Tag: jane watson

2020 ANZ Premiership- Young gun focus: Round 5

WITH a host of young talent littered throughout the ANZ Premiership competition Draft Central takes a look at one key player each week. The player in focus for Round 5 is Grace Nweke, with the Northern Mystics goal shooter stunning last round with her accuracy to post.

Age: 18
Height: 193cm
Position: GS

Nweke is arguably one of the most damaging shooters in the league with her explosiveness and strength to take on two defenders and win. It is almost impossible to stop the 193cm goaler who is technically in her first official year with the Mystics despite joining the ranks as a replacement player last year. Nweke is composed with ball in hand and is not afraid to command the ball time and time again. She lets her accuracy do all the talking leaving many netball fans in awe given she is still such a raw prospect.

Up against a high calibre defensive unit in Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson in Round 4, Nweke rose to the challenge and came out on top, guiding her side to a hard fought victory. Her ability to withstand the constant physical attention and niggle under the post is a clear testament to her netball skill and calm on court nature. The 18-year-old slotted a whopping 38 goals from 40 attempts at 95 per cent and will have to back up those heroics once again this week, faced with the same task of the Tactix defenders who will be keen to get one back on the young goaler.

Still so early in her career, Nweke is already making a name for herself, able to exploit her opponents in the air thanks to her impressive leap and balance to reel the ball in. Her long arms and fancy footwork especially along the baseline allows her to ensure she is a constant threat for the Mystics and is hardly ever out positioned or out muscled. Nweke reads the play exceptionally well and is strong on the rebound, gobbling up two offensive rebounds last round against some of the strongest competitors in Watson and Fakahohotau.

Nweke is the prime shooter for the Mystics, putting up high numbers week in and week out but that does not seem to faze her, absorbing the pressure and growing as the game goes on. Her strength and dominance under the post allows the likes of fellow youngsters Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes to work their way into the game and play their own style. Tui and Grapes often play more of a feeding role, passing into Nweke under the post and creating space out the front to draw the defender as shown in last week’s outing against the Tactix rather than looking to post themselves. Although more of a holding shooter, Nweke has shown that she can glide around the circle and play the ball around to open up the angles and find an easy avenue to goal.

Her calming presence in the goal circle works wonders for the Mystics but it is her connection with wing attack Peta Toeava that causes all sorts of headaches for opposition teams. Toeava’s turn and release into Nweke is impossible to stop with the speedy wing attack able to break free and deliver a pinpoint pass into the towering goaler. Their connection is incredibly strong with the duo able to read space and catch the defenders off guard, something they will be hoping to replicate this round to notch up their fifth win.

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 5

ROUND 5 of the ANZ Premiership sees five matches over the course of the weekend with the Magic, Stars and Tactix all taking the court twice. There are a couple of identical clashes from Round 4 with some teams hoping history does not repeat itself. The Pulse will be eager to maintain their unblemished start to 2020 while the Magic will be wanting to go one step better than last round and collect their second win to climb up the ladder.

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Friday, 10 July

A fourth quarter demolition gifted Central Pulse the win over the Steel last round, however the Steel will take plenty of confidence out of their last outing, going toe-to-toe with their opponents for three quarters. Shooting at 100 per cent for the match, the Pulse goalers were on song sinking them from everywhere – something the Steel will really have to double down on this round if they are any chance to knock the Pulse off their perch.

It is fair to say that the battle in the goal circle was won by Ameliaranne Ekenasio with the star goal attack taking ownership and dominating with 25 goals from 25 attempts. Last round, Steel defenders Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita gave all their attention to Aliyah Dunn under the post and while the towering goal shooter was down on her usual volume sitting at 21 goals at 100 per cent, it allowed for Ekenasio to dictate the terms out the front. Fifita and Selby-Rickit are both strong prospects in the defensive circle with their physicality, hands over pressure and quick footwork but Abby Erwood should not be forgotten about and could be another option to come on for the Steel and upset the Pulse attacking duo with her tagging style of play. Heading into their second clash in less than seven days the Steel will be keen to rectify those issues in defence and shut down Ekenasio more effectively if they are to come out on top. While the combination between Ekenasio and Dunn is commanding to say the least youngster Tiana Metuarau is also proving to be a handful for the opposition whether it be in goal attack or wing attach with her silky movement, precise ball placement and netball nous.

Defensively the Pulse are stacked with Kelly Jury having the time of her life down back. The goal keeper has starred in recent weeks with her hunt for the ball, long arms and skill to contest the aerial ball. She really shut down Jennifer O’Connell in Round 4 with the goal shooter only managing 27 goals from 32 attempts at 84 per cent and denied any easy access into the goal circle. The influence of Katrina Rore and Karin Burger is also a key aspect to the Pulse defence with Rore putting in a wealth of work out the front to shut down the goal attack entering the goal circle and Burger nullifying the wing attack with her with arms over pressure and commanding height. Goal attack Kalifa McCollin will have to get busy for the Steel if she is to occupy Rore while Gina Crampton had Burger’s number for the majority of their last encounter using her speed and strength to tussle for prime position around circle edge.

It could be a case of history repeating itself with the Pulse in ripping form with their impressive ball movement, strong connections and ability to withstand the waves of pressure.

Southern Steel v. Northern Stars
Saturday, 11 July

In their second game of the round the Steel will be hoping to keep the winning streak against the Stars alive, getting the wood over them earlier in the season, albeit by just two goals. Both teams are evenly poised and match-up similarly headlined by a tall holding goal shooter and experienced midcourt.

The contest between the Northern Stars captain, Grace Kara and youngster Kate Heffernan will draw plenty of attention. Kara is a real lynchpin for the Stars in attack, providing that link into the goal circle with her effortless and perfectly weighted passes. She also does a wealth of work at the centre pass to ease the pressure on her shooters, meaning it will up to Heffernan to get in her head and stop her. Although still developing her craft, Heffernan is quick on her feet and can apply strong hands over pressure to block Kara’s vision into the circle. Another option in wing defence for the Stars is Kendall Corkery with the midcourter renowned for her niggly, physical style which can get under the skin of opponents. Expect veteran, Shannon Saunders to lead the midcourt cohort for the Steel especially up against 22-year-old Mila Reuelu-Buchanan. Saunders can run all day in centre and use her smarts to outwit Reuelu-Buchanan who is still honing her craft.

If the Stars are to register another win for the season, Maia Wilson will have to be on her game from the opening whistle. The goal shooter is a commanding presence under the post and has increased her range throughout 2020, looking more comfortable from further out. Her high volume of shots however puts a target on her back with the likes of Fifita, Selby-Rickit and Erwood likely to work in overdrive to smother her, meaning it will be up to Jamie Hume to take the load off Wilson. Hume will be hoping to put out a consistent four quarter performance against the Steel to really assert herself on the competition and take the heat off Wilson under the post, with her cleverly timed drives, long range shooting and play making abilities.

If the Steel can shut down the likes of Kara and Reuelu-Buchanan around circle edge and limit their chance to feed into Wilson it will put them in good stead to collect another win.

Northern Stars v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, 12 July

After playing out the first draw in ANZ Premiership history the Stars will be eager to put that to bed and claim the “W”. The Magic came from seven goals behind last round to finish strongly and clench a draw and will be keen to go one better this round.

The Stars will be hoping to make amends for their fourth quarter slump and run out a consistent performance this round with the defensive duo renowned for their balling winning abilities. One of the more experienced defenders in the group, Storm Purvis can change the course of a game in an instance with her leap and deceptive speed to dart around the court and force turnovers. Teammate Kate Burley has blossomed into a commanding prospect in the goal circle with her tenacity, often throwing herself at every contest and creating doubt in the feeders minds while Oceane Maihi is able to inject plenty of height and aerial presence, something the Stars might need in order to contend with Kelsey McPhee at the post. The goal shooter can suffer from the yips at times under the post, but when she is on song she is hard to stop credit to her strong hands, quick footwork and clever body positioning. The influence of Abigail Latu-Meafou will be crucial if the Magic are to replicate their Round 4 performance or notch up a win with the goal attack showcasing her accuracy to post, smooth movement and skill to slot them from range. A cameo appearance from youngster Khiarna Williams could also work wonders for the Magic in order to offset the Stars defence.

Through the midcourt the Stars boast some exciting players with Fa’amu Ioane one of the most electric wing defences in the competition, with her speed off the mark and quick hands. Her presence around circle edge and in the defensive third allows her to gobble up turnover ball and spring into transition. The versatility of Lisa Mather is another key for the Stars able to swing from wing defence into centre when needed. For the Magic, Whitney Souness is a real powerhouse able to deliver the ball with great pace and precision to catch defenders off guard while Ariana Cable-Dixon is reliable through centre.

This game could once again go down to the wire but expect the Stars to have learnt from their mistakes last round and impose themselves for a full four quarters.

Mainland Tactix v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 12 July

Playing only nine days earlier both sides would have taken plenty out of their match-up when it comes to one-on-ones and overall team strategy. A quick start from the Tactix gave them the early ascendancy before the Mystics rallied and wrestled back the momentum to win the next three quarters. With this in mind expect the Tactix to come out with a real fire in the belly and increased intensity.

Shooting prodigy Grace Nweke is relishing every single minute of court time with the 18-year-old dominating in all facets such as volume and accuracy. She is simply unstoppable under the post using her 193cm frame to ward off defenders and dictate the space. Her aerial presence is second to none while her balance is equally impressive. Goal attack Saviour Tui is growing with confidence, not afraid to look to the post while Asher Grapes is constantly able to find space and create attacking forays. Up against some stiff opposition in Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson the Mystics goalers will once again have to be on their A-game. Fakahokotau impressed last week with her hunt for the ball, vision and quick footwork while Watson is renowned for her cleanliness and lean over the shot. If both defenders can work in tandem to minimise the influence of Nweke and win ball back it will be a huge bonus for the Tactix.

Wing attack Peta Toeava is the real barometer for the Mystics with her turn of speed and sheer ball placement. Toeava only needs a second to look into the goal circle and deliver a pinpoint pass into Nweke under the post such is her vision, understanding and connection with the goaler. It will be up to Charlotte Elley to limit her influence around circle edge and apply strong hands over pressure given Toeava’s shorter stature. The battle in centre will also be interesting with Tayla Earle and Kimiora Poi donning very similar styles. Earle has been really dominating for the Mystics with her high level of endurance and energetic style of play, helping out both in offence and defence. Poi plays a more defensive role with her strong hands over pressure and three foot marking, allowing her wing attacks to do the heavy lifting in attack.

It will ultimately come down to whether or not the Tactix can generate enough turnover ball and restrict Nweke under the post or if Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka can shut down the Tactix shooting end once more.

Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, 13 July

In the final game of the round, fatigue could be a key element for both sides as they enter their second game. The last time these two sides met it was the Tactix that got the win by nine goals but the Magic have come along in leaps and bounds since Round 3 with their on court connections strengthening.

Boasting an impressive shooting combination in Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird the Tactix will be hoping to take advantage of the tall goaler and apply some real scoreboard pressure. Down on their accuracy last round expect both shooters to come out with a real intensity. It is unlikely for Selby-Rickit to have two quiet games in a row given her class and ability to spark back into action. The goal attack is a key cog in attack with her play making abilities often bringing Bird into the game with her well executed passes. However the tussle in the goal circle will be extremely physical as Magic goal keeper Erena Mikaere is not afraid to contest every ball that comes her way. Mikaere’s aerial presence is impressive and so too is Georgia Tong, with the two able to swat away balls with ease. Holly Fowler is another one to keep an eye out for in the Magic defence unit with her ability to read the play and take a key intercept at any given moment.

With a game saving intercept under her belt, Magic captain and wing defence Sam Winders is a real barometer for her side. she is able to spark the Magic into action with her constant effort around the court to create a tip and then transition into attack. Her ability to seamlessly switch from wing defence to centre is second to none able to shake up the course of a game. Winders will have to be on her game from the opening whistle with Erikana Pedersen and Samon Nathan both clever in their movement and strong around circle edge for the Tactix in attack.

To stay in touch with the top of the pack, the Tactix have to win this clash so expect them to pull out all the stops and assert themselves from the get-go against an inconsistent Magic side.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Five talking points: Round 4

ROUND 4 of the ANZ Premiership was historic with two sides playing out the first draw in competition history, while season high scores were recorded. The Pulse and Magic played two games apiece with fellow teams Southern Steel, Northern Stars, Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix playing just the one. We take a look at the top talking point this round.

Young shooters leave their mark on the competition

It was a display of accurate shooting from youngsters Aliyah Dunn (Central Pulse) and Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics). Faced with a challenging task the two goal shooters showcased not only their accuracy but so too their composure to ride the physicality, stand up under the pressure and score. Their clever holds, aerial capabilities and strong hands did all the talking with the two goalers reeling in plenty of ball. 18-year-old Nweke managed a staggering 38 goals from 40 attempts at 95 per cent along with two rebounds. Dunn was just as impressive slotting 22 goals straight in her first outing and backed up her performance with a commanding 23 goals from 27 attempts at 85 per cent in her three-and-a-bit quarters on Sunday. The future is well and truly bright for both goal shooters given their dominant stature under the post and sheer circle presence.

Pulse record highest score of the season

In their second outing of the round, the Pulse stamped their authority on the competition piling on a season high 51 goals. Led by the towering timber in Dunn under the post, Pulse midcourters Claire Kersten and Maddy Gordon found easy avenue to circle credit to their goalers’ clever holds and body positioning. Dunn managed 23 goals for the game while the influence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio was just as prolific with the highly talented goal attack slotting them from everywhere in the circle finishing with 21 goals from 24 attempts. Her skill and knowledge to seamlessly create space and back herself from around the perimeter made her a tough opponent for the Magic to match-up on, ultimately allowing the Pulse shooters free reign inside the circle. The introduction of Tiana Metaurau did not go unnoticed, converting seven goals however at a lower accuracy than she would have liked.

Double team defence was the flavour of the round

With a wealth of tall shooters to contend with most teams opted to double team the goal shooter across Round 4 with Mainland Tactix, Southern Steel and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic the main culprits. Up against Nweke in the goal circle the combination of Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau attempted to double team the young shooter, smothering her every movement and encroaching on her space. However the Mystics shooter proved too strong with her centre court teammates delivering the ball to her on a silver platter. The Steel adopted the same approach, with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita doubling down on Dunn at the post, using their physicality, constant movement and long arms to deny any easy entrance into the goal circle. However with their attention solely focused on Dunn it allowed Ekenasio to roam freely out the front and in the circle where she punished them on the scoreboard. The Magic defensive unit in Erena Mikaere, Georgia Tong and Holly Fowler all focused their attention on Maia Wilson under the post, forcing Jamie Hume to shoulder more of the load.

First draw in ANZ Premiership history

After a disappointing outing on Sunday the Magic came out with an undeniable fire in the belly in the final game of the round. Despite being down by seven goals at the final change the Magic mustered up a miracle thanks to captain, Sam Winders coming through for a huge intercept and screaming down court to get back on level pegging. Although her side did not win, the all-round effort of the Magic to get back within striking distance of the Stars will give them plenty of confidence. Now in its fourth season, the draw was a momentous occasion given it was the first in competition history.

Penalty discrepancies

The Mystics put on a masterclass in defence headlined by Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka with the two working in tandem to win ball back and most importantly do it cleanly. Renowned for their physical nature their skill to come off the body and cherry pick passes was evident throughout the game and was reflected through the penalty count. Karaka racked up a team high of nine penalties, seven of which were contact and two obstruction while Fitzpatrick starred with a mere five penalties, two contact and three obstruction. It was a clean performance across the board for the Mystics only recording 28 for the entire game. On the other end of the scale, the Magic amassed a whopping 66 penalties with most of them stemming from Mikaere and Fowler. The two defenders combined for 26 penalties with 18 coming as contacts, while Winders racked up nine and goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou recorded seven penalties. Their inability to stay away from the whistle cost them at times throughout the game, giving away plenty of ball and crucial opportunities to hit the scoreboard.

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Mystics bounce back for stellar come-from-behind win

IT was a quality game from the get-go with highly touted matchups across the court when the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix went head-to-head on Friday night. Coming off their first loss last round, the Mystics were hoping to bounce back well and so they did, winning 47-42 in a tightly contested match.

The Tactix were not to be discouraged by the Mystics’ form, and with the first centre pass in hand the side proved solid from the get-go. It was a tantalising and unpredictable affair, with the two sides unable to be split for much of the match. While the Tactix has the early ascendancy scoring four of the first five goals, it did not take long for the Mystics to even up the ledger once more, clogging up space in the Tactix attack again and again, and keeping the ball out of Ellie Bird’s hands. Tactix goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit impressed early with her ability to apply scoreboard pressure from anywhere in the circle, using her threatening footwork to find plenty of space.

It was a frantic first quarter, and neither side was really able to find that momentum, But the Tactix would not let the Mystics’ form faze them, leading 14-11 at the first change credit to stellar defensive work from Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson. The height mismatch between Fakahokotau and Grace Nweke was evident immediately, with the circle pair going head to head and both finding patches of strength for an even contest. While she did not put up a wealth of shots, speedy goal attack Asher Grapes provided a quality feeding option in and around the circle, forming a crucial cog in the Mystics’ slow start, though her unwillingness to go to post saw Nweke under a lot of pressure.

The second quarter started with a bang, with a couple of changes to the Mystics lineup and Fakahokotau getting up and about early with another couple of great saves to keep the Tactix a step ahead. Saviour Tui joined the fray and in doing that took some of the pressure off Nweke, with the tall timber applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure but well and truly being double teamed by the Tactix defence. Up the other end, Erikana Pedersen was having a field day out the front in wing attack, though Selby-Rickit had a slower patch meaning Bird had to step up if the side was to maintain control.

With both sides taking plenty of risks, Tactix were taking better advantage of their opportunities, with the likes of Fakahokotau and Watson doing wonders in defence, though Nweke’s clean hands continued to pay dividends. But while Peta Toeava had a slow first quarter, her vision to Nweke at the post was second to none and even when Charlotte Elley continued to block her vision and path to the ball, Toeava’s work rate allowed the Mystics to draw even to 24-apiece at half time.

A great start to the third from the Mystics saw the side take their first consistent lead of the match, scoring the first three goals of the term to stake a claim on the match, after trailing for most of the first half. Toeava really brought the flair in the third, switching on to be a constant threat and using her speedy hands to propel constant ball to Nweke – who was still at 100% accuracy until midway through the third. Fakahokotau worked her way back into the game to even the ledger before a speedy finish saw Mystics take a late 35-33 lead to end the quarter.

A long bomb from Selby-Rickit started the final term, with the Tactix hoping it was a sign of another strong quarter given the first started the same way. But the Tactix’ patience in attack could not compete with the Mystics’ hunt, with the defensive unit of Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick picking off any loose ball they could muster up. Improved speed and connection through the midcourt paid dividends for the Mystics, and while the Tactix were still fighting for every chance at the ball, it seemed like the Mystics were pulling away and rattling the usually composed Tactix outfit.

With the game hanging in the balance, it was the Mystics’ consistency that got the job done, making good use of turnover ball and, while relying on Nweke’s hands, also worked Tui into the fray, though the young attacker was forced off the court with less than two minutes for the blood rule – before returning less than a minute later with plenty of confusion ensuing. While the Tactix had provided a constant threat down court, their inconsistency failed them and with a final score of 47-42, the Mystics came away with one of their better wins for the season.

In a game of high powered matchups, an interesting one was that between Tayla Earle (14 assists, one intercept) and Kimiora Poi (11 goal assists), with the young defensive-minded centres almost canceling each other out. Toeava was impressive as ever, racking up 25 goal assists and taking the lead out the front, serving the ball on a silver platter to Nweke (38 goals at 95 per cent accuracy) and Tui who finished with a solid eight goals from 12 attempts. Pedersen led the way in the Tactix camp, heading up assists with 18 from 32 feeds and a gain, while Bird and Selby-Rickit shared the load to combine for 79 per cent accuracy (26 and 16 goals respectively). In defence, both Fakahokotau and Fitzpatrick finished with five gains, though Fitzpatrick was far cleaner in her pursuit with just five penalties to her name and awarded the player of the match award for her efforts. Karaka (four gains) and Watson (two gains) were similarly impressive.

Neither side plays again this weekend, but will have another go of it next round when they go head-to-head once more next Sunday evening.

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

NORTHERN MYSTICS 11 | 13 | 11 | 12 (47)
MAINLAND TACTIX 14 | 10 | 9 | 9 (42)

STARTING SEVEN:

MYSTICS:

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

TACTIX:

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

2020 ANZ Premiership Preview: Round 4

WITH three teams sitting on one win apiece expect Round 4 of the ANZ Premiership to bring plenty of excitement and cause a major shake-up to the ladder. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Central Pulse both play two games in Round 4 with the latter hoping to keep their undefeated record intact. 

Northern Mystics v. Mainland Tactix
Friday, 3 July

Sitting at two and three respectively on the ladder the clash between the Mystics and Tactix will generate a wealth of excitement. With star power across the court and strong defensive units it will come down to who can deliver under the post on Friday and get their side over the line in what will be a defensive slog. 

There is no denying that the Tactix pose one of the strongest defensive line-ups with Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau running rampant down back. Watson is incredibly damaging in the goal circle with her ability to cleanly manoeuvre around the body of her opponent, hunt for the ball and skill through transition while her partner in crime oozes tenacity and aerial strength. However the duo will have their work cut out for them up against power house goal shooter Grace Nweke. The 18-year-old burst onto the scene last year and has not only grown in confidence but so too firepower, able to reel the ball in time and time again, using her strength and footwork to constantly command the ball. It will be up to fellow Mystics goalers Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes to detract from Nweke under the post and draw either Watson or Fakahokotau to allow the goal shooter to engage in one on one battles in which she is almost impossible to beat. Although Watson and Fakahokotau are formidable in the defensive circle it will be pivotal for the likes of Charlotte Elley to stand up and quell the influence of Peta Toeava in wing attack if they are to reduce the speed and accuracy in which the ball enters the circle for the Mystics. 

Still ironing out their connections in the goal circle Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit seemed to find their rhythm last week and will be eager to replicate that again this round. Selby-Rickit is a real playmaker in the attacking third for the Tactic able to set up a plethora of plays and create space with her pin point passes and ability to glide into space. Her long range shooting allows Bird to do damage under the post and hold strong. Both down on their usual accuracy in their previous outing they will have to sink them against the Mystics given how strong both Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick are when it comes to rebounds. The Mystics pair are extremely tight, constantly applying physical pressure and using their long lean to get in the head of their opponents. Karaka and Fitzpatrick are renowned for their ability to hunt ball and stop any attacking forays meaning the Tactix will have to be on their a-game if they are to get past the Mystics defensive unit.

With Toeava a key through the midcourt for the Mystics, the output of Kimiora Poi and Erikana Pedersen will play a big part in whether or not the Tactix can get over the line and potentially progress up the ladder. 

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 4 July

Looking for their fourth straight win the reigning champs will be eager to stamp their authority against the struggling Steel who only managed their first win last week. It will be no easy feat however, as the Steel will be riding a wave of momentum and seeming to find their rhythm across the court. 

Headlined by a couple of Silver Ferns the midcourt is a real engine room for the Steel but the Pulse also boast a couple of handy players through the centre third. The combination of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton is ultra impressive with the two able to seamlessly link up across the court and deliver bullet passes into the likes of Jennifer O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin. Crampton is explosive in the attacking third, able to hit circle edge with ease and precision but will be challenged every step of the way by Karin Burger. Not your typical wing defence, the Pulse midcourter oozes defensive pressure and height, standing at 184cm, a full 10cm taller than her opponent. Her hands over pressure and clever three foot marking is what makes her such a commanding presence able to block Crampton’s vision into the circle. Meanwhile the battle between Saunders and Claire Kersten will also generate plenty of intrigue with the two able to run all day and almost cancel each other out. Having both represented the Ferns the two centres know what it takes to stand up on the big stage and deliver both in attack and defence.

Coming off a strong performance last round O’Connell will be keen to emulate her hot form, with her strong holds, clever circle positioning and increased accuracy. Despite spending some time on the bench last week McCollin was a real playmaker in the attacking third, using her speed and flair to keep defenders on their toes. Without Georgia Heffernan in the mix due to a suspected knee injury, the Steel will have to be on their A-game if they are to combat the extreme defensive pressure of the Pulse given they boast so much experience and skill. Kelly Jury is no easy beat under the post imposing her 192cm frame on opposition attack units with her lean over the shot, long limbs and strength. Partner in crime Katrina Rore is another key element for the Pulse with her ball winning ability, transition through court and sheer netball smarts. 

With both sides coming in with momentum it will come down to whether or not the Steel can deliver under the post and keep the Pulse at bay. 

Central Pulse v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, 5 July

In their second game of the round the Pulse will be hoping to keep their undefeated record and inflict more pain on the Magic. It has been a tricky return to netball for Waikato Bay of plenty unable to register a win since Round 1 but will be hoping to exploit any fatigue the Pulse may have in their second outing of the round. 

There is no denying that the Pulse have one of the most dominant attacking units in the competition with the likes of Aliyah Dunn the main culprit under the post. The young goal shooter is a commanding presence, able to score at both a high volume and high accuracy making her incredibly hard to stop. Unfazed by the physical nature of the game Dunn takes everything in her stride and will have to absorb a wealth of physicality from Magic goal keeper Erena Mikaere. Renowned for her long limbs and body on body style of play expect Mikaere to be on the hunt for plenty of ball to stop it from coming into Dunn under the post. The calming presence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio for the Pulse adds another string to their bow in the shooting circle meaning Holly Fowler or Georgia Tong will have to try and disrupt the goal attacks flow with their hands over pressure. Ekenasio often has the ball on a string, able to seamlessly set up clever plays and can shoot from range making her a threat to be reckoned with while the inclusion of Tiana Metuarau is exciting for the Pulse as all three goalers can hold their own in the circle. 

Up against the likes of Magic shooter Kelsey McPhee, the likes of Jury, Elle Temu and Rore will be wanting to win back a lot of ball and shut down the aerial path to goal with her read of the play. Dispute not getting a wealth of court time Temu is an exciting prospect for the Pulse in defence with her strong body on body pressure, ability to rotate through the circle and sheer strength to outmuscle her opponents under the post. McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou have struggled for volume over the past couple of games and will be keen to prove their worth under the post. Latu-Meafou oozes flair and creativity with ball in hand, able to create plays and set up McPhee under the post something she will have to do in order to combat the Pulse. 

Given the amount of star-power across the court for the Pulse, they should get the job done comfortably but do not rule out the Magic who will be hungry for a win given their lacklustre start to the 2020 season. 

Waikato Bay Plenty Magic v. Northern Stars
Monday, 6 July

With the Magic taking the court the night before the Stars will be hoping to capitalise on their opponents and get back in the winners column after an up and down season so far. Sitting at one win apiece heading into the round this game could have a huge impact on both teams ladder position and their chances of potentially making finals. 

Headlined by Maia Wilson in goal shooter the Magic in particular Mikaere, will have to be on song from the get go to limit any easy ball into the towering shooter. Wilson is almost unstoppable from under the post with the goaler able to hold space effortlessly and use her body angles to keep the defenders at arms length. Throw in her ability to score quickly and accurately and the Stars definitely have the upper hand. However, Wilson is renowned for her ability to reel in the high balls much like Mikaere meaning the work from Jamie Hume out the front will be instrumental. If the goal attack can get off the hook early, command the ball and take the attention away from Wilson it will give the Stars a chance to generate some real scoreboard pressure. 

Through the midcourt the battle is just as fierce with a couple of Silver Ferns set to butt heads. In her first season back after giving birth, Grace Kara has not skipped a beat, able to deliver the ball perfectly into Wilson under the post. Kara’s use of speed, clever ball placement and vision is what makes her such a formidable opponent, able to dart in and out of traffic with ease. However she struggles up against niggly styled defenders, cue Magic captain Sam Winders. The talented wing defence is lightning quick, extremely athletic and renowned for her defensive marking, able to keep the attackers away from circle edge largely in part to her high netball nous. After a solid outing last week for the Stars, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan will be hoping to keep that intensity up with the young centre carving up the court. Her speed, ball delivery and skill to read the play is crucial for the Stars while Ariana Cable-Dixon along with Whitney Souness have speed to burn for the Magic in attack. 

With talent through the midcourt it will ultimately come down to whether or not the Magic can nullify the influence of Wilson under the post and if they can it will go a long way in securing their second victory of the season.

2020 ANZ Premiership stats wrap: Round 3

WITH Round 3 of the ANZ Premiership done and dusted, it’s time to take a look at the best stats of the week. Both Northern Mystics and Southern Steel took the court twice, making for some interesting numbers to finish the round.

In a round that seemed a lot more defensively focused than last week, a couple of defenders stood out with Sulu Fitzpatrick leading the way with four intercepts and nine gains in a winning Mystics outfit on Saturday, before adding two more gains to her tally against the Pulse on Monday. Fitzpatrick’s partner in crime Phoenix Karaka had a similar output, pulling off three intercepts in the first match while Emily Burgess combined for three intercepts across the two games. Also impressive was the explosive defensive unit of the Tactix, with the side running out victors thanks to the efforts of Temalisi Fakahokotau (three intercepts, six gains), Jane Watson (two intercepts from five gains) and Charlotte Elley (two intercepts).

Magic’s Holly Fowler racked up five gains and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was also solid with six evenly spread across her two matches, while Taneisha Fifita well and truly led the penalty tally this round with 32 and four gains across the two games.

Down the other end, Maia Wilson led the way in singular games thanks to a phenomenal 37-goal output at 88 per cent accuracy, while Grace Nweke was similarly dominant across her two matches, shooting 63 goals from 73 attempts. Jennifer O’Connell had a much better week, scoring 60 goals at 88 per cent accuracy in her back-to-back matches, while Ellie Bird was solid once more with 33 goals.

For Magic, Kelsey McPhee (21 from 26) and Abigail Latu-Meafou (15 from 21) shared the load while Ameliaranne Ekenasio led the tally for goal attacks, shooting 21 from 24 and spending some time in goal shooter towards the end of the match, while Kalifa McCollin was slightly down on her output and accuracy this week but across her two games still managed 26 goals from her 35 attempts. Te Paea Selby-Rickit was not quite as dominant to post with 12 from 19 but made up for it with her 17 centre pass receives, doing a wealth of work out the front.

Through the midcourt, dual match players in Peta Toeava (39 assists across both games) and Steel’s Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders (33 assists apiece) dominated the stats sheet, while Mila Reuelu Buchanan stepped up to dominate the individual match stats with 20 assists against the Steel. Reuelu Buchanan was closely followed by Claire Kersten (18 assists) and Erikana Pedersen (17 assists) while Whitney Souness put out an impressive well-rounded performance with 17 goal assists and two intercepts.

 

MORE MATCH STATS:

>> Mainland Tactix (45) defeated WBOP Magic (36) 

>> Northern Mystics (46) defeated Southern Steel (42)

>> Northern Stars (47) defeated by Southern Steel (49)

>> Central Pulse (42) defeated Northern Mystics (35)

2020 ANZ Premiership – Five talking points: Round 3

THE ANZ Premiership delivered once again over the weekend with all six teams showcasing their skill and dominance across the court. Round 3 was unfortunately marred with injury while the Pulse continued their merry way and ended the Mystics winning streak on the way. 

Steel claim first win of the season:
In their second game of the round the Southern Steel mustered up a strong performance downing the Northern Stars in a rematch of the elimination final that saw them knocked out of grand final contention in 2019. It was a hot start for the Steel who proved that when firing on all cylinders they are hard to beat and are classy with ball in hand. Jennifer O’Connell was a commanding presence under the post, able to clearly indicate where she wanted the ball and use her footwork to ward off defenders. Through the midcourt the class of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton shone through with the tried and tested duo relying on their strong connection to thread the ball through the defence and deliver the ball on a silver platter to O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin. The shared effort between the two midcourters worked wonders with defenders unable to effectively stop their consistent output around the circle edge. 

Defensive masterclass:
Round 3 was heavily dictated by defence with the Tactix keeping the Magic to 36 goals for the game, Mystics restricting the Steel to 42 goals and Pulse limiting the Mystics to 35. Dominant performances from Tactix duo Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau set tongues wagging with the two putting on a clinic down back with a combined 11 gains, five intercepts, four rebounds and six deflections. Watson elevated her game even further, only registering the one penalty for the match, showcasing her restraint and cleanliness at the contest. For the Mystics the combination of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka worked wonders with the two applying a wealth of pressure to shut down options and pick off passes with 13 gains, seven intercepts, eight deflections and one rebound between them in the clash against the Steel. Although the Pulse defensive unit did not have a stats filling performance it was their perceived pressure and stifling style of play that caused havoc, shutting down their opponents’ every move. Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore managed four gains, three deflections and two rebounds. 

Devastating injury blow to young up and coming goaler:
After settling into the attacking unit, Southern Steel’s Georgia Heffernan was struck down with a knee injury midway through the third quarter against the Northern Stars. Awaiting confirmation to the extent of the injury, Heffernan could be a huge loss for the Steel who were starting to find their rhythm in attack with the young goaler able to come on and have an immediate impact credit to her height and netball nous. In her first season at ANZ level Heffernan was steadily building into her role on court, displaying her accuracy to post and clever movement in the attacking third. 

Magic need to unlock their shooting potential:
Despite challenging both the Mystics and Tactix in the past two rounds the Magic have been unable to do enough on the scoreboard to worry their opponents and collect the win. In Round 2 the Magic managed 40 goals while their Round 3 total was even lower with 36 goals. Although the combination of Abigail Latu-Meafou and Kelsey McPhee is strong they simply cannot generate enough opportunities at goal to put up a commanding score. In the second half against the Tactix, the Magic due only scored 14 goals – seven goals per quarter – while their opponents piled on 14 goals alone in the third term showcasing just how much the Magic’s attack end struggled. While accuracy was not a huge problem with McPhee sitting at 81 per cent and Latu-Meafou at 71 per cent, it was their output that did the damage with McPhee converting 21 goals and Latu-Meafou sinking 15. 

Pulse are still the team to beat:
In a gruelling four quarter battle against the Mystics, the Pulse had the final say, running over the top of their competitors in the last quarter. It was a strong showing from the Mystics but the reigning premiers were simply too good, able to wear their opponents down and capitalise on their opportunities. Clever with ball in hand and strong in defence the Pulse won ball back and propelled the ball back down court to create plenty of attacking forays. Their ability to withstand pressure and rise to the occasion is second to none. Inspired by captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Tiana Metaurau in attack the Pulse looked revitalised and composed giving them that much needed competitive edge while the speed and excitement of Maddy Gordon helped to lift the Pulse. 

2020 ANZ Premiership – Team of the Week: Round 3

ROUND 3 brought plenty of action and close encounters with the Steel notching up their first win of the season and Tactix getting back on the winning board. A strong performance from the Northern Mystics and Central Pulse saw a couple of players catapult into the Team of the Week while the Magic failed to have anyone in the team for the second week in a row. 

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick 

BENCH: Jennifer O’Connell, Claire Kersten, Temalisi Fakahokotau 

Mystics shooting sensation Grace Nweke earned herself the goal shooter position off the back of two impressive performances over Round 3. The young shooter could do no wrong bringing the ball down with ease, holding strong and commanding the ball 24/7. Her accuracy to post and high volume was unstoppable finishing the round with 63 goals from 73 attempts at 86 per cent. Back for her second week, Pulse captain and Silver Ferns star, Ameliaranne Ekenasio takes out the goal attack position with the talented goaler once again controlling the attacking third and dominating. Despite a challenging match-up Ekenasio rose to the occasion on Monday night displaying her high netball IQ to think her way through the pressure and letting her impressive circle movement do all the talking. She only missed three goals for the game sitting at 21 from 24 at 88 per cent. 

The midcourt is filled with young energetic stars that can run all day and every day. Wing attack Peta Toeava was deadly from circle edge for the Mystics supplying plenty of crucial ball into the goalers and making it look easy. Her dynamic change of speed wreaked havoc for opposition sides while Toeava also seemed to have the ball on a string throughout each game racking up 39 goal assists, a testament to her high quality output. Although her side failed to win, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan impressed for the Northern Stars up against some talented opposition. Her gut running, class with ball in hand and pin point precision allowed her to be a threat from anywhere in the attacking third. She registered the highest amount of goal assists and feeds and for her side with 20 from 26 showcasing just how accurate she was with ball in hand. Taking out the wing defence position, is Karin Burger who despite having a slow start to the match steadily built into the game and was a key cog in defence finishing with three gains and three intercepts. 

Coming off the back of a quiet performance, Tactix defender and captain Jane Watson delivered in the Round 3 clash. The goal defence put on a show and put any doubts about her knee complaint to bed with a convincing outing notching up five gains, two intercepts, two deflections and two rebounds while being a commanding force through the midcourt with 14 centre pass receives the second highest of anyone on her team. Watson left many fans in awe with the defender only registering the one penalty for the entire game in what was a stellar performance by the star defender. Joining her in defence is Mystics goal keeper Sulu Fitzpatrick who also put on a masterclass down back with her ball winning ways especially in her opening clash where she amassed nine gains and four intercepts. Fitzpatrick was involved in just about, using her physicality and hands over pressure to get hands to ball and deny any easy avenue to goal.

Unlucky not to make the starting seven, Jennifer O’Connell starred for the Steel across the weekend with her heightened volume and accuracy to post slotting 60 goals from 68 at 88 per cent. Through the midcourt Claire Kersten was dominant once again for the Pulse with 18 goal assists and two deflections while down back Temalisi Fakahokotau took out the final spot after showcasing her tenacity with six gains, three intercepts, four deflections and two rebounds.

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Tactix defence stands up to conquer Magic win

MAINLAND Tactix have temporarily bounced back into third after putting their stomach bug loss to Northern Stars last week behind them to defeat Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic by nine goals last night (45-36). In what was a remarkable defensive performance – the three defenders picked up a combined seven intercepts and four rebounds – the Tactix were able to restrict their opposition to just 36 goals, the equal lowest of the season thus far.

The Tactix were not their regular selves in the Round 2 loss to the Stars, and having played an extra game than the Magic heading into last night’s match, were keen to bounce back with a strong win. It was promising start from the side as Ellie Bird burst out of the blocks with 10 goals from 15 attempts in the opening term, outscoring the Magic side, whilst Te Paea Selby-Rickit played the role of facilitator with four goal assists from five feeds.

Erikana Pedersen had a team-high five goal assists, the same as her opposition wing attack, Whitney Souness. The Magic still managed the nine goals, making the most of their 12 opportunities, but the Tactix attempts were stacking up with a massive 17 in the first term.

The second term was the complete reverse of fortunes for the sides, with Ariana Cable-Dixon taking control of the midcourt alongside Souness as the pair combined for eight goals assists from 14 feeds. Young gun Kimiora Poi was overshadowed in the centre, but Pedersen was doing all she could to feed through to the goalers. Bird put up a more accurate six goals from eight attempts for the quarter, but it was the shared load between Magic goalers Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou that got their side back on top.

The Magic looked like a different team to the first term with just four general play turnovers – half of their total from the first term – and having 11 goal assists to five. The change in play turned the result around with the Magic heading into the break with a three-goal lead. The inconsistency of the midcourt feeding through to the goalers for the Tactix was one noticeable area to still improve on for next match.

Neither team opted to make a change to its starting line-up heading into the third term, and surprisingly, momentum flowed with the Tactix again as Bird found her range and could hardly miss, sinking nine of 10 chances and even setting up a couple of goals for Selby-Rickit. But it was Selby-Rickit who proved to be a huge influence on the term, nailing all five of her chances, and getting more active with six centre pass receives – almost as many as the entire first half – as well as three goal assists. Pedersen continued her terrific form with another five goals assists, while Poi got back on level terms with Cable-Dixon again.

Holly Fowler had been able to restrict Selby-Rickit up to that point from causing too much damage, but with 19 feeds into the circle, it was coming in fast and furious causing headaches for Fowler and Erena Mikaere. Needless to say, the Magic managed just seven goals with Latu-Meafou shooting the four and McPhee the three as Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau were able to get more active on defence thanks to the pressure up the court.

The final term saw the good times rolling on for the Tactix who then picked up where they left off in the third, thanks to a 12-7 term. The Tactix had tried to make a few changes with Cable-Dixon coming off after Poi’s big third term, as captain Sam Winders slid into centre. Fowler moved up to wing defence and Jenna O’Sullivan went on into goal defence. Unfortunately, it did not help with O’Sullivan giving up three penalties and one turnover in seven minutes of action to be replaced by Georgia Tong in the final few minutes.

The Tactix did not need to make a change, and it was easy to see why with Watson continuing her attacking approach, whilst Fakahokotau’s work with reading the ball in flight was impressive. Bird sank another eight goals from 11 attempts, with Selby-Rickit having four from eight and four goal assists. Pedersen and Poi continued their good form aiding the transition down the court, whilst for the Magic, McPhee was a lone hand close to the post with six goals from eight attempts.

Bird ended the match with an impressive 33 goals from 44 attempts, but it was the work of Pedersen (17 goal assists from 34 feeds) and Selby-Rickit (12 from 19 on both goals and assists) who worked actively to keep the ball moving. In defence, Fakahokotau and Watson combined for five intercepts and two rebounds. In true Watson style, she only conceded one penalty for the entire match, while Fakahokotau won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for her work.

For the Magic, it was Souness who was the main source of transition ball with 17 assists from 31 feeds, and getting active off the centre pass with 19 receives. McPhee shot 21 goals from 26 assists, while her partner-in-crime Latu-Meafou sank 15 from 21. Aside from a terrific second quarter, the Magic faded away and it cost them in the end.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> MAGIC TEAM PAGE

MAINLAND TACTIX 11 | 8 | 14 | 12 (45)
WBOP MAGIC 9 | 13 | 7 | 7 (36)

STARTING SEVENS:

TACTIX:

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

MAGIC:

GS: Kelsey McPhee
GA: Abigail Latu-Meafou
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Ariana Cable-Dixon
WD: Sam Winders
GD: Holly Fowler
GK: Erena Mikaere

2020 ANZ Premiership Preview: Round 3

AFTER an action packed return of netball, teams will be eager to prove that it was not a one off with strong showings in Round 3. The Steel and Magic will both play two games this round with the remainder only taking part in the one game. Arguably the game of the round will be between the two unbeaten teams on Monday with Pulse and Mystics set to go to head to head. 

Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Friday, 26 June

Sitting on a win apiece heading into the round both teams will be searching for some consistency and more importantly their second win of the season. The Tactix had an up and down performance last round, struck down by a tummy bug in their second game which well and truly showed while the Magic simply could not generate enough accuracy to post to worry their opposition. 

With a stacked defensive end the Tactix will be hoping to use their physicality and ball winning abilities to stop the Magic from getting close to post. Copping a knock on her knee early in the last game, all eyes will turn to Jane Watson with the captain a real lynchpin for the Tactix as she can take huge game changing intercepts. After a hot start Temalisi Fakahokotau faded out of the game last round but will be wanting to showcase her prowess once again with her intercepting skills, leap and pressure over the shot to ruffle the feathers of Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou. The Magic shooters while they had plenty of opportunities struggled to convert and will have their work cut out for them again this round given the immense pressure Fakahokotau and Watson are renowned for.  

The midcourt battle will be another point of interest given the depth and speed that the Tactix have. Kimiora Poi is lightning quick in at centre, able to dart around the court and facilitate that second phase play for her side while also getting back and applying defensive pressure. Wing attack Samon Nathan and Erikana Pedersen also pose a threat for the Magic with their ability to come on and have an immediate impact with their quick ball movement, strength around circle edge and pin point precision passes into the circle. It will be up to Magic captain Sam Winders to really lead the midcourt with her defensive pressure, skill to clog up space and ability to keep her opposition off circle edge. In attack it will be up to Whitney Souness and Ariana Cable-Dixon to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Latu-Meafou and McPhee. 

It will be a tight battle between both sides but if the Tactix are at full strength they should be able to get the job done given the extra experience they have across the court both in attack and defence. 

Northern Mystics v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 27 June

Yet to register a win this season the Steel will be hoping to unlock something in their match-up against the Mystics and get their first “W” on the board. Meanwhile the Mystics will be hoping to keep their unbeaten record intact and notch up their third victory for the season after another impressive outing in Round 2.

With a developing attacking unit the Steel will have to be on their a-game if they are any chance to topple the Mystics. Kalifa McCollin proved to be a real pocket last round and has speed to boot, zipping around the attacking third and creating plays with her flair. The Trinidad and Tobago recruit is not afraid to go to post backing herself from anywhere in the circle and can adapt her game style to suit her fellow goalers. Youngster Georgia Heffernan is still working on her craft but has the potential to come on and have an impact with her athletic style of play and accuracy. While goal shooter Jennifer O’Connell is renowned for her holding shooter role and ability to score quickly and easily, something she will be hoping to capitalise on up against the likes of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka. The Mystics defenders are a formidable unit that can pick off passes with ease and use their quick footwork to maneuver around the body of their opponents and create timely deflections. Fitzpatrick is a strong driving force down back with her hands over pressure and aerial ability while Karaka is key through the midcourt. 

After starring in Round with her pace, strength and ball delivery Peta Toeava will be one to watch for the Steel. The Mystics wing attack is a key cog using her balance, impressive vision and variety of passes to seamlessly deliver the ball into the goal circle. Toeava is quick on her feet and strong around the circle edge to demand the ball and dish off well-weighted passes. Fellow midcourter and centre Tayla Earle also starred last week and will be hoping to replicate that form with her defensive pressure to force turnovers and pick off intercepts for the Mystics. Her battle with Shannon Saunders will generate plenty of interest given just how damaging Saunders can be with ball in hand. Her experience, speed and vision is second to none while her connection with Gina Crampton is exceptional. The two know each others game inside out making them extremely difficult to combat given their read of the play and space, stamina and general netball nous. 

Vying for their first win of the season, expect the Steel to throw everything they have at the Mystics in hope of securing that elusive victory. However the Mystics have proven that they have the firepower to withstand challenges and can use their defensive pressure to win ball back and create scoring opportunities. 

Northern Stars v. Southern Steel
Sunday, 28 June

In Steel’s second game of the round the element of fatigue could play a huge factor up against a developing Stars unit who will be still riding that winning wave after downing the Tactix in Round 2. It will be the first time these two sides have met since the final last year where the Stars bundled the Steel out of grand final contention, so expect plenty of feeling in this game. With young players on both sides it will be up to the experienced heads to lead the way and forge a way forward for their team to win. 

The tussle in the goal circle for the Stars will be exciting with Maia Wilson a commanding presence under the post as her strong holds and accuracy to post is hard to combat. Wilson is able to read the play with ease and use her feet to move to the ball or create space in the circle. Still developing her partnership with Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto it will be up to Wilson to shoulder a lot of the scoring load but will have her work cut out for her against Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, Taneisha Fifita and Abby Erwood. Fifita is a real livewire down in defence renowned for her spring in her step and skill to cause confusion with her quick footwork while both Selby-Rickit and Erwood ooze consistency.

Coming off a relatively disappointing outing expect O’Connell to come back with a vengeance and assert herself with her scoring ability. O’Connell can hit the scoreboard quickly and easily given her height and clever body positioning to ward off defenders. Partner in crime, McCollin is the playmaker for the Steel in the goal circle using her turn of speed and spatial awareness to full effect. But Stars defenders Storm Purvis and Kate Burley are no easy beats with the two strong in the air and able to swat away their fair share of ball. Burley impressed last round with her smothering style of play and skill to switch into transition with ease while Storm showcased her skillset to seamlessly push out to goal defence. Another prominent threat for the Stars is the inclusion of Oceane Maihi who is a serious competitor in the air given her leap and strong hands. 

Potentially still on the hunt for their first win the Steel will be eager to secure a win but come up against a strong unit, in the Stars who will be raring to go. With key players across the Stars are in the box seat heading into the contest having already notched up a win. 

Central Pulse v. Northern Mystics
Monday, 29 June

In what could be a battle of the two undefeated teams the clash between the Pulse and Mystics will be one of youth and experience. There is no denying that the Pulse are the team to beat, once again announcing themselves as a powerhouse of the competition last round while the Mystics continue to showcase their composure and pressure each time they step out on court. There will be all-star match ups across the court with both teams littered with Silver Ferns stars making for an intriguing contest.

Young talent Grace Nweke has continued to take the competition by storm, letting her goal scoring do all the talking. Hardly ever out positioned, Nweke is a staple hold for the Mystics under the post with her commanding figure, aerial strength, read of the play and sheer dominance, but could meet her match in fellow youngster Kelly Jury. The Pulse goal keeper really hit her straps last round with her quick footwork, long limbs, lean over the shot and skill to get hands to ball. Throw in defensive comrades in Katrina Rore and Karin Burger and the Pulse are incredibly difficult to match-up on given their ability to shut down space, hunt the ball and suffocate attacking forays. While Nweke is the go to girl for the Mystics the likes of Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui will have to up their output if they are to draw away the defence from Nweke and apply some serious scoreboard pressure. 

Moving down into the defensive end for the Mystics and they too have no shortage of fire power with Fitzpatrick and Karaka. Up against her old side, Fitzpatrick will be desperate to have an immediate impact with her hands over pressure, physicality under the post and intercepting ability. Directly opposed to Pulse goal shooter Aliyah Dunn, Fitzpatrick will have to be on her a-game to stop the high ball release into her with Dunn renowned for her height, ability to reel ball in and nifty footwork along the baseline to hold space. Goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio is another huge obstacle for the Mystics defensive unit to conquer with the Silver Ferns goaler in impressive form. Her vision is exceptional, able to see two passes ahead, while her ball placement, turn of speed and strong drives into the circle is second to none. Throw in the fact Ekenasio can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle and is cool, calm and composed with ball in hand and the Pulse are in a commanding position.

With star power across the court and tried and tested combinations the Pulse should reign supreme but the Mystics definitely have the players to cause an upset given their defensive pressure.