresh age of 17. It will all come down to the output of goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit and whether or not she can craft enough goals and clever plays to keep her side in the hunt. The Magic are boasting an exceptionally strong defensive core with the return of Holly Fowler alongside reliable duo Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong. However, all eyes will turn to whether or not Temalisi Fakahokotau takes the court after rolling her ankle last week and being sidelined.