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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 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 8: Tactix too good in front of sellout home crowd

A SELLOUT crowd headlined the opening match of ANZ Premiership Round 8, with Mainland Tactix hosting their first match of the season and taking on the Northern Stars for the second time in just five days. With Tactix getting the win last round the Stars were back with a vengeance but with second position on the ladder up for grabs the Tactix were just too good, winning 52-42 in an exciting and high-energy contest.

The matchup between Maia Wilson and Temalisi Fakahokotau was huge from the get-go, with an ANZ Premiership record 5500 strong crowd behind their Tactix keeper from the get-go. The match saw a mostly even start, with both teams taking advantage of a couple of early deflections as the opposition settled in. The Stars’ quickfire passes were quickly made apparent, speeding down the side channels of the court and zipping around for a couple easy goals.

Jane Watson was quick to take advantage of the predictable movement however, taking a fantastic cross-court intercept to disrupt the flow and extend the Tactix to a lead, coming up with another clever goal not long after and soon the home side had extended to a three goal margin. Wilson continued to be a focal point for the Stars, with Jamie Hume assisting well to begin with credit to her speed and improved accuracy.

Where the Stars defenders were at a loss of how to combat Ellie Bird last round, they came out fighting and making Bird work hard to find the ball, forcing the tall timber to use her footwork to move for the netball. Speed into the goal circle was crucial for the Stars, with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Grace Kara serving the ball on a platter to Wilson but needing to do it quick to evade Fakahokotau on the leap and saying toe-to-toe with the Tactix, trailing 13-11 at the first change.

An interesting change was made to start the second, with Daystar Swift bringing a physical element to the Stars defence line, with the Trinidad and Tobago product matching Bird for height and hoping to have more of an impact than her last outing which only saw her on court for five minutes. After a couple slow matches, Te Paea Selby-Rickit proved crucial once more in attack with her ability to not only go to post but also spot Bird at the post, though that was something that the Stars were able to exploit plucking a couple balls out of the air.

Erikana Pedersen was on fire in the first and backed it up in the second, with her reliability on the drive and wealth of speed allowing the Tactix to make use of a couple crucial intercepts to extend their lead. The Stars were error-ridden in the second quarter, wasting a couple opportunities going cross-court, with Watson able to get hands to turnover ball with ease thanks to her clear vision and long reach.

While Swift was playing a physical game and attracting a fair bit of attention from the umpires, Fakahokotau was doing everything she could to get hands to ball and put off Wilson who had missed just one shot by the main change. A huge couple of minutes by the Tactix saw the home side extend to an eight-goal lead at half time, 28-20.

The Stars made another change heading into the third, with Swift leaving the court for the regular combination of Kate Burley and Storm Purvis once more, while the injection of Fa’amu Ioane helped to shut down an element of the Tactix midcourt, doing a heap of work to shut down Pedersen and limit the Tactix’ speed in attack. Ioane’s work on the transverse paid dividends, allowing more of a split around the circle from Reuelu-Buchanan and Kara.

Watson continued to star in the third, with the formidable defender far too good on Hume and running the young player ragged through the midcourt to exploit Stars’ holes in attack. While Wilson continued to impact, Fakahokotau’s pressure and physicality was constant, blocking vision with her long reach and footwork to get around the body.

The Tactix had to do a heap of work to get ball into the circle, and while they were still ahead by a wide margin the Stars were working hard to limit avenues to post and force continuous feeds around circle edge. Soon the margin had closed to just three goals, with the combination of Ioane and Reuelu-Buchanan impressing defensively to stem the flow of attack, with Pedersen and Poi unable to zip around as per usual to control the space.

With the scoreline reduced early in the quarter the Tactix stole back some momentum, seeing the intense contest continue with no easy avenues to goal for either team but the Tactix taking advantage of any holes in the plan they could find, with the Tactix back to a six-goal lead at the final change, 37-31. Within touching distance of the Tactix, the Stars started the last quarter well but just could not get hands to enough turnover ball, with their only intercept still a mishap pass straight to Swift in the second. With no secure ball taken to turn over possession, the Stars were relying too much on getting a deflection but the Tactix were more than capable of getting to the loose ball first. 

Fakahokotau really switched on in the last quarter, upping her physicality – if possible – and reaping the rewards with her ability to find the ball paying dividends for the Tactix. Charlotte Elley was hungry for the ball in wing defence, though so was a mid-quarter Stars change in Oceane Maihi who entered the fray in time for a 10-goal margin in the way of the Tactix. The height difference was immediately apparent, and while Maihi’s different take on the goal keeper position paid off with a couple of plays forcing Bird to the goal line it was not enough to really reduce that margin with Bird’s confidence seeing her shoot from range with ease where required. A huge last few minutes saw the Tactix finish with their best score for the season, building off the impressive crowd for an excellent 52-42 victory. 

Player of the match Pedersen was influential with 23 goal assists, able to spot Bird at the post from a mile away, with the shooter racking up 37 goals for a second match straight at 88 per cent accuracy. Selby-Rickit was solid with 15 goals and an intercept to her name, while Watson and Fakahokotau were outstanding, with Watson starring in the first half and Fakahokotau a force to be reckoned with in the second half. The defensive duo racked up 11 gains (six intercepts) between them, with three of Fakahokotau’s intercepts coming in the final quarter as the pressure mounted.

For the Stars, Wilson was consistent as ever carrying the load with 35 goals from 41 attempts at 85 per cent, while Hume shot seven goals and collected a handful of assists and centre pass receives to play her role out the front alongside Kara and Reuelu-Buchanan. Burley racked up just the two gains from her six deflections but was solid against two taller attackers while Purvis collected four pickups.

Both teams play again this round though will be glad to have a few days off after the physical matchup, with the Stars back on the court on Saturday evening to face the Southern Steel while Tactix travel to take on Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Sunday.

>>>TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>>STARS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

MAINLAND TACTIX 13 | 15 | 9 | 15 (52)
NORTHERN STARS 11 | 9 | 11 | 11 (42)

STARTING SEVEN

Tactix

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

Stars

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

 

2020 ANZ Premiership- Round 8 preview: Tactix v. Stars

WITH ANZ Premiership finals just around the corner both the Mainland Tactix and Northern Stars are eager to make a final play for second spot and face off for a chance at the grand final in the sole Thursday evening fixture for the season. Playing on their home court for the first time since the season restart expect the Tactix fans to be boisterous, cheering on their side at every turn while the Stars will be hoping to generate their signature ball movement to get on top of their opponents early. Having only played last round the Stars will be keen to make amends and get one back while the Tactix will be wanting to show that their seven goal victory was just the beginning and look to build on their form heading into the backend of the season.

There are key match-ups across the court, none bigger than in the goal circle with Maia Wilson set to combat defensive duo Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson. Wilson is one of the most reliable goalers in the competition, willing to sink them from range and shake up her game plan accordingly to provide a spark for the Stars. Her constant movement, strong holds and impressive balance is a focal point for the Stars. However as Wilson is the dominant shooter and main avenue to goal it will be up to Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto to absorb some of the pressure and go to post regularly if they are to keep the Tactix defenders busy. Both Watson and Fakahokotau are in ripping form able to gobble up everything that comes their way, creating a wall in defence making it incredibly difficult for the Stars to penetrate. Coming off an impressive performance last week with Watson only racking up three penalties and nullifying the influence of Hume and Koloto at the post expect the Tactix captain to be keen to replicate her hot form. Similarly, Fakahokotau is no easy beat with her insistent pressure, aerial ability and read of the play.

Tactix goal shooter Ellie Bird showcased her star power last round against the Stars going on a tear with 37 goals at 100 per cent while the efforts of goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit did not go unnoticed aiding the towering shooter at the post and delivering the ball on a silver platter for her. Their strong connection could prove the thorn in the Stars side again this week if Storm Purvis and Kate Burley are not able to nullify one of them. Burley is strong in the air, consistently able to disrupt the flow in attack with her timely tips and hands over pressure while Purvis applies a wealth of physical pressure. The Stars also have options on the bench with Daystar Swift taking the court for the first time last week since returning from injury while Oceane Maihi has an impressive aerial presence.

It will bea battle of the young guns through the midcourt with Kimiora Poi and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan likely to go head to head. Poi has speed to burn able to dart around the court, hit the circle edge with precision and most importantly help out defensively to pick up loose ball while Reuelu-Buchanan dons a more attacking style of play. Poi’s connection with Bird and Selby-Rickit has steadily throughout the season with the centre willing to dish off from distance and look long into circle. she works well with fellow speedster Erikana Pedersen with the two able to rotate the ball around the circle edge with ease and create attacking forays. The Stars have their own trump card, with experienced wing attack Grace Kara often leading the way and setting the tempo in attack. She is clever with ball in hand and will be hoping to exploit Tactix wing defence Charlotte Elley with her netball smarts.

Sitting just outside of second spot on the ladder the Tactix will be desperate to claim the win and edge closer to a grand final appearance. Coming off a strong showing last round and oozing confidence given their impressive connections across the court the Tactix could be hard to stop but the Stars have nothing to lose making for an intriguing battle.

ANZ Premiership – Round 7: Threatening Tactix down Stars

COMING off the back of a disappointing loss on Saturday night to the Pulse, Northern Stars were ready for a fight, but the Mainland Tactix were hungry for a win and were far too good, eventually running out seven-goal victors, 47-40 in Round 7 of the ANZ Premiership. It was the Tactix’ first back-to-back win for the season, with the side putting in great strides for a potential finals berth.

There was a heap of pressure on Jamie Hume from the get-go, forcing every ball to go to Maia Wilson but with little chance to do so thanks to an excellent two-on-one, credit to the physicality of Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau. The Tactix defensive partnership was switched on from beginning to end, with the duo batting away ball with ease and plying their trade with physicality and tenacity. While it was a very close start, a four-goal lead was extended by the Tactix with just under six on the clock, with wasted opportunities from the Stars seeing the Tactix find far too much loose ball. 

A great battle was forged between Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (13 assists, two pickups) and Kimiora Poi (eight assists, three pickups) throughout the term, with the duo almost evening the other out given their wealth of shutdown work. But where the Tactix had a lot of the early momentum, the Stars were able to work back to a two-goal margin over the last couple of minutes, taking away some of the Tactix’ breathing room. While the Tactix were accurate out in front, the inaccuracy of Hume hurt the Stars, sitting on zero from three by the end of the first and not doing enough to aid Wilson at the post. These wasted chances saw the Stars down by four at quarter time, trailing 14-10.

A change for the second saw Vika Koloto take the court in Hume’s place, with the Stars needing a bit more work in goal attack to assist the ever reliable Wilson. Koloto’s speed seemed to be what the doctor ordered, with the youngster taking on Watson but using the ball well. Koloto well and truly opened up the circle, taking her chances and taking away some of the one-on-one from Wilson. But while the Stars attack seemed to be clicking much better, coming to within one goal, the likes of Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird continued to shine at the post, with accuracy, composure and plenty of speed paying off at the post.

Another change with four minutes on the clock saw Lisa Mather head into centre for the Stars, bringing some fresh legs into the centre third against Poi who did not let up down the court. Still chasing, the Stars kept in touch but defensively could not win that ball back off the Tactix’ centre pass, seeing the Tactix maintain the lead 24-22 at half-time. 

Within touching distance of taking a lead, a huge third quarter change saw Daystar Swift take the court in defence for the first time since Round 1, replacing Storm Purvis and injecting a tough physicality and a fraction more height to the one-on-one against Bird. While the change injected a new point of difference to the quarter, both teams seemed to not have a load of control, unable to take advantage of all their opportunities and seeing plenty of see-sawing as both teams re-settled into the match. Within a couple of minutes however the Tactix had punished a number of errors, taking a six goal lead as Reuelu-Buchanan and Purvis returned to the court with the Stars’ connections lacking.

The Tactix defence was stellar, blocking vision and making the most of every ball, seeing Koloto subbed off for Hume as the Tactix lead extended. A lack of communication and movement from Reuelu-Buchanan and Grace Kara was evident with both Poi and Charlotte Elley forcing the Stars into position and holding them there to block circle movement and cause wasted ball in attack. Such was the Tactix defence that even Wilson was rendered inaccurate, shut down by Fakahokotau for the Tactix to hold an eight-goal lead heading into the final quarter, 37-29. 

Tight midcourt defence paid off for the Tactix in the final quarter, holding and waiting for forced passes to create intercepts. But five goals in a row to start the quarter saw the Stars work their way back into the match, hungry for an elusive win. While the Tactix were holding up the midcourt, Stars were blocking up the Tactix attack and forcing patience and constant feeding around the third before reaching the circle. With Bird still on 100 per cent accuracy with under five minutes left on the clock, it was the Tactix’ accuracy and explosiveness that saw them come away with the win, forcing continual issues all across the court for the Stars and applying constant pressure on the feed. 

Both sides continued to provide plenty of speed down the court, but it was the Tactix who used the ball better, able to open up space and create options on the drive with Erikana Pedersen (11 assists, 21 centre pass receives) finding plenty of first phase ball to send into the circle. With a seven-goal margin to finish, the Tactix were not only consistent but just far too strong for the Stars, running out with the 47-40 victory.

Watson (six gains) and Fakahokotau (three gains) were at their best and completely unstoppable, outplaying Kate Burley (four gains) and Purvis (four deflections but no gains) by miles and forcing errors from the Stars attack. While Wilson held up the attack as per usual, she was well held to 32 goals from 36 attempts at 89 per cent accuracy, with both Hume (four from nine) and Koloto (four from six) putting some goals up but not enough to really command the space. Bird was awarded player of the match for her stellar 37 goal effort, shooting at 100 per cent and dominating in goal shooter while Selby-Rickit shot 10 from 12 to go with her 27 goal assists, playing a much larger role in attack than her goal count suggests. Though not having the flashiest game, Reuelu-Buchanan and Kara worked well in tandem, with Kara racking up 12 assists and 25 centre pass receives. 

Sitting out the rest of this round, the two teams will go head-to-head once more on Thursday in Christchurch for the Tactix’ first and only home game for the season, with the Stars heading in off the back of two frustrating losses for the weekend and sure to come in with a fire in the belly.

>>> MAINLAND TACTIX PAGE

>>> NORTHERN STARS PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

MAINLAND TACTIX 14 | 10 | 13 | 10 (47)
NORTHERN STARS 10 | 12 | 7 | 11 (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 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern Steel v. Mainland Tactix
Saturday, 20 June 

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

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

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

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

Northern Stars v. Central Pulse
Sunday, 21 June

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

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

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

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

Northern Stars v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 22 June

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

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

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

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

Northern Stars: what has changed?

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

Coach: Kiri Wills
Captain: Grace Kara
2019 finish: 2nd

Overview:

Although the Stars did not get the start they would have liked to begin their 2020 season after making it to the grand final last year they showed plenty of promise. A new look team this season after the departure and retirement of a couple of key players the Stars will be hoping to replicate their attacking intent from last year and hit the scoreboard. 

Changes:

While Storm Purvis did not take the court in the opening round for the Stars there is hope that the talented defender will be back amongst the mix heading into the season restart. Purvis is a real leader down back with her experience, cool, calm and collected mindset and ball winning ability constantly on show. She is a clear game changer for the Stars with her read of the play, quick change of direction, long arms and lean over the shot. Her presence will play a key role interchanging with Daystar Swift, Kate Burley and youngster Oceane Maihi.  

Looking ahead:

With new players joining the ranks at the start of the season it may take a little while for the connections to form. Round 1 proved that goal shooter Maia Wilson was in good nick shooting at a high accuracy and pairing well with new goal attack Jamie Hume. While defensively the inclusion of Trinidad and Tobago defender, Swift will add that flair and dynamism down back. With plenty of youth on their side the Stars will be hoping to run opponents off their feet with their speed, endurance and try hard attitude.  

Key player:

The return of captain Grace Kara will be huge for the Stars given she oozes nothing but class and composure when on court. She is a smooth mover that can hit the circle edge with precision and skill time and time again such is her dynamic ability. She is an experienced player that can seamlessly switch between wing attack and centre and will play a crucial role in controlling the tempo in the attacking third given the youth in the shooting circle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANZ Premiership: Leading stat-toppers from Round 1

WITH Round 1 of the ANZ Premiership done and dusted we look at the leading stat-getters from each side.

Northern Mystics:

The Mystics kicked off Round 1 with a hard-fought win thanks to some strong individual performances from a host of their key players. Shooting sensation Grace Nweke was a pivotal part in her sides win with the talented goaler notching up 40 goals from 43 attempts at an impressive 93 per cent accuracy, ultimately taking out number one spot on the goals and assists ladder. Teammate, Peta Toeava also impressed across the weekend particularly at the transverse line picking up 18 centre pass receives to come in fifth across the competition. While Toeava was strong at the centre pass, it was her impact in the attacking third that left a lasting imprint with the highly touted wing attack taking out the number one spot for feeds with a whopping 44, highlighting the wealth of work she does to feed into the likes of Nweke. Defensively it is hard to look past Phoenix Karaka with the goal defence featuring in the top five for rebounds and intercepts while being eighth for deflections. Karaka had a profound influence down back managing three intercepts in Round 1, gifting her prime position on the intercepts tally while also collecting two rebounds. However, she also recorded third spot for penalties with 13 something she will want to address heading into the next round.

Northern Stars:

Although the Northern Stars did not get the win on the board it was their young players that took the round by storm with five players making it into the top five in their respective areas. Goal shooter Maia Wilson was clinical under the post once again nailing 40 goals from 45 attempts at 89 per cent and locking down second spot behind Nweke. Captain, Grace Kara showcased her influence in attack with 25 centre pass receives and 43 feeds to come in second in both of those areas while defensively Kate Burley kicked it up a notch. The young defender made her presence felt both on the court and in the stats claiming second spot for deflections with seven. Second seemed to be the flavour for the Stars with Fa’amu Ioane following suit for rebounds with three highlighting her strong defensive attributes. However, second place for penalties will not sit so well with Daystar Swift racking up 15 for the game.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:

The Magic did not necessarily have one game changer for them, instead it was more of a full team effort as shown by the stats at end of the round with the likes of goal shooter Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou sitting so closely together on the shooting leader board. While McPhee is in the top five with 35 goals from 43 attempts at 81 per cent, Latu-Meafou is not far behind at seventh with 19 goals from 27 attempts displaying their ability to share the ball between them. Even through the midcourt the load was shared with Ariana Cable-Dixon sitting sixth with 30 and Whitney Souness at seventh with 29 for feeds, while Souness also managed third for centre pass receives with 24. Erena Mikaere topped the table for rebounds with two while both Samantha Winders and Holly Fowler managed six deflections apiece to make the top 10. Alarmingly however, three players made their way into the leader board for penalties with midcourt duo Cable-Dixon and Winders taking out fifth and sixth respectively and Fowler coming in at eight.

Central Pulse:

With a relatively shared approach across the board, the Pulse did not have a heap of players top the tables with Aliyah Dunn the highest ranked player at third. Dunn was instrumental once again under the post with her volume and accuracy on show with 35 goals from 38 attempts at 92 per cent. Teammate Ameliaranne Ekenasio also made her way into the top 10 but at the lower end of the scale at eighth credit to her 18 goals from 22 shots. Youngster Maddy Gordon was also amongst the mix for centre pass receives with 19 earning herself fourth spot after an impressive effort in Round 1 while veteran and key cog in attack Claire Kersten also made her presence felt with 33 feeds in their win over the Tactix to finish fourth as well. With so many options in defence and the ability to rotate players the Pulse had no real standout however, Katrina Rore did manage a rebound to claim fifth, while newcomer Kelly Jury’s two intercepts also earnt herself fifth placed honours.

Mainland Tactix:

It is fair to say that Tactix dominated from a defensive point of view despite losing. Both Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau featured highly in the deflections and intercepts columns thanks to their tenacity. Watson took out third pace thanks to her seven deflections while also recorded seventh for intercepts credit to her two. Despite also collecting two intercepts Fakahokotau was slightly ahead on the leader board at fourth but did not feature on the deflections tally. In the goal circle, Ellie Bird took out the honours for the Tactix coming in at sixth across the competition with her 26 goals from 29 attempts at 90 per cent.

Southern Steel:

Although they did not win their Round 1 match the Steel had a wealth of players start their season with a bang and claim early bragging rights high up on the table. Gun midcourter, Gina Crampton currently sits first for centre pass receives with 28 while also has third spot tied up for feeds with 42. In the goal circle Jennifer O’Connell just made the cut inside the top five with 35 goals from 50 attempts. Defensively is where the Steel shine with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit earning second spot after pulling down five rebounds and fourth spot for deflections with six. Youngster, Taneisha Fifita snatched dibs on top of the table for deflections with eight while Kate Heffernan also made the top 10 for intercepts with two to her name.

Mystics win northern thriller over Stars

IN their first game of the season, the Northern Mystics showed plenty of promise for the year ahead notching up a well-deserved win over grand finalists Northern Stars, 59-55. After an up and down 2019 season, the Mystics seemed to iron out their on-court issues and string together a strong performance despite being challenged throughout the game.

The Mystics got off to a flyer piling on a whopping 20 goals in the opening 15 minutes of the game mainly thanks to teenage sensation Grace Nweke. The talented goal shooter did all of the damage under the post proving too strong for Oceane Maihi who simply could not combat her aerial strength and most importantly accuracy to post. Nweke managed an impressive 19 goals from 20 attempts in the first quarter alone showcasing just how explosive she can be when given the time and space to do so. On the other hand, the Stars only managed to record 16 goals putting them on the back foot from the very beginning. Still working on their combination both Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume took some time to sight each other in the circle but for Wilson it was business as usual with the towering youngster doing the bulk of the shooting with 11 goals from 13 attempts.

As the game went on things evened out across the court with both sides tightening up defensively and through the midcourt to make the most of their chances. New recruit Daystar Swift made her way onto the court for the first time with the Trinidadian defender easing into the game and using her height to disrupt the play. She ended with two pickups for the quarter highlighting her hunt for the ball while youngster Kate Burley also showcased her worth with five deflections and a gain. The increased defensive pressure paid dividends for the Stars while Mystics goal defence Phoenix Karaka starred with three gains, one intercept and three deflections. Karaka was a real workhorse down back confusing the space and also showing her attacking attributes with a five centre pass receives to transition the ball into the goal circle. Typical goal shooter Saviour Tui came onto the court with the goal attack bib late in the term to replace Asher Grapes who while had struggled to find the net throughout the game did a wealth of work out the front to feed Nweke and create space. Tui eased her way into the game using her height to provide an option across the court while also displaying her ability to go to post.

With a four-goal buffer still in play the Stars threw everything they had at Mystics in the third term to win the quarter and ultimately cut the deficit to a mere two goals thanks to Wilson and Hume going on a three goal run and the defence end kicking it up a gear. The Stars forced Northern Mystics into making four more turnovers and capitalised on those chances. In hope to find some fresh legs Dani Gray made her way into centre replacing youngster Tayla Earle while wing attack Peta Toeava continued her heavy workload with her ball movement and impressive vision on full display thanks to her seven goal assists. For the Stars Lisa Mather and Fa’amu Ioane stepped up a gear to take control through the midcourt and have an influence with their ball movement and defensive pressure taking centre stage with a combined two gains and two intercepts. The Stars dominated the play controlling the tempo of the game throughout the third term and limiting the Mystics’ opportunity to hit the scoreboard as easily.

Down by a couple of goals heading into the last quarter, the Stars did not have enough to go with their opponents eventually falling four goals short. The Mystics backed themselves across the court with wing defence Courtney Elliot plying her trade and Sulu Fitzpatrick going about her business despite not registering her normal stats filling performance. Earle and Toeava combined once again with the two using their speed and quick release to cause havoc and get the defenders heads swinging in the final term to secure the win. The influence of Grace Kara in wing attack for the Stars was important with the captain using her experience to hit the circle edge and deliver well weighted passes into the circle.

Despite slowing her scoring down in the second half Nweke notched up a team-high 40 goals from 43 attempts at 93 per cent while Tui finished at 80 per cent after slotting 16 goals from 20 attempts. The Stars were led by Wilson with the 188cm shooter scoring 40 goals from 45 attempts at 89 per cent while Hume struggled to find her rhythm under the post converting 15 goals from 24 shots.