Tag: Ellen Halpenny

ANZ Premiership – Round 9: Pulse claim emphatic win over Steel

COMING off their first loss in the ANZ Premiership last round, Central Pulse were determined to get back in the winning books against the Southern Steel, running out 15-goal victors (34-49). It was a clinical performance by the Pulse who led at every single break and steadily increase their margin by shutting down the Steel’s options in attack and forcing them wide. The Steel struggled to generate any type of easy ball movement through their attacking and centre third forcing them to work in overdrive.

Pulse got off to a flyer nailing the first goal of the quarter and capitalising on the missed shot from the Steel to assert their dominance straight away and create an early buffer. It was clear the Pulse were out for redemption with their second phase play incredibly strong thanks to the speed and timing of wing attack Maddy Gordon. The nippy mid quarter seemed to have the ball on a string in the opening minutes of the quarter using her quick release and vision into the circle to create a wealth of opportunities for the Pulse under the post. Her partnership with fellow centre Claire Kersten was also strong with the two creating consistent movement through the attacking third to keep the Steel defenders guessing.

It was a strong and physical start to the contest by Steel goal keeper Taneisha Fifita with the youngster leaving no stone unturned to make the Pulse shooters work for every single pass. While she hunted each and every ball that came her way Fifita drew a lot of attention from the umpires ultimately giving Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio easy passage to goal something they well and truly capitalised on. The physicality seemed to be contagious with Kersten spending a fair bit of time on the floorboards thanks to some heavy hits from the Steel defensive unit but that did not seem to disrupt the Pulse who opened up a handy buffer heading into the break.

Down by nine goals the Southern Steel looked to the bench with Kendall Corkery entering the game to replace Kate Heffernan who struggled to quell the influence of Gordon around the circle edge. The influence of Ellen Halpenny was evident throughout the second term with the goal shooter picking up where she left off in the first to open their account and get the team rolling. The Steel were rewarded with an early held ball call against the Pulse thanks to their increased pressure but the Pulse proved anything you can do I can do better with Karin Burger forcing a turnover of her own thanks to her long arms and reach. The physicality continued throughout the term with bodies flying across the court while the scrappiness started to come into play for the Pulse throwing ball away and not capitalising on their chances.

The Pulse quickly regained their composure with their silky ball movement down the court and use of width on the pass to catch the catch the Steel off guard and bypass the mess. The hands over pressure from the Pulse was immense blocking the vision of the Steel with Gina Crampton falling to have her usual impact around circle edge thanks to Burger. Up the other end Gordon continued to wow with her dynamic footwork and speed off the mark to pounce on any loose ball that came her way. Steel started to settle and win ball back stringing together three goals in a row to cut the deficit from 10 goals to seven but Burger refused to give in proving to be a real menace around the circle edge picking up a clever intercept.  The home team managed to stop the bleeding and reclaim some momentum to steady across the court but the defensive pressure from Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore was simply undeniable gobbling up every rebound and applying hands over pressure on the shot to force missed chances. Pulse put their foot down in the final two minutes of the quarter to push the lead out and gain full control.

Unable to replicate their performance from the night before the Steel brought on Abby Erwood in goal defence forcing Te Huinga Selby-Rickit back into goal keeper. Although Halpenny got to work straight away with an early goal it was the shooter to shooter interplay from the Pulse that caused the Steel headaches with the two finding a wealth of space to dish off pin point passes. Steel gave away a wealth of penalties  in the defensive third and subsequently gifted the Pulse easy avenue to goal on multiple occasions.

Halpenny continued to be the key target under the post showcasing her experience and leadership while Kalifa McCollin floated in and out of the match thanks to the close marking from Rore. Looking for a spark Selby-Rickit delivered with a clever intercept to send the ball streaming back down court and was rewarded for her efforts as the Steel rallied. But the constant movement from the Pulse attack did not allow the Steel to set-up. after a stunning half of netball Gordon went to the bench as Tiana Metuarau entered the game in wing attack and did not skip a beat as her side put the foot down. Dunn seemed to have the ball on a string and steadily growing with confidence throughout the quarter and backing herself from range as the Pulse extended the lead to a whopping 15 goals.

With 12 minutes to play, the Pulse continued their merry way making full use of their strong connections across the court to move the ball with ease. The trust in the Pulse line-up was evident with Elle Temu stepping up to the plate and delivering with her pressure over the shot and three foot marking while Gordon re-entered the game in at centre. However that was short lived with Gordon forced from the court with an ankle injury allowing Renee Savai’inaea to enter the game but that did not seem to stop the steam train that was the Pulse.

Halpenny was solid  for the Steel with the goal shooter taking everything in her stride and piling on the pressure with 13 goals from 18 attempts. McCollin also continued to impress with her dynamic movement and accuracy to post with 19 goals at 86 per cent. For the Pulse, Dunn returned to her usual prolific and accurate ways nailing 30 goals from 32 attempts, while Ekenasio also recovered from a poor showing last round with 19 goals at 95 per cent and 11 goal assists credit to her impressive vision. The defensive prowess of Jury and Rore was on show throughout the game collecting a combined six gains.

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

Southern Steel 7 | 9 | 7 | 11 (34)
Central Pulse 16 | 10 | 12 | 11 (49)

STARTING SEVEN:

 Southern Steel:

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

Central Pulse:

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

 

ANZ Premiership – Round 9: First quarter flurry gifts Steel huge win

AN energetic and highly contested match opened Round 9 of ANZ Premiership action, with the penultimate round seeing Southern Steel host the Northern Mystics. The Steel may not be in with a chance at a grand final berth, but they played like it against the Mystics and burst out of the blocks for a huge four-goal win (51-47).

A nice start from both sides saw predictable end to end play early, with clean hands and patience around the court not seeing a heap of turnover ball. That being said, Taneisha Fifita’s early physicality earned a turnover and early 4-1 lead, using her body-on-body and movement to pressure a feed into Grace Nweke and creating a turnover from the off-balance goaler.

The quick release feed into Nweke proved crucial early, with both Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle not hesitating in the slightest and paying off. While the Steel had the early lead, the Mystics held up well defensively, blocking easy avenues into the goal circle. Kalifa McCollin’s early form impressed, and a couple of uncharacteristic errors from the Mystics allowed the Steel to extend an early lead, knocking away crucial ball. Where each team’s start was clean, they both seemed to lose confidence in the feed, with defence from both sides finding a wealth of loose ball.

An early change towards the end of the quarter saw Filda Vui take the court, and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit immediately stepped up a gear to negate any easy ball in attack. At the other end, McCollin continued to star, putting up 11 goals at 100 per cent accuracy and really putting that offensive pressure on the Mystics who seemed out of sorts. The Steel’s impressive start saw them run away with a 17 goals to eight first quarter lead, with McCollin and Ellen Halpenny keeping the Mystics’ heads on a swivel.

An even start to the second quarter saw the Mystics’ impressive feeds continue, though Kate Heffernan’s ability to limit Toeava’s influence paid dividends with the Steel able to stay ahead of the pack. Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton were dominant with ball in hand, with their constant movement and drives around the circle seeing the duo rocket ball into the circle. While the Mystics were getting plenty of hands to ball, they were unable to collect the loose pickup and win the possession back to drive down court. 

The Steel could not compete with the transition down court off the Mystics centre pass but made up for it in droves with their constant midcourt defence, forcing the Mystics into the corners of the centre third and blocking vision with their zone defence. With both teams adopting a patient approach to the circle feed, the continuous passing caused plenty of opportunity for turnovers in a much more even quarter. The combination of Halpenny and McCollin continues to grow with every match and it shone in this encounter, with the duo rotating better than ever and sharing the load well, forcing a one-on-one defensive approach from the Mystics. But despite that, finicky errors from the Steel say the Mystics claw back the margin, trailing by seven goals at the main break.

The second half saw another change to the Mystics, with Saviour Tui taking the court and using her smooth moving to form a better connection into the circle, able to assist both in and around circle edge. That being said, the side lost the vision and speed of Vui, which stagnated the attack and allowed the Steel to work the lead out once more. Crampton was unstoppable on both the first and second phase, constantly freeing herself from her opposition in Courtney Elliott and able to spot Halpenny’s clever use of space to speed ball into the circle. 

Vision into the circle was spot on by the Steel, with Crampton and Saunders connecting with ease while the patience getting ball inside the circle allowed the Steel attack to continue moving and rotating accordingly. With so much riding on the lob into Nweke, the height difference between Toeava and Heffernan became very apparent as the Mystics wing attack became hesitant on the feed, with Tui’s injection into the game not quite as impactful as expected. Another stellar quarter from the Steel saw the home side extend their lead once more, always a few steps ahead of the entire Mystics unit.

With 58 circle edge feeds to 14 with just a minute left on the clock before three quarter time, it was clear that the defensive pressure from the Steel – and particularly Heffernan and Saunders out the front – was negating any easy feeds into the circle, consistently blocking drives and taking pressure off Fifita and Selby-Rickit inside the circle. With a nine-goal lead heading into the final quarter, the Steel had all the momentum and looked the goods on their way to a fourth win.

The final quarter saw a huge change with Elliott transitioning from wing into goal defence and captain Phoenix Karaka to the bench, and while Elliott added another element to the defensive circle the Mystics lost some of that great run and carry from Karaka driving through the midcourt. Before long the Mystics had drawn back the margin though, shooting the first four of the quarter and Elliott having an instant impact with her energy and hunt for the ball. The battle between Elliott and McCollin was immense, with the duo well matched in the contest and ultimately balancing each other out through the centre. 

While the Mystics were hungry for the ball, the Steel managed to remain ahead with the workrate of Crampton and Saunders continuing to pay dividends. A huge turnover from Dani Gray with under five on the clock saw the Mystics get back a few in a row but patience out the front from the Steel denied a late comeback despite a three-goal margin seeing Mystics well within their chances in the last few minutes. The eventual four goal win (51-47) saw the Steel potentially taking away a huge chance at finals for the Mystics who did not look like a winning team from the get-go.

While McCollin looked ginger in the final few minutes after a couple heavy landings, she continued to star at the post and finished well with a whopping 32 goals from 36 attempts, while Halpenny aided well with 19 goals of her own. Saunders (17 assists) and Crampton (26 assists, one intercept) impressed with their constant pressure paying dividends, while Heffernan was huge with four intercepts. For the Mystics, Nweke racked up 41 goals at 93 per cent, while Toeava racked up 26 assists but five turnovers in the process. Defensively, Karaka, Sulu Fitzpatrick and Elliott combined for seven gains between them, but it was not enough after an excellent start from the Steel set everything in motion.

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

SOUTHERN STEEL 17 | 12 | 14 | 8 (51)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 8 | 14 | 12 | 18 (47)

Steel

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

 

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 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 – Round 8: Emotional Magic clench thrilling one-goal win

TEARS of elation graced the face of the Magic players as they notched up their second win of the season, the first since their return from the COVID-19 enforced break (37-36). It was as seesawing affair with the lead chopping and changing throughout the match and going right down to the wire. Fronting up to their second game of the round the contest between Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Southern Steel was fierce and lived up to the hype.  With both sides taking a while to find their feet it was the Magic that prevailed in the dying stages settled first and made the most of their opportunities.

Boasting a new look frontline with Khiarna Williams out in goal attack, the Magic looked settled in the goal circle finding plenty of rhythm and space in the front half thanks to her constant movement and vision into the circle. Williams combined seamlessly with Kelsey McPhee as the Magic goal shooter opened their account and set the tone backing herself from range and following her shot in. However it was an extremely physical under the post for the Magic with Steel defenders Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita ploughing through the goalers and drawing the attention of the umpires recording a warning and caution respectively.

Conversely the Magic showcased their defensive prowess through wing defence Holly Fowler who highlighted her tenacity and speed off the mark by throwing herself into the contest to win ball back. Her hunt for the ball enabled her to fire the ball back down the court and into attack to convert and take the lead with the centre pass to follow. With Fowler dictating the play out in wing defence the pressure from circle defenders Georgia Tong and Erena Mikaere was palpable forcing the Steel to throw the ball around and into the corner of the court to allow the Magic defenders more opportunities to collect turnover ball. The Steel struggled for accuracy due to the pressure over the shot while Magic put the foot down to stretch out to a five goal lead at the first change.

It was an even start to the term as both teams treasured the ball and looked to capitalise on their centre pass. Williams seemed to relish the extra court space out in goal attack taking everything in her stride and proving not to be afraid to take the shot. She made full use of her speed and composure to go to post and keep the Steel guessing in defence. Up the other end the connection between Kalifa McCollin and Ellen Halpenny developed throughout the term with the two rotating through the circle well and slotting them with ease. Steel continued to find more space to reduce the margin to two goals and played with a renewed sense of composure. But that did not last long as the back up work on the transverse line from the Magic.  paid dividends

With turnovers coming hard and fast for the Steel the Magic went on a scoring spree establishing a six goal lead before the Steel opted for a couple of changes in defence to upset the Magic. Abby Erwood entered the game in at goal defence while Selby-Rickit slotted back into keeper with the changes having an immediate impact.  But the Magic proved anything you can do we can do better as Mikaere and Tong put in a mountain load of work to cause hesitation on the shot for the Steel goalers. The momentum ebbed and flowed as both sides went on mini runs before the Steel wrestled some control in attack as the wheels started to fall off for the Magic.

After starring in the opening half the Magic made an unexpected change to the shooting combination with Abigail Latu-Meafou injected into the game at goal attack and Williams shifting back to shooter. Despite scoring the first goal for the Magic for the half the connection between Latu-Meafou and Souness was off, unable to find each other in attack and gifting the Steel with a wealth of chances to capitalise on the turnover and open up a two goal lead. The battle between Sam Winders and Shannon Saunders was never ending as the two contested every single ball that came their way. Winders showcased her aerial presence and defensive mindset to get hands to ball time and time again.

The Magic refused to give in fighting their way back to draw level again thanks to their defensive pressure and hands over marking to regather possession and attack. But the Steel lifted in the latter half of the term moving the ball with more freedom and speed in attack. After an accurate half, McCollin moved to the bench as Kiana Pelasio made her way on in goal attack adding a different element for the Magic defence to think about. Although Souness had all the momentum in the opening half youngster Kate Heffernan upped the ante in the third with her quick footwork and insistent pressure around circle edge as the Steel clung onto a narrow lead.

Looking to rekindle their early form McPhee made her way back onto the court while Latu-Meafou maintained her role out at goal attack. Both sides struggled for continuity in the opening stages of the quarter with ball flying left right and centre and missed shots aplenty. With a win on the line the Magic kicked it up a gear fighting hard for every loose ball and confusing the space to create turnovers with captain Winders leading the way and desperation. With a wealth of opportunities coming their way it was inaccuracy that plagued the Magic but that did not stop them as they pushed on to draw level once more. Going goal for goal in the final two minutes a hero was needed and Souness proved to the one with the Magic wing attack taking a huge intercept on the transverse line and Latu-Meafou delivering the match winning goal.

The goal circle combination of McCollin and Halpenny was accurate as ever with McCollin nailing 20 goals from 22 attempts and Halpenny doing just as much damage with 15 goals. Youngster Williams had a commanding influence despite playing out of position in goal attack with 14 goals for the night while McPhee was strong under the post converting 14 goals from 16 attempts. The introduction of Latu-Meafou was influential with the goal attack hitting the winning shot. Souness was a ball magnet with 19 goal assists while the efforts of Crampton for the Steel were unmatched with the wing attack amassing 13 goal assists.

>>> MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

WBOP MAGIC 13 | 8 | 7 | 9 (37)
SOUTHERN STEEL 9 | 11 | 12 | 4 (36)

STARTING SEVEN

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:

GS: Kelsey McPhee
GA: Khiarna Williams
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Sam Winders
WD: Holly Fowler
GD: Erena Mikaere
GK: Georgia Tong

Southern Steel:

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

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 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.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Head to head: Round 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 ANZ Premiership – Five talking points: Round 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANZ Premiership – Round 7: Steel stun Mystics to jump off the bottom of the ladder

IN their sole game of the round, the Southern Steel stunned the Northern Mystics in a complete four quarter performance, downing them by six goals (47-41). The Steel came out with a real fire in the belly, connecting well across the court and applying a wealth of pressure both in attack and defence to force the Mystics into uncharacteristic errors. It was an unusual outing for the Mystics, unable to sync up in attack while defensively they struggled to generate their normal intensity and ball winning ways with the Steel capitalising on each opportunity that came their way.

The first quarter was played with great intensity as the Steel looked to punish early and repeatedly hit the scoreboard to worry the Mystics out of the contest. Although not the most accurate start to the game, Kalifa McCollin showcased her impressive goal nous and skill inside the goal circle to create a constant option under the post and use her speed to expose Sulu Fitzpatrick, despite the goal keeper getting her hands to a wealth of ball. Goal attack, Kiana Pelasio imposed herself on the contest for the Steel with the youngster using her agility and netball smarts to keep the circle moving. It was a different tale for the Mystics in the goal circle with both Grace Nweke and Saviour Tui going at 100 per cent accuracy but simply struggling from a lack of supply.

Holding a narrow lead, the Steel came out with a wealth of confidence with McCollin taking everything in her stride and owning the goal circle with her innate timing along the baseline. But the Mystics were not about to lie down with the defensive unit winning ball back but unable to capitalise with a held ball call going against them in the centre third gifting the Steel with another opportunity to push forward. Phoenix Karaka stood up to the challenge with an intercept of her own as the ball ping-ponged up and down the court with neither side able to maintain any form of momentum.

With the pressure mounting the Mystics kicked it up a gear working hard both in attack and defence to even the scores with Nweke doing the damage at the post with consecutive goals. However the Steel were desperate to make an impact and cause an upset pushing back midway through the term, going on a mini four-goal scoring spree to establish a solid lead. The influence of Gina Crampton through the attacking third was profound with the wing attack carving up the Mystics defence and using her quick hands to deliver bullet-like passes into McCollin. Struggling to find rhythm in attack, Peta Toeava made her way to the bench with the Mystics wing attack unable to link up with Nweke and inflict her normal amount of attacking pressure. The injection of Emma Iversen seemed to do the trick with the experienced midcourter able to spot the space and deliver, however that was short lived with the Steel making changes of their own in attack with Ellen Halpenny entering the game and providing a calming presence. The pressure from the Steel was next level with the Mystics notching up 14 turnovers for the half and forced to one side of the court with the Steel stifling their ball movement to create a five goal lead.

The half-time break seemed to pay dividends for the Mystics, scoring the first goal of the half and playing with more intensity as the connection between Iversen and Nweke blossomed. But the combination of McCollin and Halpenny was equally as impressive up the other end with the two having a field day, keeping Fitzpatrick and Karaka’s heads on a swivel. The Steel played with confidence and freedom in attack relishing the movement and experience of Halpenny in the goal circle while McCollin got busy out the front with her drive and flair to link up with Shannon Saunders time and time again.

Chugging along nicely in attack the defence took it up a notch with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita impressing with their aerial ability and skill to shut down Nweke at the post and clog up every inch of space to keep her off balance. The wheels slowly started to fall off for the Mystics with the Steel pushing out to a seven goal lead thanks to the party tricks of the Trinidad and Tobago product in the goal circle. As the Steel midcourt continued to cause havoc, Emily Burgess made her way to the bench with Courtney Elliott replacing the Aussie in hope to shut down their drive in attack and win ball back, something they had been struggling to do all game. Unable to generate any form of movement in the goal circle, the introduction of Filda Vui was key with the goal attack providing a spark with her speed and willingness to go to post. Pushing out to as much as six goals the Mystics managed to slice the margin back to four with a quarter to play.

Only minutes away from their third win of the season, the Steel did not leave anything to chance with Fifita and Selby-Rickit hunting every ball that came their way while in attack the goalers made the most of their chances at the post. Vui landed the first blow hitting the scoreboard early and injecting some excitement and speed in the goal circle. But the Steel stayed strong, not willing to give up their lead despite the Mystics making some wholesale changes in the dying minutes. Fans waited with bated breath as McCollin left the court with a suspected ankle injury but that did not stop the flow in attack for the Steel as Halpenny controlled the goal circle and showcased her experience to take the game by the scruff of the neck and romp home their third win to move off the bottom of the ladder.

Nweke was on fire throughout the game with her strong holds and accuracy to post on full display, sinking 32 goals from 33 attempts at 97 per cent. Tui struggled to trouble the scoreboard with five goals while Vui’s cameo appearance did not go unnoticed with four goals from six attempts. Once again McCollin was the star for the Steel with 23 goals while Halpenny showcased her class under the post with 15 goals from 20 attempts. Defensively Fitzpatrick impressed with eight gains (one intercept, six deflections and three rebounds) while Selby-Rickit led from the back with five gains, two intercepts and three deflections.

>>> STEEL PAGE

>>> MYSTICS PAGE

>>> FULL STATS

SOUTHERN STEEL 13 | 10 | 13 | 11 (47)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 11 | 8 | 13 | 9 (41)

STARTING SEVEN

Southern Steel:

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

Northern Mystics:

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

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.

2020 ANZ Premiership: Round 6 – Player of the week

EACH week Draft Central will analyse player performances from across the round in the ANZ Premiership and determine a “Player of the Week” based on gameday performances. A player can be nominated as many times as deemed necessary given their individual performance across the round.

Playing two high intensity games for the round, Mainland Tactix captain Jane Watson showed no sign of fatigue with the goal defence putting on a clinic in defence and taking out “Player of the Week” honours for Round 6. Watson read the play with ease, creating chaos down back with her hands over pressure and silky movement to pick off passes. She was constantly on the lookout for an intercept or a deflection while her work rate was another glaringly obvious element of her game, able to cover the court with ease and contest every single pass.

Up against some tough opposition in Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Watson was composed and most importantly clean throughout the four quarters. Her ability to stay away from the body of Ekenasio and only collect five penalties throughout the game was hugely impressive and a clear testament of her class. Watson was a constant thorn in Ekenasio’s side, shadowing her every movement and forcing her to work for every pass. Ekenasio was down on her usual output and accuracy with 13 goals from 16 attempts with the influence of Watson unquestionable. Watson also displayed her smarts to double down on Aliyah Dunn and limit her influence under the post while she also put in the hard yards against the fresh legs of Tiana Metuarau to make it hard for the Pulse goalers. Watson collected three gains, one intercept and six deflections for her efforts.

Her connection with Temalisi Fakahokotau is simply unstoppable with the two oozing nothing but athleticism and class. Their defensive prowess and understanding is next level able to read the play off each other and get into damaging positions whether it be in the circle or in the defensive circle. Watson’s combination with wing defence Charlotte Elley is also strong with the two able to transition the ball down court with ease. Centre, Kimiora Poi also feeds off the defensive energy of Watson as shown throughout the game on Monday night with the nippy centre thriving off Watson’s energy.

Strong in defence, Watson is integral through the centre third able to bring the ball down with conviction and precision while her back-up work on the transverse line is also imperative to the Tactix attack. Her leadership on court often sparked the Tactix into action with Watson throwing herself at every cross court ball in hope to create an opportunity for her side capitalise on the turnover ball. Although they fell agonisingly short against the top of the table Pulse, her intensity did not fade in the second game, instead kicking it up a notch to blow the Steel’s attack out of the water.

Her strong hands enabled her to reel in passes and force turnovers while her deceptively long arms have proven a challenge time and time again for her opposition. Spending majority of her time out in goal defence, Watson slotted into goal keeper in the second and third quarter of the clash against the Southern Steel and proved to be a menace. Her seamless transition between the two positions is a testament to her high netball IQ and adaptability. She nullified the influence of Kiana Pelasio with the young goal attack not registering a score credit to her lean over the shot and skill to box her out of the circle. Opposed to the likes of experienced Ellen Halpenny and Kalifa McCollin Watson did not let up, applying a wealth of pressure to collect an impressive six gains, two intercepts, four deflections, one rebound and five pickups.