Tag: Jenna O’Sullivan

ANZ Premiership – Round 9: Stars fight back to steal one-goal win over Magic

IN their sole game for the round the contest between the bottom placed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and fourth placed Northern Stars went right down to the wire with the Stars coming back from three goals down at three quarter time to snatch a one-goal win (45-46). Both sides went toe-to-toe but were forced to a halt with two milliseconds left on the court as Holly Fowler went down clutching her knee in a shattering performance for the Magic.

The quarter started with plenty of intensity as Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Northern Stars tried to claim the early ascendancy. Kelsey McPhee landed the first blow for the evening before the Stars applied some scoreboard pressure to push out to a two goal lead. But the Magic were desperate to get back into the contest working in overdrive to shut down the Stars and cover each option driving to the ball to force held balls and errant passes. With five minutes left on the clock, the Magic levelled the scores thanks to their increased pressure and speed of Whitney Souness in wing attack.

As the Magic finding their feet in attack and winning ball back in defence the Stars kicked it up a notch with Maia Wilson injecting herself into the contest and holding the space well to command the ball and deliver to post. Goal attack Jamie Hume showcased her playmaking abilities thanks to her crafty passes into Wilson and ability to drive into space and while she did not worry the scoreboard too much she drew the attention of Erena Mikaere. Georgia Tong plied her trade in goal keeper getting hands to ball but a couple of wayward passes saw the Magic unable to capitalise on their opportunities and allow the Stars to hold onto their three goal lead. The Magic mounted the pressure in the dying seconds of the game scoring back to back goals to reduce the margin to a goal and take some momentum into the second term.

Down by a couple of goals Abigail Latu-Meafou entered the game in goal attack and was composed from the get go. She showcased her confidence and willingness to go to post whether it be from circle edge or under the post and connected with McPhee easily. Stars wing defence Lisa Mather proved her worth down back after a clever intercept and was rewarded with Wilson goaling up the other end to send the Stars on a goal scoring spree. The influence of Latu-Meafou was unquestionable injecting speed into the Magic attack line driving hard into the goal circle to keep Kate Burley and Storm Purvis on their toes.

Up the other end the long arms of Mikaere paid dividends for the Magic as the goal defence picking up a rebound and displaying her speed to transition the ball down the court. However Wilson continued her merry way having a field day under the post and shaking up her game play to get on the move. Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was electric across the court proving to be a real menace in defence picking up a wealth of loose ball and then flying down court to catch the Magic off-guard and isolate Wilson one-on-one against Tong under the post. After getting out to four goals the Magic fought their way back into the contest in the final couple of minutes with the attacking unit finding space aplenty.

Scores were all tied up at 25 goals apiece as the combination of McPhee and Latu-Meafou worked wonders. Three consecutive goals form the Magic gifted the home side the lead, the first time since the opening term but the Stars were not about to lie down with Wilson reliable as ever under the post. A turnover from the Magic enabled the Stars to reclaim further control and push out to a four goal lead. Relatively quiet by her standards in the opening half Grace Kara worked her way into the match credit to her clever positioning around circle edge and impressive timing to release the ball into Wilson on the hold.

The back-up work on the transverse line from the Stars enabled them to re-set the play time and time again to edge themselves closer to the post. Struggling to force turnover ball Mikaere shuffled back to goal keeper while Jenna O’Sullivan joined the fold in hope to upset the attack. The change seemed to pay dividends as the Magic nailing five goals in a row to snatch the lead in what was a seesawing affair. Captain Sam Winders did not leave any stone unturned throwing her body at every single pass to collect deflections and went flying down the court to deliver the ball on a silver platter to McPhee. The momentum completely shifted as the Magic flipped the tables and established a three goal lead.

As the game was on the line, both sides showed a real hunger and intensity, and the Stars made a host of changes through the midcourt. Fa’amu Ioane entered the game in wing defence and made an immediate impact picking up an intercept credit to her nippy footwork and speed as the Stars looked to cut the margin to two goals. The Magic refused to give in working hard across the court to treasure possession and make the most of their opportunities with ball in hand. Ioane oozed confidence as the wing defence letting ball go with ease into the goal circle as the teams went goal for goal after levelling the scores once more. A missed shot from Latu-Meafou saw Hume deliver the final blow and the Stars runout victors  in what was a tight tussle.

Towering goal shooter Wilson once again led the way under the post nailing 37 goals from 41 attempts. Hume also managed to hit the scoreboard with nine goals and a team high 11 goal assists. McPhee had a commanding influence under the post sinking 27 goals at 84 per cent accuracy, while youngster Williams also made a short cameo, shooting three goals at 100 per cent. Latu-Meafou impressed with 15 goals but was costly at times when it came to turnovers. Defensively Mikaere was key with six gains and two rebounds.

>>> MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>> STARS TEAM PAGE 

>>> FULL GAME STATS

WBOP Magic 12 | 13 | 10 | 11 (46)
Northern Stars 11 | 12 | 15 | 7 (45)

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

Northern Stars:

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

ANZ Premiership – Round 5: Stars fight hard for first back-to-back win

WITH a massive match culminating in a draw last week for the first time in ANZ Premiership history, the Northern Stars and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic went head to head once more in Round 5 with the Stars coming away with a come-from-behind two goal win, 45-43.

Coming off a win on Saturday night, the Stars were looking to build off that victory while the Magic hoped to turn the match on its head, with the first centre pass and score for the game giving them the start they needed. But great aerial work from Kate Burley saw an early turnover for the Stars, seeing the side win back an early centre pass to take out the early lead. Jamie Hume and Maia Wilson started well, with the offensive pair rotating and finding plenty of space and access to ball in the circle early. Despite some minor errors to start, the Magic were composed for the most part, turning over valuable ball down the court but not providing the accuracy the side needed to really take control. With both Magic and Stars playing with plenty of intensity, a lot of play centred around the middle third with a wealth of defensive work both on and off the body.

While the Stars still maintained control, the Magic did not allow any easy passes and consistently provided hands over pressure in the attacking third, putting a lot of pressure on the likes of Grace Kara and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan to position well to send the ball into the circle. The speed of Burley saw the Stars continue to hold ground well, with the young defender cherry picking multiple lobs and setting up some solid drives up through the midcourt. Three goals on the trot to the Magic saw the side draw closer to finish the quarter, trailing 13-10 at the first change.

With control heading into the second, the Stars looked to maintain that same intensity, though a couple of early issues and solid confusion of the space by Sam Winders and Holly Fowler to turn over the ball saw the Magic win a couple goals back to limit access to the Stars goal third. Miscommunication seemed to plague both teams leading to frantic passes across the court, the closeness of the contest was palpable. Jenna O’Sullivan joined the fray to take on Kara midway through the quarter, adding another element in wing defence and the added bonus and experience of Winders from wing defence to centre saw the Magic continue to clog up space well, though Wilson provided a much better target at the post able to draw errors from Erena Mikaere with her quick footwork and keep the Magic at arms length. 

Despite some impressive feeds and effort on the circle from Stars’ Kara and Magic’s Whitney Souness, it was a much more defensive quarter, seeing not as many goals scored and turnovers aplenty. Wasted opportunities and missed connections by the Magic did not see them out of the match however, with Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou far more accurate to post and applying some impressive pressure on the turnover to limit the Stars’ opportunities to drive down court. But a lack of continuous attacking movement in the Magic goal circle saw some wasted opportunities to finish the quarter, trailing by five at half time, 23-18.

Ariana Cable-Dixon returned in centre to start the second half, injecting a bit more of that attacking pressure up forward for the Magic and an immediate three goals on the trot proved how crucial the 50-gamer can be. Some better movement and stronger holds in the Magic attack also saw better flow in offence, allowing the side to draw back the margin a fraction, consistently keeping the Stars on their toes. Despite having a tough time limiting Wilson’s impact, Mikaere and Fowler won back some crucial ball to see the Stars really take control early to draw level just five minutes into the quarter. Keeping the Stars on the back foot saw the Magic gain some handy confidence, especially in attack. McPhee’s movement improved tenfold, while Latu-Meafou put a bit more pressure on the scoreboard to draw some of the double team away from McPhee at the post. 

The Stars seemed out of sorts, unable to easily stay ahead with a change in defence critical, with Storm Purvis subbed off for Oceane Maihi who immediately caused a turnover. While Hume started well at the post, the goal attack drifted in and out of the game forcing much of the defensive pressure onto Wilson. Meanwhile, fantastic timing on the deflection from Mikaere saw the Magic take the lead for the first time and the side well and truly took advantage of being on the front foot with the next centre, turning the tables to take a three goal lead into the final quarter, 33-36.

The see-sawing affair saw a massive final quarter, with Burley switched out of goal defence for the experience of Purvis once more, though an early turnover from the Magic saw the side get another strong start to extend their lead by two in the opening minutes. Better vision into Wilson and speed in attack saw the Stars regain some control, with Hume’s speed on the assist to Wilson doing wonders though her lack of confidence to post proved tough for the Stars attack to contend with. Meanwhile, patient play in attack from Magic saw McPhee continue to fire on all cylinders, putting on one of her better performances for the season and finding plenty of purchase in attack with her sticky fingers to reel in the ball. 

Wilson’s work rate continued, with Kara continuing to ply her trade out in front. At the other end, Maihi provided some quality effort in defence to see the Stars draw even once more, with a very similar final quarter to last round starting to ensue with five minutes on the clock. Small errors began to plague the Magic, who had maintained much of the control but could not seem to keep it on in the final quarter with a Wilson goal seeing the Stars take the lead, though a timely couple of deflections from Mikaere and goal from Latu-Meafou kept the Magic a step ahead.

But when the score seemed almost sorted, a massive intercept from Maihi saw the Stars take a one goal lead and an intense last 40 seconds saw the see-saw continue, with the Magic regaining possession with a chance to level for another draw before the Stars stole away for another goal to win 45-43.

Opposition tall timbers Wilson and McPhee starred, shooting at 91 and 88 per cent respectively. Wilson was phenomenal as ever with 39 goals from 43 attempts, while McPhee had less volume but was just as impactful with 29 goals to her name. Latu-Meafou’s workrate saw her rack up 14 goals, while Souness and Cable-Dixon shared the load well with 17 and 13 assists respectively on circle edge. In attack for Stars, Hume only shot at 55 per cent but racked up 19 assists, joining forces with the ever impressive Kara who racked up 15 assists and 31 centre pass receives. Defensively, Burley came up with four gains leading to a player of the match award, while Maihi’s two intercepts in her 16 minutes on court were crucial for the side’s victory. Fowler and Mikaere were impressive with five and four gains apiece and fairly consistent at that, while Winders’ two gains did wonders down the midcourt but were ultimately not enough for a winning score. 

Stars play again on Monday evening, taking on Mainland Tactix, while Magic’s next match will be next round when they play both Central Pulse and Southern Steel.

>>>STARS TEAM PAGE

>>>MAGIC TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

NORTHERN STARS 13 | 10 | 10 | 12 (45)
WBOP MAGIC 10 | 8 | 18 | 7 (43)

STARTING SEVEN

Northern Stars

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

WBOP Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern Steel v. Mainland Tactix
Saturday, 20 June 

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

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

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

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

Northern Stars v. Central Pulse
Sunday, 21 June

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

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

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

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

Northern Stars v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 22 June

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

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

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

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

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 1 – Tactix to host reigning premiers

THE long awaited ANZ Premiership season is set to commence on Sunday with the reigning premiers traveling to Blenheim Stadium in hope to kick their season off in style while the Northern Stars and Southern Steel will play host to their opponents in the opening round of the season.

Mainland Tactix v. Central Pulse
Sunday, 15 March

The opening game of the round will kick off in style with the new and improved Mainland Tactix hoping to assert their dominance from the first centre pass against the reigning premiers. Pulse have remained pretty much the same bar one major change to the list while the Tactix have welcomed the return of a couple of injured players and recruited players to fill glaringly obvious holes in their line-up.

Through the midcourt Kimiora Poi will cause headaches with her dynamic movement, speed and ability to consistently hit circle edge. Poi along with Samon Nathan proved to be a handy duo while the return of Erikana Pederson will give the Tactix another option in the middle third. But all eyes will turn to the defensive circle with the much awaited return of Temalisi Fakahokotau. The exciting goal keeper is renowned for her defensive pressure, physicality and read of the play. Her partnership with Jane Watson is set to be a force to reckoned with, given Watson’s deceptive speed, long reach and cleanliness to stay in play. But they will be up against some a-grade talent in the goal circle with both Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn looking to pick up where they left off. The two goalers are highly impressive under the post, sharing the load and creating space with their clever movement making them a tough task for the new Tactix combination.

Fresh off a premiership expect the Pulse to continue their hot form and make full use of their pre-existing connections down the court and star power. While Sulu Fitzpatrick has departed the club the inclusion of Kelly Jury could spell struggle street for the Tactix’s shooters. Jury is a commanding figure in the circle and standing at 192cm you can see why. Her ability to rebound with ease and disrupt the attacking flow with her lean is second to none, throw in the likes of Karin Burger and Katrina Rore and the Pulse have one of the most formidable defensive units in the competition, able to stifle opposition attack ends with their immense pressure. But in her first official outing as a Tactix’ player expect goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit to take it to the likes of Rore and Burger and have a huge influence. Her calmness, netball nous and experience will pay dividends down in the attack end but most importantly she will be able to share to the shooting load with Ellie Bird to create a two-pronged attack. Bird was a lone hand at times last season and will once again be a key cog in the goal circle with her commanding height, long reach and accuracy to post.

It will be a high intensity game filled with plenty of skill given the calibre of players taking the court for their respective sides but in the end the Pulse should get the win thanks to their strong connections and firepower.

Northern Stars v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 15 March

After falling short in the big dance the Stars will be looking to make amends in the opening round of the season but will have to do so with a very different line-up compared to last season while the Mystics will be hoping to build on their inconsistent form.

Spearheaded by youngster Grace Nweke the future looks bright for the Mystics. She can quite literally turn a game on its head with her athleticism, silky movement and ability to change up her game style according to her sides’ needs. Nweke came along in leaps and bounds last year with her high volume and strong hands making her one to watch for the Stars. With the likes of both Kayla Cullen and Leana de Bruin no longer at the club for varying reasons expect Storm Purvis to lead the charge. Although she is not the flashiest player it is her consistency and nagging style of defence that gives her an edge something she will have to draw upon to upset Nweke. Given the inexperienced defensive unit with Kate Burley and newcomer Daystar Swift, expect the experience and class of Mystics shooter Bailey Mes to play a significant role.

The midcourt battle will be one of youth with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan impressing last season with her drives and clever timing for the Stars while Peta Toeava will be wanting to have a profound impact. With the inclusion of premiership player, Fitzpatrick her influence down back could be a game changer for the Mystics. Her combination with Phoenix Karaka will create plenty of excitement for fans given their attacking mentality making it hard work for Maia Wilson. The Stars goal shooter will more than likely be the main scoring avenue credit to her strong holds, aerial ability and accuracy while Jamie Hume will have to increase her output if the duo are to worry their opposition.

With key new inclusions and a good mix of young up and coming players along with experienced campaigners the Mystics are favourites heading into the clash despite the Stars convincing tail end of the 2019 season.

Southern Steel v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, 16 March

In the final game of the round the Southern Steel and Waikato Bay of Magic face off for their first lot of points. The Steel had a solid season last year finishing second but bundled out in straight sets a feat they will not be hoping to repeat. On the other hand, the Magic found spurts of form but struggled to maintain it to become a real threat throughout the season. But it is a new season and both sides have plenty to play for and despite a couple of personnel changes should make for a hard-fought contest.

With no Te Paea Selby-Rickit the Steel have brought in Trinidad and Tobago goal attack Kalifa McCollin. She is a relatively unknown quantity that will offer a wealth of speed in the attacking third with her precise movement, good vision and most importantly desire to go to post. It may take time for her connection with goal shooter Jennifer O’Connell to develop but if the two can find a way they could be hard to stop. Youngster Georgia Heffernan is also a handy option inside the circle with her height and high netball IQ but is still developing an element Magic defenders in Erena Mikaere, Jenna O’Sullivan and Holly Fowler will be hoping to capitalise. In her first game for her new cub Mikaere will be seeking to shut down the towering goal shooter and impose herself with her intercepting ability.

Although the Magic have a relatively inexperienced shooting end with Abigail Latu-Meafou and Georgia Marshall along with Kelsey McPhee they generate plenty of excitement. Defensively if the likes of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Abby Erwood shut down McPhee it will go a long way in setting Steel up for the win. With stars either end the real battle will unfold through the midcourt with Magic’s Whitney Souness and Sam Winders the key cogs. The two have differing styles but will have to work together to create opportunities for their side. Souness is renowned for her speed, attacking flair and creativity with ball in hand while Winders is more tailored to the defensive style of the game. For the Steel, they have arguably one of the best midcourt duos in the competition with Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders. The two know each others game inside out, able to slot into the space and deliver well weighted passes into the circle making for an enthralling battle.

The win could go either way such is the evenness of the match but given the Steels experience they should do just enough to claim their first win.

ANZ Premiership: 2020 team preview – Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

WITH the ANZ Premiership season just around the corner we take a look at each teams chances heading into the year and a key player to keep an eye on. The Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic are the next team in line.

Coach: Amigene Metcalf
Captain: Sam Winders
2019 finish: 4th

2019 was an interesting year for Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic with the side falling short of finals but never really looking like a real threat due to their inconsistency. They strung together a couple of strong performances but then dropped winnable games attesting to their unpredictable season but will be hoping to rectify that heading into the season.

2020 predictions/expectations:

It will be a trying year for the Magic who have been hit hard over the off-season with superstar Casey Kopua retiring and Kelly Jury leaving the club. But one door closing allows another one to open with Erena Mikaere making her way over from the Mystics. The addition of Holly Fowler in the defence end will add further depth to the line-up but they ultimately lack experience across all areas of the court. Through the midcourt newbie Ariana Cable-Dixon will be looking to assert herself and really cement her spot in the line-up. She can swap between wing attack and centre with ease making her a good option with the likes of Sam Winders (nee Sinclair) more a defensive minded midcourter. Whitney Souness has come along in leaps and bounds with the midcourter able to exploit every tiny bit of space and use her ball speed to evade defenders and deliver into the shooters. Goaler Abigail Latu-Meafou struggled with consistency with the difference between her best and worst noticeable an area she will have to work on this season if the Magic are any chance to compete with the top teams. Her connection with Kelsey McPhee will be crucial to the Magic’s success this season given just how explosive McPhee can be under the post if provided with enough opportunities.

Key player/pick up: Erena Mikaere

Mikaere is an excitement machine with her physical style of play, quick feet and leap to get tips. The talented defender has proven that she is a real barometer for sides with teammates feeding off her energy and returning serve ultimately upping their ante to match her output. Although she is costly at times when it comes to penalties her tenacious game play, transition through court and constant pressure sets her apart from other defenders. She can switch between goal keeper and goal defence with ease while her ability to shake up her game play from a holding to moving defender is one of her key attributes.

Team list:

Ariana Cable-Dixon
Monica Falkner
Holly Fowler
Abigail Latu-Meafou
Kelsey McPhee
Georgia Marshall
Erena Mikaere
Jenna O’Sullivan
Samantha Winders
Whitney Souness
Georgia Tong

New Zealand Super Club: Semi-finals preview

WITH bragging rights on the line in the semi-finals of the New Zealand Super Club, expect all four teams to come out with a real fire in the belly and intensity. The Magpies are the only international invitee to make the cut after not dropping a game throughout the tournament while the Pulse, Magic and Mystics all represent the ANZ Premiership.

Collingwood Magpies v. Central Pulse

After going through the tournament undefeated the Magpies are set to face off against reigning ANZ Premiership champions, Central Pulse in the first semi-final of the day. Both sides have a plethora of players who can spark their side into action making for a high intensity battle. Collingwood have dominated their previous matches and will be looking to replicate that form against the Pulse who have shown that they can be beaten if not on from the first whistle.

The main battle will be in the goal circle with the Pulse boasting a highly experienced and classy defence unit that can quite literally shut down any attacking forays from the Magpies. Jamaican goal shooter Shimona Nelson has aerial skills to boot but her hands when under pressure can be a bit shaky and with the likes of Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury although she is yet to take the court, Elle Temu and Karin Burger will have to be on the ball early. Burger and Rore have worked well together throughout the Super Club showcasing their defensive talent, ability to read the play and cover each other’s opponent with ease making it a challenging task for the Magpies. But they are not without some star power of the own in the likes of Nat Medhurst renowned for her ability to run the attack end thanks to her vision and understanding.

Collingwood should have the upper hand through the midcourt with the likes of Ash Brazill controlling the court with her speed and sheer athleticism. Gabby Sinclair also showed her versatility to switch out to wing attack and have an impact feeding the ball into Nelson and Medhurst while youngsters Ella Bayliss and Maggie Lind have stood up when called upon using their quick change of direction to penetrate the circle edge. The Pulse are littered with youth through the midcourt in the likes of Maddy Gordon, Renee Savai’inaea and Paris Lokotui and while they have plenty of talent may struggle to match it with the Magpies. Claire Kersten however, will be a key cog for the Pulse and will have to carry a heavy workload to feed the ball into the shooters.

In the goal circle the Pulse have a wealth of talent with tall timber Aliyah Dunn a commanding presence under the post and able to hold strong. She can get on the move when needed and pairs well with the likes of goal attack, Ameliaranne Ekenasio who is renowned for her strong baseline drives, accuracy and sweeping action across the top of the circle. Tiana Metuarau is another handy option in the circle for Pulse able to come on and have an impact with her timing and skill. But Collingwood have showed they have a wealth of defensive stars with Geva Mentor able to read the play and pick off incoming passes while Matilda Garrett has taken her game to the next level with Mel Bragg showcasing her class switching between wing defence and circle defence.

 

Northern Mystics v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

Despite both sides not featuring in the ANZ Premiership finals, some off-season recruits and change ups has seen them put out strong performances and finish second in their respective pools. The battle between the Mystics and Magic will be an interesting one with both sides not willing to give an inch, however the key difference will be the shooting circle.

The Magic have fiddled with their starting shooting combination with the likes of Georgia Marshall and Abigail Latu-Meafou rotating through the circle while Kelsey McPhee often held down the fort and led the way with her strong movement, accuracy to post and positioning. With a mix of youth and experience the Mystics defenders in Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka will have their work cut out for them. Fitzpatrick can contest the ball in the air thanks to her leap and athleticism while Karaka and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson are renowned for their smothering pressure.

Through the midcourt Whitney Souness, Ariana Cable-Dixon and Sam Sinclair have all combined to be a formidable force and move the ball through each third. Souness has not skipped a beat since switching to the Magic and will be aiming to keep that form up throughout the semi-final while Sinclair has showed her versatility to move between wing defence and centre. Emma Iversen, Tayla Earle and Elisapeta Toeava have also been key for the Mystics delivering carefully crafted passes into the circle.

Goal shooter, Grace Nweke has continued to be a revelation for the Mystics using her height, strength and general netball awareness to punish opponents. She can outmuscle most opponents while her positioning under the post is strong. Despite Nweke doing a bulk of scoring the likes of Bailey Mes and Saviour Tui do a wealth of work out the front and can hit the scoreboard.  The Magic lost Jury over the off-season however have not looked out of place relying on their young guns to carry the load. Holly Fowler has been a valuable pick up pairing well with the likes of Jenna O’Sullivan and Georgia Tong. But this could be one area in which the Mystics could exploit given their lack of experience.

New Zealand Super Club wrap: Day 2

IT was an action packed Day 2 of the Super Club tournament with the Central Pulse getting on the board with a convincing win over Vitality Super Netball League team Wasps Netball. Collingwood Magpies kept their winning streak alive notching up another victory while the Southern Steel and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic also registered a win.

Southern Steel (45) defeated Northern Mystics (41)

Both sides could not be separated throughout the first half all tied up at 24 goals apiece proving just how close the match was. But they call it the premiership quarter for a reason with the Steel going on a scoring spree to pile on 13 goals to seven in the third to all but set up the win. The new look goal circle for the Steel took a while to kick into gear but once they found their feet they managed to score with ease a relatively high accuracy sitting at a combined 75 per cent. Jennifer O’Connell led the way under the post with 20 goals from 26 attempts while Kalifa McCollin was the most accurate of the lot with 10 goals from 11 attempts at 91 per cent. Kate Heffernan was strong through the midcourt hitting the circle edge with ease racking up 13 feeds while her defensive efforts were equally as impressive amassing two intercepts, six gains and five deflections. Once again goal shooter Grace Nweke stood tall owning the circle with her imposing figure, clever positioning and accuracy scoring 35 goals from 40 attempts. Bailey Mes and Saviour Tui both struggled to trouble the scoreboard but played a key role out the front feeding the ball into Nweke.  Defensively Sulu Fitzpatrick and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson put up a wall blocking any easy entrance into the goal circle with Sokolich-Beatson really putting in the hard yards and reaping the rewards with six gains, two intercepts and nine deflections. Despite their defensive efforts it was not enough to nullify the rotating goal circle of the Steel who ultimately proved too strong.

Northern Stars (39) defeated by Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (53)

It was a disappointing outing for the Stars; were well beaten by the Magic who came out with a real fire in the belly from the first whistle. The Magic put their foot down in the second quarter keeping their opponents to a mere four goals compared to their 14 highlighting their ability to sense the moment and capitalise. Kelsey McPhee led the charge in attack with the goal shooter proving to be the go to girl thanks to her composed nature, control of the ball and accuracy sitting at 92 per cent with 35 goals from 38 attempts. She paired well with Abigail Latu-Meafou out the front while the addition of Georgia Marshall and Khiarna Williams in the fourth quarter paid dividends only missing one goal between them. Whitney Souness was integral through the midcourt using her speed to deliver ball into the goalers. Up the other end Jenna O’Sullivan showcased her defensive prowess picking up six gains, one intercept and five deflections. The Northern Stars had their moments and mounted somewhat of a comeback bringing on towering goaler Maia Wilson in the second half who provided a key target under the post and most importantly did the job converting 21 of her 23 attempts at 91 per cent. But fellow shooters Juliana Naoupu, Vika Koloto and Jamie Hume who rotated through the circle struggled to have the same impact and accuracy. Storm Purvis plied her trade in defence working hard to get hands to ball with three gains and an intercept to her name while Kate Burley also provided plenty of excitement across the defensive third with three gains and two intercepts.

Mainland Tactix (38) defeated by Collingwood Magpies (51)

The Trans-Tasman clash saw the Magpies prevail after a tight tussle in the first quarter. Collingwood struggled to get separation early but upped the ante in the following quarters to secure their second win of the tournament. Goal attack and fan favourite Nat Medhurst claimed player of the match honours after her impressive efforts slotting 14 goals from 17 attempts at 82 per cent along with 17 goal assists highlighting her high workload across the court. Medhusrt paired exceptionally well with Shimona Nelson who showcased her aerial ability and improved accuracy only missing four out of her 37 shots at 89 per cent while new training partner Nyah Allen made a solid cameo appearance in the final term to sink four from five. Geva Mentor and Matilda Garrett were on song once again with the defensive duo causing confusion and contesting the ball in the air amassing seven gains, three intercepts and six deflections such is their prowess. But Brooke Allan was not about to be outdone by Mentor imposing herself in the goal circle while Melissa Bragg also came to play shutting down the likes of Samon Nathan and Jess Prosser. For the Tactix Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit showed plenty of promise with the two flicking the ball around the circle to reposition and score. Bird set the tone holding strong and commanding the ball with her height while piling on 22 goals and Selby-Rickit put on 12 goals. Up against her old side- albeit a replacement player for Collingwood, Kimiora Poi proved her worth donning the centre bib and running both ways to provide an offensive and defensive option. But the Magpies were simply too strong and outclassed their opponents at almost every turn.

Central Pulse (56) defeated Wasps Netball (39)

After dropping their first game of the Super Club, Central Pulse did not want to make that mistake twice bringing out the big guns to run rampant against international rivals Wasps. Pulse were in control from the get-go setting the tempo of the game and dictating the flow of play credit to key players such as goal shooter Aliyah Dunn and Katrina Rore. Dunn only played three quarters but had a huge influence on the rhythm of the game with Maddy Gordon and Clare Kersten finding her with ease under the post. Dunn slotted 27 goals from 28 attempts at 96 per cent, while Ameliaranne Ekenasio took the court for the first time this tournament and did not skip a beat converting 14 of her 15 attempts. Pulse proved accuracy and rotation was no issue with Tiana Metuarua also sitting at 94 per cent while for the Wasps volume and variety seemed to be the underlying issue. Rachel Dunn led the Wasps contingent with 34 goals from 40 attempts but struggled to get support from the likes of Katie Harris (five from eight) and youngster Alexia Baker who made her debut. Josie Huckle and Hannah Knights failed to control the explosiveness of the Pulse shooters while on the other hand, Karin Burger, Elle Temu and Rore played their role shutting down the free reign in attack and picking off passes. Temu provided a real spark in defence pick pocketing opponents to rack up five gains, one intercept and six deflections.

ANZ Premiership Review: Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

WITH the ANZ Premiership season done and dusted we take a look back at each club and analyse their season. In this edition we look at Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic who narrowly missed out on finals due to a relatively inconsistent season.

Ladder: 4th
Win-loss: 5-10
Percentage: 89.9%

It was an up and down season for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, claiming some upset wins against the Northern Stars and suffering some unexpected losses to teams below them on the ladder. They had a relatively inexperienced frontline while defensively they oozed class and experience. However, the Magic have plenty to build on for next season if they are able to keep a similar line-up.

At times the Magic struggled to find that connection through attack, in particular in the goal circle – constantly rotating shooters through in the hope to find a winning combination. Former Adelaide Thunderbirds and Queensland Firebirds shooter, Abigail Latu-Meafou made a lasting impact with her attack and scoring ability. Though at times she struggled to combat the defensive pressure applied, the young goaler showed plenty of promise with her clever movement, swift passing and good vision. Her combination with the likes of fellow shooters Kelsey McPhee and Monica Falkner started to grow throughout the season with their links solidifying, gaining an ability to find one another on the drive or read play to hold. Both Falkner and McPhee featured in the top 10 goal scorers for the season with McPhee finishing with 319 from 395 at 81 per cent while Falkner nailed 246 goals from her 310 attempts.

Through the midcourt, Simmon Howe and Ariana Cable-Dixon were the real play makers feeding the ball into the constantly changing goal circle. Their ability to adapt their play to accommodate the changes was important with both Howe and Cable-Dixon finding good space to hit the top of the goal circle. Cable-Dixon often led the way in attack, setting up clever attacking forays and dictating space in the goal circle through her ball delivery with 274 feeds for the season. Both midcourt players did a wealth of work through transition to bring the ball down with Howe receiving 220 centre passes and Cable-Dixon 175. Former Silver Fern, Sam Sinclair was a key cog both in attack and defence for the Magic with her ability to swing between centre and wing defence. She utilised her defensive style through the midcourt to apply pressure over the ball carrier and showcased her endurance capabilities to run with her opponent. Lisa Mather also showed that she has what it takes to come on and do her role in wing defence to nullify the influence of her direct opponent and create some turnovers.

In defence the Magic have plenty of star power with young gun Kelly Jury dominating a lot of the stats. Though she was the leading player for penalties with 187, it was her ability to win ball back that made a huge difference. Her hunt and endeavour for the ball was second to none and really sparked the Magic at times throughout the season. Jury used her height to advantage, amassing 36 intercepts, 27 rebounds and 79 deflections. She is deceptively quick and a good mover given her height, while her partnership with Casey Kopua enabled her to hunt for intercepts. Veteran defender, Kopua showed that age is just a number with the goal defence using her netball knowledge and skill to collect her fair share of loose ball with 64 deflections, 30 intercepts and 26 rebounds. Jenna O’Sullivan was also a great addition when on court, offering good defensive intensity, getting hands to ball and positioning well. She also offered an element of versatility, able to switch between circle defence and wing defence based on the side’s needs.

ANZ Premiership: Magic preview

AFTER finishing in fifth position on the ladder in 2018 with only five wins under their belt, Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic will be hoping for a better season in 2019.

The return of Casey Kopua will certainly bolster the side, with their captain missing for the second half of the 2018 season after succumbing to injury. With a fantastic return to the New Zealand Silver Ferns under her belt in early 2019, three years after retiring from international netball, Magic will be keen to get her back out on court to captain their side to a more successful year. 193cm Kelly Jury will return from a season-ending shoulder injury alongside Kopua, meaning the defensive circle will have a big boost of height under the ring. 2019 recruit, Jenna O’Sullivan rounds out the defensive circle, giving the trio room to move with defensive rotation throughout the season.

Another exciting returnee to the fray in 2019 is wing defence, Sam Sinclair. Sinclair was dominant last season, taking the court for all 15 matches and proving her efficiency through the midcourt. A tenacious defender who can also make the switch into centre, teams will have to watch out for her on court. Although only an injury replacement player over the last few years, midcourters, Lisa Mather and Ariana Cable Dixon made their time on court count, so will be looking forward to getting more game time this year. Meanwhile attacking midcourter, Sydney Fraser is looking to finally get regular time on court after a string of unlucky injuries since 2017.

A big loss for Magic in 2019 is shooter Lenize Potgieter, who starred in goals over the last two seasons, shooting 558 from 606 attempts at 92 per cent accuracy in 2018. However, Magic have strategically replaced Potgieter, picking up New Zealand native, Abigail Latu-Meafou, who grew up playing netball in Australia before taking the court as a Queensland Firebird and Adelaide Thunderbird in 2017 and 2018 respectively. With the ability to play in both goal attack and goal shooter, Latu-Meafou will pair well with fellow shooters Monica Falkner and Kelsey McPhee in 2019, with McPhee standing at 187cm, so a good target in the goal circle.

Given the strength through the court this season, Magic will hope to boast a better performance in 2019 and build on their 2018 season. Though a relatively young side this year, the return of Kopua will be a massive boost and hopefully send the Magic in the right direction.