NORTHERN Mystics secured their standings atop of the table with a hard-fought win over reigning premiers Central Pulse, 56-54. It was a history-making performance by the Mystics who for the first time in their 14 years made it straight through to the grand final thanks to a topsy turvy win to say the least.
The Mystics raced out to a handy lead in the opening term as their blistering speed exploited the Pulse almost immediately. Grace Nweke was her ever reliable self under the post while Kate Burley starred with her sheer athleticism to get hands to ball straight away. The visitors piled on the first three goals of the game with their defensive pressure all but stifling the Pulse’s attack. Aliyah Dunn landed the first goal of the game for the home side with just a tick over two minutes played. Thing settled down for both sides as the game turned into a goal for goal rhythm. Te Amo Amaru-Tibble had a bit of a shaky start missing her first attempt of the game but Dunn was there to mop up as they remained in touching distance despite the three-goal buffer.
It was incredibly tight inside the circle for the Pulse with both Burley and Sulu Fitzpatrick fighting for every inch of space and making Dunn and Amaru-Tibble work for every pass. Fitzpatrick dazzled with her fancy footwork as the Mystics fired down the court. Bailey Mes was up and about early nailing her first goal of the game with a tick over five minutes played. Whitney Souness showcased her speed and smarts to steal an intercept as the Pulse managed two consecutive goals to reduce the margin to two goals. A couple of missed shots from Dunn handed possession back to the Mystics as the party tricks started to come out between Peta Toeava and Nweke. All of a sudden a two goal margin blew out to a five goal buffer with the Mystics firing on all cylinders. But the Pulse refused to give in nailing three goals in a row eat into the deficit. Maddy Gordon turned herself inside out to win ball back for the Pulse with the wing defence using her speed and timing to full advantage but the Pulse continued to cough up cheap ball as the Mystics piled on the pressure to head into the break up by seven goals.
The Mystics continued to glide down the court with great ease and accuracy to post converting off a turnover instantaneously. Tayla Earle injected herself into the thick of things as the Mystics nailed two goals in under 30 seconds. In attack the Pulse made a change with Ivana Rowland brought on in goal attack and making an impact with her movement. Claire Kersten was working in overdrive around circle edge as Rowland utilised her support to reposition around circle edge. Nweke was having the rub of the green against Kelera Nawai who was struggling to nullify the influence of the young goal shooter as Kelly Jury was rendered ineffective up against Mes who was carving up the court with her movement.
Rowland was being forced to take the shots and do the heavy lifting in attack with the Mystics defenders double-teaming Dunn. That allowed Fa’amu Ioane and Earle to get hands to ball and propel it down the other end of the court within a heartbeat. Gordon was finding both plenty of the ball and the floorboards as she refused to take a backwards step and inspired the Pulse to contest every ball. It got a bit scrappy from both sides midway through the term as bodies flew across the court and missed shots started to come into play. The Mystics once again restored their nine goal buffer proving to have an answer for everything the Pulse threw at them. The Pulse managed to hit their straps in the final minute of the quarter with Kersten coming through for a huge intercept as they pegged margin back.
It was goal for goal to start the third as both sides quickly settled into their rhythm. Nawai inserted herself into the game a bit more getting hands to ball as the Pulse started to generate some real momentum. Claire O’Brien made her way onto the court for Earle and she did not skip a beat. The Mystics went on a three-goal run as the lead ballooned out to 11 goals. The changes came left, right and centre for the Pulse as Amaru-Tibble was re-introduced into the contest, Jury pushed into goal keeper and Paris Lokotui made her way onto the court in goal defence. The alterations slowly started to work for the Pulse as they managed three goals in a row to cut the margin back down to nine goals. Ama Agbeze entered the fray in goal defence for the Mystics as the home side continued to surge.
The Mystics continued to tinker with their line-up as Filda Vui came on to replace Mes, as Pulse came in with a point to prove in the final term as Amaru-Tibble came to life. But the real magic came when Gordon came screaming through for an intercept as the Pulse got back within six goals. The wing defence was throwing herself at absolutely everything that came her way as the tables started to turn. The passes into the Mystics circle started to waver while up the other end the Pulse were going more direct to the post nailing three goals in a row. The lead dwindled down to five goals and then two within a matter of minutes, but the Mystics managed to hold strong and grind out the game to win by two goals.
Dunn finished with 31 goals from 36 attempts at 86 per cent while Amaru-Tibble managed 18 from 26 but really rallied in the final term to keep her side within striking distance. Souness collected 24 goal assists as Gordon recorded three intercepts and two deflections. Nweke was relatively accurate shooting at 85 per cent with her 52 goals from 61 attempts as Toeava seemed to have the ball on a string with her 24 goal assists. Both Fitzpatrick and Burley combined for five gains in the win.