Tag: Kate Burley

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 – Young gun focus: Round 9

WITH a host of young talent littered throughout the ANZ Premiership competition Draft Central takes a look at one key player each week. This week the player in focus is Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic goaler Khiarna Williams who starred in their victory over the Southern Steel last round.

Age: 17
Height: 183cm
Position: GS/GA

Out of position, 17-year-old Williams burst onto the scene in goal attack with her exquisite timing and impeccable vision into the circle. Although typically playing in goal shooter Williams found her range from the opening minute and showcased her silky movement out the front gliding across the court.

Williams showcased her array of talents holding strong in the circle while also highlighting her aerial ability to sneak out the back and take the ball at full flight. Her deceptive speed and long arms allowed her to reel in a wealth of ball while her composed nature wowed many fans. Although she did not take the court against the Tactix and not play a full 60 minutes against the Steel, Williams proved to be a force to be reckoned with inside the goal circle. She was a key playmaker in the attacking third for the Magic with her drive and second phase play opening up space and allowing her teammates to get to work.

Getting the start paid dividends for the Magic with the Steel caught off guard and taking a while to adjust to William’s presence on court something she made the most of. Her connection with Kelsey McPhee was on song early able to sight the towering goal shooter and delivering the ball with confidence into the circle. The shooter to shooter interplay was solid with the two bouncing off each other, setting screens and rotating through the space to keep the likes of Taneisha Fifita and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit guessing.

It was a physical contest but it did not seem to faze Williams with the teenager absorbing the hits and delivering time and time again to finish with 14 goals from 19 attempts at 74 per cent accuracy. She set the tone early with her desire to go to post and impose herself both in the goal circle and as a key cog through the centre third to bring the ball down the court. Still developing her connection with Sam Winders and Whitney Souness, Williams managed to connect seamlessly with them especially in the goal circle to weave her way into space and command the ball.

Standing at 183cm she is not the tallest shooter but still managed to hold front space thanks to her strength, high netball IQ and fancy footwork to dance around her opponent. Up against Selby-Rickit, the youngster used her tenacity and speed to zip around the court something she will be hoping to replicate this round against the Northern Stars who are renowned for their aerial presence thanks to Storm Purvis and Kate Burley.

Further court time will only allow Williams to continue to flourish and deliver on the big stage given her raw potential and shooting prowess. Her ability to hold her own against quality and experienced defenders is a promising sign for the Magic despite only having a couple of games left in the season.

2020 ANZ Premiership- Preview: Round 9

TWO weeks out from ANZ Premiership finals, it is do or die for the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix who are battling for second spot on the ladder while the Central Pulse have first spot all but sewn up. Conversely, up the other end of the ladder the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Southern Steel are keen to avoid the wooden spoon and progress up the rankings with a strong finish to the season.

Southern Steel v. Northern Mystics
Friday, 7 August

The round starts with a clash between fifth and third on the ladder with the Steel hosting the Mystics. The Steel will take plenty of confidence out of their last outing downing the Mystics by six goals in Round 7 and while they cannot make finals will be eager to influence how the rest of the season pans out.

The injuries for the Steel have come hard and fast especially in the goal circle but with a couple of games under their belts the connection between Ellen Halpenny and Kalifa McCollin is starting to blossom. Halpenny provides that calming element to the goal circle with her precise movements and impeccable timing to pop out right on cue while McCollin has plenty of flair and dynamism to keep the Mystics defenders busy. The two share the shooting load between them meaning the Mystics will have to focus their energy on both goalers if they are to shut down any easy avenue to post. Sulu Fitzpatrick is a seasoned campaigner able to hold her own in the goal circle and win back ball with her long arms and quick feet to get around the body of her opponent. Partner in crime Phoenix Karaka is just as damaging down back able to shut down her opponent with her smothering pressure and three-foot marking. Although the combination with McCollin and Halpenny is developing, Karaka and Fitzpatrick have proven to be a formidable force meaning the Steel will have to be on their a-game.

Wing defence Kate Heffernan has been in ripping form lately with the young midcourter taking everything in her stride and working hard to own that defensive position. She is a constant threat around circle edge with her long arms but will take on speedster Peta Toeava who not only oozes pace but is renowned for her quick release into the circle. The Steel have options if Heffernan is unable to shut down powerhouse wing attack with Kendall Corkery a more physical and niggly style of player, able to get under the skin of Toeava and reduce her efficiency in attack.

With second spot still up for grabs expect the Mystics to throw everything they have at the Steel and exploit their new connections across the court.

 

Southern Steel v. Central Pulse
Saturday, 8 August

Dropping their first game for this season last round expect the Central Pulse to come out with a real fire in the belly and get the job done early against the Southern Steel. Renowned for their full court pressure and ability to treasure ball the Pulse will be keen to rectify last week’s shortcomings but the Steel will take in a sense of belief after pushing the reigning premiers to their limits in their last meeting.

The midcourt battle will be ferocious with a couple of Silver Ferns lining up against each other. After somewhat of a quiet performance last week Karin Burger will be hoping to assert herself against the Steel and shut down Gina Crampton‘s drive to the top of the circle. Burger is recognised for her three foot marking and long arms to block vision into the goal circle, something that she will be hoping to bring against the Steel in order to limit the influence of Crampton in attack. Partner in crime Shannon Saunders is a real workhorse through the midcourt for the Steel able to have an influence both in an attack in attack and in defence. She will have the job on Pulse centre Claire Kersten making for an intriguing battle between the two given their similarities in game style. Kersten is the key for the Pulse through the midcourt able to provide that consistency and link between attack and defence.

Down on their usual accuracy last week the Central Pulse will be hoping that Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn deliver to post. Ekenasio is a real player maker through the attacking third with her impeccable timing and clever touch to deliver ball on a silver platter to Dunn. They have one of the strongest connections in the competition with the two able to light up the court with their flair and clever ability to create space time and time again. Dunn is a strong holding shooter that is able to post up and command the ball no matter the defensive pressure. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit is the most experienced defender in the Steel defensive unit and will have to lead by example if they are to win ball back. Goal keeper Taneisha Fifita has struggled in the past couple of weeks drawing a lot of attention from the umpires, something she will have to address this game if she is to mount pressure on the Pulse and not give them free attempts at goal. The introduction of Abby Erwood could provide that extra element of composure in defence.

Coming off a loss expect the Pulse to bounce back and showcase why they are the reigning premiers with a strong performance across all four quarters against the Steel.

Northern Mystics v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 9 August

In their second game of the round the Mystics will want to leave nothing to chance against the second placed Tactix in hope to progress up the ladder and get one step closer to securing a finals berth. In arguably the game of the round both teams will be hoping to prove their worth and showcase why they deserve a spot in the finals. These two teams have a decorated history and are evenly poised heading into the match.

It will all come down to the battle in the goal circle with teenage shooting prodigy Grace Nweke the key to Mystics success given her impressive holds, high volume and accuracy the post. Nweke is a commanding figure under the post and can change the course of a game in an instant given the speed with which she can score and her strength in the air to reel in errant passes time and time again. However their weakness lies within the goal attack position with the likes of Saviour Tui and Filda Vui exciting young prospects but unable to consistently deliver the output required. Tui and Vui are clever with ball in hand but sometimes lack the confidence to go to post piling a wealth of pressure on Nweke to deliver and steer the ship for the Mystics. On the other hand, the Tactix have one of the best defensive units in the competition with Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson ball magnets down back. Watson is exceptionally clean in defence, able to pick up ball without getting penalised and making her a constant threat for any team, while her drive through the midcourt provides an added boost to the Tactix transition. Impressive individually, the connection between the two defenders is what really puts them ahead of the pack given Fakahokotau can read the play with ease and dictate Watson’s position according to what is unfolding in front of her. It will be up to Vui and Tui to draw the attention of Watson to isolate Fakahokotau and Nweke under the post.

With speed to burn through the midcourt it will be an exciting battle between Tayla Earle and Tactix centre Kimiora Poi as the two possess very similar attributes in the way they hunt the ball and then seamlessly switch into attack. They will match each other for speed and vision into the circle making for a tight tussle. Toeava is another key cog for the Mystics in attack while for the Tactix Erikana Pedersen has proven to be the link into the goalers with her dynamic footwork, quick hands and confidence on the pass to bypass the defenders and look long.

The last time these two sides met the Tactix clinched the narrowest of victories and will be hoping to build on that momentum to edge further ahead on the ladder.

 

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Northern Stars
Sunday, 9 August

In their sole game of the round expect both the Magic and Stars to go toe-to-toe throughout the four quarters. With a renewed sense of confidence and a win under their belt the Magic will be keen to keep the good times rolling and secure their second win in as many days. Plagued by inconsistency this season the Stars will be hoping to rectify their issues and record their fifth win.

There is no denying that Maia Wilson is the lynchpin in attack for the Stars with the goal shooter a commanding target under the post with her strong holds and high scoring nature. Wilson is incredibly accurate shooting at a combined 94 per cent last round, a feat she will be hoping to replicate once again this week to lead her side to victory. Although Wilson is the go to girl the Stars do their most damage when goal attack Jamie Hume goes to post and troubles the scoreboard. If she can draw the attention of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong it will alleviate the pressure on Wilson under the post and help split the circle to create more one on ones at the post. While Tong is not the tallest defender in the league she makes up for it with her aerial presence and impressive leap to get hands to ball and disrupt the flow in attack, something the Magic will be relying on throughout the contest.

Khiarna Williams has been a revelation for the Magic in attack proving she can play both goal shooter and goal attack with the 17-year-old taking like a duck to water each time she steps out on court. Her growing connection with Kelsey McPhee under the post and Abigail Latu-Meafou is something to behold as the trio are getting stronger and stronger each week. McPhee is an easy target under the post for the Magic meaning the Stars defensive unit of Storm Purvis, Kate Burley and Daystar Swift will have to put in the hard yards out the front to limit her influence to post. The high ball into the circle is often the go to passage of play for the Magic which plays into the tenacious and ball hungry Stars defence.

With relatively even match ups across the court it will come down to the midcourt battle with captain Sam Winders the barometer for the Magic and Grace Kara the playmaker for the Stars. If Winders can dictate the flow through the middle and win ball back the Magic could register another victory.

 

Central Pulse v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 10 August

The final game of the round sees a battle of the top two teams with the Central Pulse hoping to make it three straight wins against the Mainland Tactix. Falling agonisingly short in Round 6 the Tactix will be hoping to go one better and upset the Pulse to prove that they are a real finals contender. Playing in their second game of the round it could come down to the depth on the bench and who can withstand the high intensity battle.

Ellie Bird has really hit her strides in the past couple of weeks with the goal shooter dictating the space and using her height to full advantage to reel in passes and shoot truly. Bird is an exciting prospect when she is on song able to nullify the influence of her defender and use her clever footwork to move around the body of her defender and allow the likes of Te Paea Selby-Rickit to come through and have an influence in the goal circle. Selby-Rickit, while she might not put up a wealth of shots, does a plethora of work out the front to deliver the ball into Bird and create attacking forays. In saying that, the Pulse have their own star power down in defence with Kelly Jury having a breakout season, showcasing her exceptional lean over the shot and read of the play to create constant disruption down back. Her ever developing connection with Katrina Rore causes plenty of headaches for opposition teams with the two able to hunt the ball while Elle Temu is a solid option off the bench, able to come on and have an immediate impact with her hands over pressure.

The Pulse have speed to burn through the centre court with Maddy Gordon a real excitement machine and energiser bunny able to hit the circle edge with great speed and tenacity. Impressive in attack it is Gordon’s work through the centre third and defensive pressure to try and win ball back that makes her such a dominant threat. Able to play both goal and wing attack Tiana Metuarau is another player to keep an eye on for the Pulse with her spatial awareness and pinpoint passes into the circle. It will be up to wing defence Charlotte Elley to really shut down the influence of Gordon and Metuarau to ensure that the Pulse have limited opportunity to go forward and score. In recent weeks the inclusion of Samon Nathan into wing defence has provided a different element for the Tactix down back.

Expect this game to go down to the wire with neither side willing to give an inch and fighting not only for the win but momentum heading into finals.

2020 SSN/ANZ: Stats wrap – Rounds 1/8

A NEW look stats wrap is in effect this week, with both the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and ANZ Premiership taking the court on the weekend. While the ANZ Premiership is heading into its final rounds with some big performers stepping up towards the end of the season, the SSN had Round 1 over the weekend making for some interesting stats across the two rounds. It is important to take into consideration that the two leagues currently have different rules and matchplay times, with differing stats evident. 

ATTACK 

The introduction of the super shot added a new element to the SSN stage in the opening round, with Steph Wood (10 super shots), Jo Harten (nine) and Sam Gooden (nine) shouldering the super shot load for their respective teams, with Harten the most accurate of the trio missing just four attempts across the board to finish with an overall 86 per cent accuracy. Looking to tall timbers at the post, Jhaniele Fowler was hard to stop with 52 goals from 55 attempts (including two super shots) while Lenize Potgieter and Cara Koenen shot 35 goals apiece. In her new Collingwood colours Emma Ryde  impressed (34 from 38) and Sam Wallace (33 from 40) once again proved to be a solid target. Alice Teague-Neeld proved the nay-sayers she could have an impact with 10 goals at 67 per cent (including four super shots at 100 per cent accuracy) and plying her trade out the front with 19 goal assists and a gain to her name.

Heading across the ditch to the ANZ Premiership, there were a couple huge performers across the five matches, with repeat offenders in Maia Wilson (74 goals from 80 attempts) and Ellie Bird (63 from 72) adding to their goaling tallies off the back of two games apiece, while Grace Nweke racked up 38 goals from 44 attempts in her sole match for the round. The likes of Central Pulse duo Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn once again shared the load with 21 and 20 goals respectively in their first loss for the season, while there is no discounting the work ethic of Te Paea Selby-Rickit with the goal attack combining for 31 goals across her two games as well as her work out the front to finish with 25 goal assists.

MIDCOURT

The opening round of Super Netball saw Liz Watson not skip a beat over the off-season, racking up 28 goal assists from 49 feeds, while Chelsea Pitman picked up 26 centre pass receives credit to her take-off speed and first phase play. Both Watson and Charles also racked up a gain apiece, while Magpies midcourters Madi Browne (12 assists, one intercept) and Molly Jovic (two intercepts from 21 minutes of play) both impressed in their first matches, albeit Browne’s first on return from injury and Jovic on her overall debut. In wing defence there were a couple high performers, with young guns Kate Eddy (four intercepts, two pickups, three penalties) and Amy Parmenter (six intercepts, seven deflections (none to advantage), five turnovers) both plying their trade well in wing defence while Maisie Nankivell stepped up through the Thunderbirds midcourt with 12 goal assists and two intercepts though 14 penalties. Mahalia Cassidy also impressed on her return from injury with 17 assists from 35 feeds and two gains to her name.

Heading to the ANZ Premiership midcourt, the stand-out this round – and our Round 8 ANZ Premiership Player of the Week – was Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic’s Whitney Souness, with the speedster racking up 16 assists in her first match before finishing with 19 in her second, also picking up an intercept in each of her outings. Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle were consistent as ever in their winning outing against the Pulse, sharing the load on circle edge with 19 and 17 assists respectively, also picking up a gain apiece. Meanwhile, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan racked up a round-high 26 assists in her second outing of the round from 35 feeds though was kept quiet in her first match with just 12 assists, an effort matched for the most part by Erikana Pedersen who was explosive in her first outing (23 assists, one gain) but shared the load better in the second with Selby-Rickit. Meanwhile, Kate Heffernan and Sam Winders both racked up four intercepts apiece across their respective matches.

DEFENCE

Lauren Moore and Parmenter led the intercept tally for the round, with the two young guns stepping up with six intercepts apiece. Phumza Maweni put on an impressive final quarter performance to trip up the Firebirds attack and finish with six deflections and three intercepts, while veteran Geva Mentor proved she is still more than capable of pulling out impressive performances with nine deflections, closely followed by Sarah Klau (eight deflections and three rebounds) and Kim Jenner (seven and three). Jenner and partner in crime Tara Hinchliffe will want to clean up their act in the coming rounds, racking up a whopping 35 penalties between them to be first and second in the least preferred statline after Round 1.

On the ANZ Premiership stage, Temalisi Fakahokotau was consistent as ever down back with Jane Watson in their first outing combining for 11 gains (14 across two matches), while Georgia Tong stepped up with nine gains (six intercepts) in her first outing but was overshadowed in her second with just the three gains – still a solid effort. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit showcased her ball winning ability again this round with three and four gains, while Kate Burley continued to impress for the Stars with six gains (four intercepts) and two gains across her two matches, consistently matching up on court to have an impact despite the prowess of her opposition.

ANZ Premiership: Round 8 – Deadly opening quarter gives Stars the edge

COMING off a difficult loss against the Mainland Tactix, the Northern Stars had no issue dominating the Southern Steel with a convincing 50-43 win. Uncertainty and a lack of connection in the Steel attack end, due to a string of unfortunate injuries, meant that a tenacious Stars defence were able to come out on top thanks to a strong first term. Despite their big win over the Mystics in Round 7, there were too many holes in the Steel game in this match, and they lacked their usual intensity against a clean and ferocious Stars outfit. The Stars broke a four-game losing streak and will secure themselves in fourth position on the ANZ Premiership ladder.

Kalifa McCollin was given the start at goal shooter for the Steel, with Kiana Pelasio slotting into McCollin’s typical goal attack role. McCollin had suffered an ankle injury in the previous round and the effect of this may have contributed to this position switch, giving her a little less running around to do. Due to these changes in their shooting end, Steel were relying heavily on Silver Fern Gina Crampton to have an outstanding game, to give them a chance at taking a win. The Steel got off to a shaky start and were not able to find each other easily or balance the space on the court. In contrast, the Stars came out of the blocks with plenty of punch in attack and set the tone for the game early. Grace Kara was combining well with Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume grew into the game in her supporting role. After a few soft turnovers from both teams, Kate Burley stepped up a gear notching up a rebound and then an interception within a few minutes. The Stars defence were getting the measure of the Steel attack, with Pelasio unable to convincingly draw the defenders away from McCollin under the post. Another gain from the Stars, this time from Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and they made no mistake at the post, sneaking out to 10-6 midway through the first quarter.

An early change saw Kendall Corkery replace Georgia Heffernan at wing defence, but the Steel were not managing to convert their turnovers and were wasting ball in attack. Another four-goal run for the Stars saw them extend their lead to 16-7 at the first break. Stars were totally in control, creating plenty of opportunities for themselves and forcing the Steel into making silly errors, then capitalising at the post. Steel had eight turnovers in the first quarter and felt compelled to make a change at quarter time. Heffernan was matching up well against Stars captain Kara but ended up replacing Shannon Saunders at centre, a switch-up we have not seen much of at all this season. Ellen Halpenny also slotted into goal shooter with McCollin moving out to goal attack where she seemed more comfortable. These changes had a good impact for the Steel and they managed three in a row to start the second quarter. The Stars were able to regroup and regain control as the quarter progressed, and flooding the middle channel to force a long ball was proving very effective for them. Another gain from Burley took her total to three intercepts and the Stars restored their healthy seven-goal lead.

The midcourt battles were shaping up nicely, with both teams evenly matched in the centre third. Corkery was scrappy; squaring up to Kara and doing her best to keep her away from circle edge, while Heffernan’s defensive prowess was earning the Steel some much-needed turnover ball. With more minutes in centre at this level, her feeding confidence and ball release will improve and she could be a very handy option for the Steel midcourt. Lisa Mather was working hard on Crampton, but the experienced wing attack had the measure of her opposition and was growing into the combination with McCollin and Halpenny. After a much improved quarter from the Southern side, the teams headed into the break with the Stars leading 26-19.

With the defensive end on fire, and Maia Wilson shooting at 100 per cent, it is no surprise that the Stars were still holding onto a solid lead. They were playing like a team that backed themselves to win, and the Steel just were not creating enough opportunities for their attackers. In terms of penalties, Steel were on 29 by half-time, with over 15 of these given to Taneisha Fifita. This released all the Steel defensive pressure, giving Wilson numerous free shots to the post. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was not managing to have her usual impact on the game, and the Steel really needed someone to lift them and provide an energy boost. The Stars kept grinding away, with the speed and slick movement through their midcourt leaving the Steel defenders behind them. In a much-needed switch up, which possibly could have come a little earlier in the game, Fifita went to the bench with Selby-Rickit taking on Wilson in the goal keeper position and Abby Erwood providing a new look at goal defence. Crampton pulled off a fantastic interception at the transverse line and this seemed to be the spark the Steel needed. They went on a three-goal run with Halpenny continuing to demonstrate her reliability and experience at the post. However, the attempted comeback came too late and Stars were able to maintain an eight-goal advantage going into the final term.

With the final quarter underway, the Steel looked as though they would be happy to settle for a bonus point. They lacked speed and anticipation in their defensive end and were struggling to keep up with Wilson and Hume. They were showing patches of good play, with Mather doing a heap of work transitioning the ball down court and the attack end finding some rhythm, but they still have a lot of work to do going forwards. Through the midcourt, the Steel were able to disrupt play, but their circle defence was far too flat and quiet against the likes of the prolific Maia Wilson. Despite a late run of goals from the Steel, the Stars kept them at bay with a seven-goal win, denying Steel a bonus point once again.

Standouts from the game have got to be Kate Burley and Kate Heffernan, each claiming three intercepts and Heffernan coming into her own at centre. It is also hard to look past Maia Wilson shooting at 100 per cent, who earned herself a well-deserved MVP award. Both the Steel and the Stars will take on the Magic in their next game, giving them the chance to consolidate the good patches from today’s game and strengthen connections as the regular season draws to a close.

>>> STARS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

NORTHERN STARS 16 | 10 | 12 | 12 (50)
SOUTHERN STEEL 7 | 12 | 11 | 13 (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

Southern Steel:

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

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 8

WITH one game already down, Round 8 of the ANZ Premiership will bring plenty of excitement and intense battles with a couple of ladder defining clashes. The top two match-up between the Central Pulse and Northern Mystics headlines the round while up the other end of the ladder the Magic and Steel do battle.

Northern Stars v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 1 August

Coming off a game the night before the Northern Stars might suffer from a bit of fatigue while the Southern Steel will be fresh and raring to go. Likely to be without goal attack Kalifa McCollin with the Trinidad and Tobago shooter going down with a rolled ankle last round, the Stars will be eager to expose their understrength shooting circle.

Maia Wilson is the key cog for the Stars in attack with the goal shooter able to command the ball time and time again and most importantly score freely. She consistently absorbs pressure in the circle to stand strong and back herself posting high tallies every week. Although Wilson is a formidable option it will be up to the likes of Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto to step up to the challenge and showcase their scoring prowess and clever ball movement to draw the attention of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita. Selby-Rickit is one of the most experienced members in the Steel squad and will be in charge of leading the defensive end with her ball winning ways and persistence while Fifita can do the unthinkable thanks to her raw talent and athleticism.

With a weakened shooting unit with McCollin likely to not take the court the load falls to Ellen Halpenny to steer the ship in attack and apply scoreboard pressure. Commonly coming on after half time, Halpenny could be forced to play an entire game which might spark questions of endurance. However Halpenny is a smart netballer that can make shooting look easy with her dynamic footwork and spatial awareness. Expect Kiana Pelasio to get a run out in goal attack with the young shooter able to create a wealth of space and not afraid to go to post. The Stars defence has come along in leaps and bounds in 2020 with Storm Purvis and Kate Burley working exceptionally well together to create a wall in defence and win ball back. They are both strong in the air able to swat away passes and force turnovers to propel the ball back down the court while the chance of Daystar Swift and Oceane Maihi entering the contest also gives them another option if things are not going to plan.

With the Stars hoping to work their way up the ladder and Steel plagued by injury the Stars should have the upper hand in this contest.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 2 August

In their second game of the round the Mainland Tactix will be searching for a win and edge closer to top two contention. Despite putting up competitive performances the Magic have failed to register a win since the season restart and will once again have their work cut out for them against a gallant Tactix outfit.

The Magic have a wealth of options in defence with Georgia Tong and Erena Mikaere both able to rotate through the goal keeper position while Holly Fowler can interchange between circle and wing defence. Tong has an impressive leap able to get hands to ball and disrupt any easy avenue into goal while Mikaere uses her height to apply pressure over the shot. But Ellie Bird has been in hot form recently able to hold strong and use her clever footwork to position herself closer to the post making her a real threat for the Tactix. While Bird is a commanding presence under the post the Magic cannot afford to leave Te Paea Selby-Rickit unattended to roam free both in the goal circle and attacking third as she is often the key to unlocking the Tactix rhythm in attack. Selby-Rickit is a real playmaker in attack for the Tactix, able to create plays with her pinpoint precision passes into the goal circle while pairing that with her ability to go to post especially from long range.

With Kelsey McPhee dealing with a knee complaint it will be up to the likes of Khiarna Williams and Abigail Latu-Meafou to take the court and showcase their dominance. Williams showcased her brilliance and raw talent last week with her ability to hold strong and move cleverly around the circle to create space for her to receive the ball under the post. However she is still young, something that the Tactix defenders will be hoping to exploit given their experience and dominance in the air to swat away balls and simply shut down any sort of movement inside the goal circle. The combination between Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson is incredibly strong with the two able to rotate through the circle with ease and read the play off one another to gobble up loose ball. Watson’s ability to stay away from the whistle and remain in play is what makes her such a commanding figure for the Tactix in defence while she can also ply her trade through the midcourt with her drive and clever ball movement.

The Tactix have a strong core group across the court with their connections able to link up and cause havoc for the Magic who at times have struggled with consistency and often fall off the boil when the pressure is on.

Central Pulse v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 2 August

Sitting undefeated at the top of the ladder the Central Pulse will be hoping to leave no stone unturned in their soul game of the round against the second place Northern Mystics. These two sides played back in Round 6 with the Pulse dominating from start to finish and showcasing their ability to keep teams at bay with their suffocating pressure across the court something the Mystics will be hoping to rectify this round.

Struggling to find her mojo and form in recent weeks it will be up to Peta Toeava to really lead the attacking unit and deliver clean and clever ball into Grace Nweke under the post. Toeava has speed to burn while her vision into the circle is second to none meaning the likes of Central Pulse wing defence Karin Burger will have to go with her every step of the way to ensure that the Mystics frontend is shut down. Nweke is a real powerhouse under the post with her aerial ability ball control an impressive balance to stay in play time and time again. However it is the goal attack position that often causes issues for the Mystics with Asher Grapes, Saviour Tui and Filda Vui all rotating through that position in hope to find some type of continuity and alleviate the pressure on Nweke. With a somewhat unsettled shooting combination it allows the likes of Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore to get to work and wreak havoc with their hunting mentality and ability to read the play. Jury has been in ripping form, causing tips and turnovers while Rore has simply gotten better with age shutting down every goal attack that comes her way meaning the Mystics will have their work cut out for them.

Similar to the Pulse, the Mystics boast an impressive defensive line-up with Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka a damaging duo down back. Their tenacity and physicality can often offset opponents with the duo fighting for every inch of space and clogging up the circle credit to their fancy footwork. But they will have to bring their a-game if they are to rattle the Pulse with Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio hardly ever fazed by the intensity. Dunn is a thorn in the side for many teams with her accuracy to post and skill to edge closer to the post while Ekenasio often seems to have the ball on a string both inside and outside the goal circle. Both are incredibly accurate not giving the Mystics a chance to win ball back while Tiana Metuarau is also a force to be reckoned with given her injection of speed and high netball IQ.

Looking to make it 11 wins straight expect the Pulse to come out firing but if the Mystics can pull off an upset here it will do a wealth of good to their confidence only weeks out from the finals.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Southern Steel
Monday, 3 August

Having only played two rounds ago the Magic will be keen to exact revenge on the Southern Steel and claim that all elusive win that they have been searching for. On the other hand the Steel will be keen to showcase that they are not easy beats and continue to climb their way up the ladder.

The midcourt battle is where it will all unfold with Sam Winders a key cog for the Magic in attack and in defence given her ball winning abilities and skill to change the course of a game within an instant. Winders is a real workhorse across the court constantly plying her trade and encouraging her teammates to follow suit with her tenacity on court. The revelation of Fowler out in wing defence has worked wonders for the Magic, applying strong hands over pressure and creating havoc for opposition teams. However the Southern Steel are littered with key players through the mid court with Silver Ferns duo Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton both renowned for their ability to deliver the ball on a silver platter to their shooters. Crampton can hit the circle edge with great pace and precision to ensure that she keeps the defenders at bay and has easy vision into the goal circle.

In attack Whitney Souness will be key for the Magic if they are to get over the line. She is a real energiser bunny in the front half of the court given her speed off the mark and quick hands. If Souness is not shut down she will be able to link up with Latu-Meafou, McPhee and Williams with ease and give them plenty of opportunity to apply scoreboard pressure. Therefore it will be up to Kate Heffernan to nullify her influence through the centre and attacking third. Heffernan often flies under the radar but is crucial to the Steel defence with her three foot marking and intercepting ability.

There is plenty at stake for both sides with the Magic hoping to work their way off the bottom of the ladder and Steel keen to continue on their merry way and rectify their lacklustre start to the season.

ANZ Premiership – Round 8: Tactix too good in front of sellout home crowd

A SELLOUT crowd headlined the opening match of ANZ Premiership Round 8, with Mainland Tactix hosting their first match of the season and taking on the Northern Stars for the second time in just five days. With Tactix getting the win last round the Stars were back with a vengeance but with second position on the ladder up for grabs the Tactix were just too good, winning 52-42 in an exciting and high-energy contest.

The matchup between Maia Wilson and Temalisi Fakahokotau was huge from the get-go, with an ANZ Premiership record 5500 strong crowd behind their Tactix keeper from the get-go. The match saw a mostly even start, with both teams taking advantage of a couple of early deflections as the opposition settled in. The Stars’ quickfire passes were quickly made apparent, speeding down the side channels of the court and zipping around for a couple easy goals.

Jane Watson was quick to take advantage of the predictable movement however, taking a fantastic cross-court intercept to disrupt the flow and extend the Tactix to a lead, coming up with another clever goal not long after and soon the home side had extended to a three goal margin. Wilson continued to be a focal point for the Stars, with Jamie Hume assisting well to begin with credit to her speed and improved accuracy.

Where the Stars defenders were at a loss of how to combat Ellie Bird last round, they came out fighting and making Bird work hard to find the ball, forcing the tall timber to use her footwork to move for the netball. Speed into the goal circle was crucial for the Stars, with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Grace Kara serving the ball on a platter to Wilson but needing to do it quick to evade Fakahokotau on the leap and saying toe-to-toe with the Tactix, trailing 13-11 at the first change.

An interesting change was made to start the second, with Daystar Swift bringing a physical element to the Stars defence line, with the Trinidad and Tobago product matching Bird for height and hoping to have more of an impact than her last outing which only saw her on court for five minutes. After a couple slow matches, Te Paea Selby-Rickit proved crucial once more in attack with her ability to not only go to post but also spot Bird at the post, though that was something that the Stars were able to exploit plucking a couple balls out of the air.

Erikana Pedersen was on fire in the first and backed it up in the second, with her reliability on the drive and wealth of speed allowing the Tactix to make use of a couple crucial intercepts to extend their lead. The Stars were error-ridden in the second quarter, wasting a couple opportunities going cross-court, with Watson able to get hands to turnover ball with ease thanks to her clear vision and long reach.

While Swift was playing a physical game and attracting a fair bit of attention from the umpires, Fakahokotau was doing everything she could to get hands to ball and put off Wilson who had missed just one shot by the main change. A huge couple of minutes by the Tactix saw the home side extend to an eight-goal lead at half time, 28-20.

The Stars made another change heading into the third, with Swift leaving the court for the regular combination of Kate Burley and Storm Purvis once more, while the injection of Fa’amu Ioane helped to shut down an element of the Tactix midcourt, doing a heap of work to shut down Pedersen and limit the Tactix’ speed in attack. Ioane’s work on the transverse paid dividends, allowing more of a split around the circle from Reuelu-Buchanan and Kara.

Watson continued to star in the third, with the formidable defender far too good on Hume and running the young player ragged through the midcourt to exploit Stars’ holes in attack. While Wilson continued to impact, Fakahokotau’s pressure and physicality was constant, blocking vision with her long reach and footwork to get around the body.

The Tactix had to do a heap of work to get ball into the circle, and while they were still ahead by a wide margin the Stars were working hard to limit avenues to post and force continuous feeds around circle edge. Soon the margin had closed to just three goals, with the combination of Ioane and Reuelu-Buchanan impressing defensively to stem the flow of attack, with Pedersen and Poi unable to zip around as per usual to control the space.

With the scoreline reduced early in the quarter the Tactix stole back some momentum, seeing the intense contest continue with no easy avenues to goal for either team but the Tactix taking advantage of any holes in the plan they could find, with the Tactix back to a six-goal lead at the final change, 37-31. Within touching distance of the Tactix, the Stars started the last quarter well but just could not get hands to enough turnover ball, with their only intercept still a mishap pass straight to Swift in the second. With no secure ball taken to turn over possession, the Stars were relying too much on getting a deflection but the Tactix were more than capable of getting to the loose ball first. 

Fakahokotau really switched on in the last quarter, upping her physicality – if possible – and reaping the rewards with her ability to find the ball paying dividends for the Tactix. Charlotte Elley was hungry for the ball in wing defence, though so was a mid-quarter Stars change in Oceane Maihi who entered the fray in time for a 10-goal margin in the way of the Tactix. The height difference was immediately apparent, and while Maihi’s different take on the goal keeper position paid off with a couple of plays forcing Bird to the goal line it was not enough to really reduce that margin with Bird’s confidence seeing her shoot from range with ease where required. A huge last few minutes saw the Tactix finish with their best score for the season, building off the impressive crowd for an excellent 52-42 victory. 

Player of the match Pedersen was influential with 23 goal assists, able to spot Bird at the post from a mile away, with the shooter racking up 37 goals for a second match straight at 88 per cent accuracy. Selby-Rickit was solid with 15 goals and an intercept to her name, while Watson and Fakahokotau were outstanding, with Watson starring in the first half and Fakahokotau a force to be reckoned with in the second half. The defensive duo racked up 11 gains (six intercepts) between them, with three of Fakahokotau’s intercepts coming in the final quarter as the pressure mounted.

For the Stars, Wilson was consistent as ever carrying the load with 35 goals from 41 attempts at 85 per cent, while Hume shot seven goals and collected a handful of assists and centre pass receives to play her role out the front alongside Kara and Reuelu-Buchanan. Burley racked up just the two gains from her six deflections but was solid against two taller attackers while Purvis collected four pickups.

Both teams play again this round though will be glad to have a few days off after the physical matchup, with the Stars back on the court on Saturday evening to face the Southern Steel while Tactix travel to take on Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Sunday.

>>>TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>>STARS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

MAINLAND TACTIX 13 | 15 | 9 | 15 (52)
NORTHERN STARS 11 | 9 | 11 | 11 (42)

STARTING SEVEN

Tactix

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

Stars

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

 

2020 ANZ Premiership stats wrap: Round 7

ROUND 7 of ANZ Premiership action was a huge one with some blowout score lines seeing a couple of star players pull out astounding stats. With the hunt on for the finals playoff and still second spot up for grabs on the ladder, some stellar performances were had all round. 

Draft Central‘s Player of the Week Ellie Bird was the single-game topscorer this week, shooting 37 goals at 100 per cent in an outstanding performance. Joining Bird at the top for goalers this week was repeat offender Grace Nweke who put up 30-plus goals in each of her two outings, combining for 71 goals at 90 per cent, while Maia Wilson (61 goals from two matches) and Aliyah Dunn (47 from two) also continued on their merry way. In at goal attack, Ameliaranne Ekenasio was consistent as ever putting up 28 goals in her first outing and 18 in her second. Kalifa McCollin (23 goals from 30 attempts at 77 per cent) was the only other goal attack to have a real impact on the scoreboard, though Te Paea Selby-Rickit was critical in Tactix’ standalone win, putting up 10 goals at 96 per cent but racking up the most goal assists of the round with 27.

While kept quiet in their respective first matches of the round, wing attacks Whitney Souness and Peta Toeava both made a stand through the midcourt. Souness drew on her 14 assists and two gains in her first outing to impress on her second time around, racking up 21 assists from 46 feeds to go with 21 centre pass receives. Toeava had a much different story, playing only 19 minutes in her first match and counting five assists, though was player of the match against the Magic with 23 assists from 43. Elsewhere through the midcourt, Karin Burger dominated once more in wing defence with four intercepts from her two matches, while centres Claire Kersten and Sam Winders racked up an intercept apiece though did not have a huge impact on the feed.

Defensively, there were some huge performers this round with goal defenders having plenty to say on court. Jane Watson was superb with six gains, aided by Temalisi Fakahokotau who racked up three with one intercept in the mix. Stars’ Kate Burley (three intercepts and three deflections) and Mystics’ Phoenix Karaka (three intercepts) were also solid out in goal defence across their respective two games, while Steel’s Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had an impressive round with her standalone two intercept and two deflection game which saw her side get the upper hand over the Mystics. Looking to goal keepers, Kelly Jury was consistent as ever with 12 gains from two outings while Sulu Fitzpatrick also impressed with 12 despite only coming away with one win from her two matches. 

2020 ANZ Premiership- Round 8 preview: Tactix v. Stars

WITH ANZ Premiership finals just around the corner both the Mainland Tactix and Northern Stars are eager to make a final play for second spot and face off for a chance at the grand final in the sole Thursday evening fixture for the season. Playing on their home court for the first time since the season restart expect the Tactix fans to be boisterous, cheering on their side at every turn while the Stars will be hoping to generate their signature ball movement to get on top of their opponents early. Having only played last round the Stars will be keen to make amends and get one back while the Tactix will be wanting to show that their seven goal victory was just the beginning and look to build on their form heading into the backend of the season.

There are key match-ups across the court, none bigger than in the goal circle with Maia Wilson set to combat defensive duo Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson. Wilson is one of the most reliable goalers in the competition, willing to sink them from range and shake up her game plan accordingly to provide a spark for the Stars. Her constant movement, strong holds and impressive balance is a focal point for the Stars. However as Wilson is the dominant shooter and main avenue to goal it will be up to Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto to absorb some of the pressure and go to post regularly if they are to keep the Tactix defenders busy. Both Watson and Fakahokotau are in ripping form able to gobble up everything that comes their way, creating a wall in defence making it incredibly difficult for the Stars to penetrate. Coming off an impressive performance last week with Watson only racking up three penalties and nullifying the influence of Hume and Koloto at the post expect the Tactix captain to be keen to replicate her hot form. Similarly, Fakahokotau is no easy beat with her insistent pressure, aerial ability and read of the play.

Tactix goal shooter Ellie Bird showcased her star power last round against the Stars going on a tear with 37 goals at 100 per cent while the efforts of goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit did not go unnoticed aiding the towering shooter at the post and delivering the ball on a silver platter for her. Their strong connection could prove the thorn in the Stars side again this week if Storm Purvis and Kate Burley are not able to nullify one of them. Burley is strong in the air, consistently able to disrupt the flow in attack with her timely tips and hands over pressure while Purvis applies a wealth of physical pressure. The Stars also have options on the bench with Daystar Swift taking the court for the first time last week since returning from injury while Oceane Maihi has an impressive aerial presence.

It will bea battle of the young guns through the midcourt with Kimiora Poi and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan likely to go head to head. Poi has speed to burn able to dart around the court, hit the circle edge with precision and most importantly help out defensively to pick up loose ball while Reuelu-Buchanan dons a more attacking style of play. Poi’s connection with Bird and Selby-Rickit has steadily throughout the season with the centre willing to dish off from distance and look long into circle. she works well with fellow speedster Erikana Pedersen with the two able to rotate the ball around the circle edge with ease and create attacking forays. The Stars have their own trump card, with experienced wing attack Grace Kara often leading the way and setting the tempo in attack. She is clever with ball in hand and will be hoping to exploit Tactix wing defence Charlotte Elley with her netball smarts.

Sitting just outside of second spot on the ladder the Tactix will be desperate to claim the win and edge closer to a grand final appearance. Coming off a strong showing last round and oozing confidence given their impressive connections across the court the Tactix could be hard to stop but the Stars have nothing to lose making for an intriguing battle.

2020 ANZ Premiership: Round 7 – Player of the Week

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

In their only game of the round, Mainland Tactix goal shooter Ellie Bird starred from start to finish. It was a shooting masterclass from Bird with the shooter going on a tear and owning the goal circle with her improved movement and stunning accuracy. The 196cm goaler continued her hot form from last week, up on both her volume and accuracy against the Northern Stars, slotting a whopping 37 goals at 100 per cent showcasing her talent and potential. Bird announced herself as a serious threat for opposition teams, making it look easy in the goal circle reeling in every pass that came her way and backed herself to post.

Bird came out firing in the opening term, ultimately setting the tone for the Tactix nailing 11 goals straight while her third quarter performance was equally as impressive downing 10 goals. Her dominance under the post caused all sorts of headaches for the Stars with both Storm Purvis and Kate Burley struggling to get hands to ball thanks to her strong holds, quick footwork and accuracy to post. Bird had a clear game plan, holding the front space well and popping out when need be but was not afraid to shake things up when the connections were not working able to use her body to drop into the back space. The goal shooter showcased her spatial awareness to balance along the baseline time and time again and also displayed her ability to read the play often coming out of the circle to alleviate the pressure.

Although her partner in crime, Te Paea Selby-Rickit did not put up a wealth of shots it was their combination both inside and outside of the circle that did damage with the two seamlessly syncing up. Selby-Rickit seemed to have a ball on a string feeding into Bird, with the towering goal shooter relishing the pinpoint ball placement and room in the circle to move freely. With Bird holding strong and growing with stature as the game went on Selby-Rickit was able to turn and release in an instant to catch the defenders off guard and gift Bird easier passage to goal.

The dominant Tactix midcourt also paid dividends for Bird in particular, with Kimiora Poi and Erikana Pedersen finding Bird with ease under the post and using their respective speed to Bird’s advantage. Their ability to dart around the court enabled Bird to get easy looks to the post with the two consistently looking into the circle to see if she was free.

Receiving a lot of physical attention, Bird rose to the occasion and absorbed the pressure to lead her side to victory and control the tempo in the goal circle. She was not afraid to share the ball around and reposition to edge herself closer to the post with her fancy footwork enabling that process to happen. Her confidence in the goal circle was infectious with the midcourters surrounding her, feeding off her intensity and happy to deliver the ball from distance.