IT was an unprecedented season as the ANZ Premiership came to a halt after Round 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but later returned in June to round out the remainder of the season, bar Round 10. The season saw plenty of intriguing battles as teams plied their trade across the court in hope to work their way up the ladder. Draft Central takes a look back at the season that was, as the Mainland Tactix made it to their first grand final in history.
Ladder position: 2nd
Captain: Jane Watson
Overall season review:
It was a history-making season for the Mainland Tactix and while they did not get the chocolates on the day the showed plenty of fight and class throughout the season. it took a couple of rounds for the Tactix to really get going but once their connections fell into place across the court they proved to be a dominate side filled with plenty of match winners. In her first season with the club Te Paea Selby-Rickit made an immediate impact with the goal attack acting as a crucial link into Ellie Bird under the post. Selby-Rickit was a real playmaker out the front while Bird steadily grew with confidence throughout the season and was an integral player in getting the Tactix to the grand final. The speed through the midcourt was another standout for the Tactix as Kimiora Poi elevated her game to another level thanks to her drive through the centre third and defensive attributes to pick up ball. Returning from injury, Erikana Pedersen was a force to be reckoned with in at wing attack using her drive to the top of the goal circle and improving on her connection with Selby-Rickit and Bird while Samon Nathan proved to be a handy rotation through the centre third. Given the amount of star power in defence, Charlotte Elley often flew under the radar but the young wing defence was highly influential for the Tactix, able to nullify the influence of her opponent and continuously win ball back for her side thanks to her three foot marking. Although they fell short in the big dance the Tactix proved they have all the ingredients to mix it with the best.
Captain Jane Watson had a phenomenal 2020 season, so much so she won the Player of the Year award after leading her side to their inaugural grand final. The way in which Watson attacked the ball was second to none, often driving that defensive unit and most importantly did it cleanly to remain in play. Her lean over the shot caused plenty of headaches for opposition shooters while her skill to transition the ball down court was another key element of her game play, proving she was not afraid to take the game on, even in the unfamilar position of goal defence. Her fancy footwork enabled her to manoeuvre around the body of opposition goalers and force timely tips and turnovers to give her side a chance to score.
While many knew what Temalisi Fakahokotau was capable of, it is fair to say there were some questions surrounding her ability to have an impact for four quarters coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, but the goal keeper well and truly answered the call. She fit seamlessly back into the defensive mix for the Tactix, able to consistently re-gather possession for her side credit to her read of the play and aerial ability. Fakahokotau was a wall in defence, contesting each and every pass and pushing her opponent high to force them out of their comfort zone. Her connection with Watson left many in awe with the duo able to swat away passes and seamlessly rotate within the circle making it incredibly difficult for teams to penetrate the defence.