Tag: Kayla Cullen

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Pulse reign supreme in grand final rematch

A LOT has changed between the two ANZ Premiership sides since they last met in the grand final with the likes of Temepara Bailey, Leana de Bruin and Ellen Halpenny both retiring while Kayla Cullen announced her move to the Swifts. Meanwhile, Sulu Fitzpatrick and Whitney Souness both left the Pulse. But that did not seem to matter with both sides leaving no stone unturned and putting on a show in the grand final rematch. The Pulse did not skip a beat in their first game back since the COVID-19 enforced break, trouncing the Stars by 24 goals in what was an impressive all-round performance (63-39).  

The opening quarter lived up to anticipation with the Pulse racing out to a hefty lead before the Stars reeled them back in. Pulse goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio got off to a hot start slotting the first four goals of the game before partner in crime Aliyah Dunn got involved in the action. Ekenasio showcased her slick ball movement and demanding presence both in the goal circle and attacking third, receiving what seemed like every second pass and creating attacking forays. Defensively the Pulse were up and about with the Stars unable to penetrate the zone pressure only sinking their first goal three minutes into the match after both Jamie Hume and Maia Wilson missed their opening shots. Newbie Kelly Jury was impressive for the Pulse, using her lean over the shot to get in the head of Wilson, before the talented goaler got things back on her terms, using her strong holds to claim prime position under the post. The Stars worked hard defensively to shut down options and then propel the ball back down court to reduce the margin to two goals but they did not stop there with Hume sinking a long bomb on the buzzer to be within one goal at quarter time. 

With things all tied up in the opening minutes of the second quarter the Pulse quickly put an end to the goal for goal rhythm thanks to Dunn and Ekenasio going on a scoring spree. Dunn showcased her versatility leading outside of the goal circle and driving back hard to goal while youngster Maddy Gordon had a field day in attack with her speed, impressive vision and balance around circle edge. With the ball trapped in Pulse’s attacking third, Stars wing defence Fa’amu Ioane put her hand up using her footwork to try and block Gordon but it was to no real avail while the likes of Kate Burley also imposed herself with her timely tips. The combination of Wilson and Hume in the goal circle was tested but the goal shooter stood up to the pressure, finding the front space with ease. But the Stars simply could not combat the intense pressure from the Pulse who capitalised on every turnover and opportunity that swung their way with a whopping 21 to eight goal quarter. Jury led the defensive end with an impressive intercept credit to her long arms and quick footwork to cover the court. Meanwhile the combination between Dunn and  Ekenasio continued with the two simply undeniable under the post sitting at 100 per cent, testament to their skillset. Dunn found her rhythm under the post, gobbling up everything that came her way, making it look easy.

Renowned as the premiership quarter, the third term lived up to its name with the Pulse applying a wealth of pressure both on the scoreboard and defensively. Once again Jury was straight into the action with an intercept and denying any type of easy ball movement for the Stars. In hope to change things up down back Storm Purvis pushed out to goal defence with Oceane Maihi coming on in goal keeper. Maihi offered plenty of height and aerial ability to challenge the prominent Dunn in the air. Purvis and Maihi made life hard for the first few minutes before the Pulse once again pulled away with Gordon and Claire Kersten leading the way through the middle with their effortless feeds and ridiculous ball speed. The quick transition down court was simply unstoppable with the Pulse linking up with ease and causing all sorts of havoc for the Stars forcing them to chop and change players in centre with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Lisa Mather rotating through. In terms of defence Katrina Rore wore Hume like a glove, going with her every step of the way and only allowing the goaler to manage three goals for the quarter while Jury maintained her hunger for the ball, using her spatial awareness and balance to reel ball in and propel it down court with a whopping five intercepts and seven gains in the term alone. 

The fourth quarter followed suit with the Pulse doing everything right and not allowing the Stars any space. There were changes galore for both teams with Tiana Metuarau coming on in wing attack to replace speedster, Gordon. Defensively the Pulse brought on some fresh legs with Renee Savai’inaea and Elle Temu both making their presence felt with the latter notching up an intercept and gain in her 12 minutes on court. Stars youngster Vika Koloto was not overwhelmed by her opponent instead coming on and showcasing her skillset with an early goal and delivering well weighted passes into Wilson. But the changes were simply not enough to quell the steam train that was the Pulse who were slick from start to finish only missing four goals for the entire game. 

Wilson finished with 30 goals from 36 attempts at 83 per cent while Hume managed eight from 11 at 73 per cent. Dunn was a commanding figure with 44 from 46 at 96 per cent while Ekenasio slotted 19 from 21. The defensive efforts of Jury were unmatched with the young goal keeper amassing nine gains and six intercepts with Rore hot on her heels with five gains and an intercept. 

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> STARS TEAM PAGE

STARTING SEVENS:

NORTHERN STARS:

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Fa’amu Ioane
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis

CENTRAL PULSE:

GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Maddy Gordon
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Kelly Jury

Fantasy teams: New Zealand A v. Jamaica

NEW Zealand have steadily developed the next tier of players over the past couple of years with coach Noeline Taurua taking a clear look to the future of the Silver Ferns as shown with the New Zealand A team. Pitted up against a developing yet strong Jamaican team the battle sees a variety of up and coming stars as well as some experienced and well-versed international players.

New Zealand A:

GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick
GD: Kayla Cullen
WD: Sam Winders
C: Kimiora Poi
WA: Whitney Souness
GA: Tiana Metuarau
GS: Maia Wilson

BENCH: Ellie Bird, Maddy Gordon, Temalisi Fakahokotau

Starting in defence is Pulse premiership player and electrifying goal keeper Sulu Fitzpatrick. The defender is quick on her feet, can leap into action in a heartbeat given her impressive hops and is extremely dynamic both in the air and at ground level. Accompanying her is former Silver Fern and lanky defender Kayla Cullen who oozes nothing but class. She can ply her trade in goal defence, goal keeper or wing defence such is her netball understanding, versatility, strong movement and read of the play making life hard for opposition attackers.

The midcourt is littered with nimble and speedy players that are renowned for their ability to dart around the court and cause havoc. Wing defence, Sam Winders knows what it takes to play at the highest level having stepped out on court for the Ferns multiple times. Her defensive pressure, three-foot marking and ability to shadow attackers makes her a daunting prospect for many as she is constantly on the lookout for her next intercept or tip. Energiser bunny, Kimiora Poi gets the nod at centre with the 168cm nippy midcourter able to exploit every tiny bit of space and use her speed to burn off opponents. Her quick hands into the circle also allows her to catch defenders off guard and deliver pin point passes into the shooters. Partner in crime, Whitney Souness takes out the wing attack position. Although she plays a similar role to Poi given their speed and dynamic movement, her strength around the circle edge and general ball placement to feed into the circle makes her a promising prospect for New Zealand netball.

Looking into the goal circle there is no shortage of talent headlined by the likes of Northern Stars goaler in the ANZ Premiership, Maia Wilson. The 22-year-old has come along in leaps and bounds with her strong holds, and clever footwork, while her impressive rebounding ability, high volume of shorts and accuracy to post are just a couple of key components in her game play. Out in goal attack is Tiana Metuarau who much like her other teammates has developed at a rate of knots with her impressive timing along the baseline and skill with ball in hand. Metuarau has speed to burn, is confident in the attacking third and is not afraid to take the game on.

Rounding out the squad is physical and ball winning defender Temalisi Fakahokotau, speedster Maddy Gordon and holding goaler Ellie Bird.

Jamaica:

GK: Shamera Sterling
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
WD: Vangelee Williams
C: Adean Thomas
WA: Nicole Dixon
GA: Shanice Beckford
GS: Jhaniele Fowler

BENCH: Romelda Aiken, Khadijah Williams, Kadie-Ann Dehaney

There is no denying that the Sunshine Girls are bookended with top tier talent, able to turn a game on its head in a matter of seconds. Down in defence, Shamera Sterling leads the way with the long-limbed defender able to get a hand in everything that comes her way. Her ability to read the play, take a screaming intercept and constantly reject the ball from entering the goal circle is second to none. Out in goal defence, Jodi-Ann Ward plays a less flashy role than her defensive counterpart but still has an undeniable influence with her quick footwork, strong hands over pressure and court coverage to force timely turnovers. Ward is also very versatile able to move into wing defence and goal keeper when needed, giving her that competitive edge.

The midcourt is quite dynamic with all three players possessing plenty of speed to run opponents off their feet. The defensive minded Vangelee Williams is constantly on the hunt for an intercept with the wing defence able to read the play effortlessly and drop into the holes across the court. She is strong around circle edge to create tips and block easy access into the attacking third. Moving into centre is Adean Thomas with the 173cm midcourter able to take the ball at full speed and stop on a dime credit to her control and balance. Thomas is an exciting player to watch, able to light up the court with her playmaking style, dynamic footwork and vision into the circle. Similarly, Nicole Dixon plays with plenty of attacking flair able to find her fair share of space around the circle edge and deliver the ball into the goalers. She is quick off the mark and hardly ever stands still, always looking to work the angles and be an option in the attacking third.

Goal attack Shanice Beckford has speed and skill to boot, able to get under the feet of opposition defenders and command the ball despite her small stature. She is not afraid to back herself under or away from the post and is a real playmaker for Jamaica. Standing tall in goal shooter is Jhaniele Fowler with the 198cm goaler a commanding presence under the post. Her strength in the air is almost unmatchable, constantly reeling down any high balls, and using her body to ward off any oncoming defenders. She is hardly ever fazed by the defensive pressure and puts up a high volume of goals at an even higher accuracy.

On the bench is fellow towering goaler Romelda Aiken, along with dynamic midcourter Khadijah Williams and the ever-reliable Kadie-Ann Dehaney.

Who would win?

Boasting a slightly stronger midcourt group the New Zealand A team have the upper hand in the middle third with the likes of Winders, Poi and Souness all strong options. While Jamaica ooze nothing but class in both the goal keeper and goal shooter positions thanks to Sterling and Fowler it comes down to whether or not the Sunshine Girls can get on top of Wilson and Fitzpatrick to really romp it home something they definitely have the capability to do. With speed to boot and an uncanny intercepting ability Jamaica have a clear upper hand when it comes to not only connections across the court but so too scoring prowess.

What if… Suncorp Super Netball had extended benches in 2020?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) start date being announced as August 1 the teams are eager to get back out on court and perform. With plenty of preparation time on their hands each team is working on perfecting their connections across the court. However, the Australian Netball League (ANL) season has been cancelled for 2020 because of the financial impact COVID-19 has had on the sport, meaning that if injuries were to occur in SSN teams it could be difficult to find replacements. Committed to playing a full 60 game season, some teams could be in dire straits if they cannot access top-up players. 2019 was filled with a wealth of injuries throughout the season with many people hinting at an increased workload a potential reason for the increased injuries.

But what if the SSN had extended benches for the 2020 season?

An extended bench would allow flexibility for the clubs and more importantly help to look after the welfare of the players. While there is no denying that each team will be constantly hoping to put out their best and strongest team each time they take the court, having more players on the bench will help to alleviate the pressure on some of the starting seven and give them a break. Currently there are three players on the bench but an increased bench load could help the players in terms of management and also allow more netballers to get exposure to the major league.

With so many international netballers already gracing the courts of the Suncorp Super Netball, extended benches could allow for more to join to further strengthen the competition and develop players. With the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) not running due to COVID-19 some clubs could be tempted to look beyond the borders and pick up international stars to join their squad to fill their needs whether it be in defence, midcourt or in attack. There is no shortage of options and all-star prospects with the likes of English Roses Rachel Dunn, Jade Clarke, Fran Williams and a host of others all hopeful possibilities if SSN extended their bench. Although the ANZ Premiership season is running, by the time SSN begins it will be towards the tail end of the competition and could see players join the Australian league much like Katrina Rore and Kayla Cullen did last year.

With ANL also not running it could be a great time to increase the bench to encourage the continued development of the young up and coming prospects in Australian netball. Each club in the SSN has an affiliation to an ANL team meaning they could draw potential players from the lower league into the SSN and give them exposure to the more fast paced, dynamic and world renowned netball competition. After spending a fair bit of time playing in the ANL Cara Koenen, blossomed into a commanding goaler with her silky movement and calm temperament for the Sunshine Coast Lightning. Similarly, Mel Bragg got the call up to the Magpies line-up this year along with the likes of Tayla Fraser to the Swifts, proving that further exposure to SSN pressure works wonders for developing players.

What if … the 2019 season was not riddled by ACL injuries?

2019 PROVED to be the year of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries with a staggering amount of players succumbing to the injury and bringing their season to an abrupt end. With players forced to the sidelines, clubs had to find injury replacements and look to various other leagues such as the Australian Netball League (ANL) and ANZ Premiership to find someone to fill the void of their injured stars. Four out of the eight teams in Suncorp Super Netball got through the season unscathed when it comes to ACL related injuries.

But what if there were not as many ACL injuries? Would the Suncorp Super Netball ladder have looked different?

The Adelaide Thunderbirds were hit pretty hard with English international Beth Cobden struck down early in the season. With a relatively inexperienced line-up and new connections forming across the court it was hard to replace the high calibre player who oozed composure and versatility. Ruled out for the remainder of the season, the Thunderbirds missed her ability to stand up under pressure and think her way through the tricky passages of play. But unfortunately, the injuries did not stop there with youngster and shooting sensation Sasha Glasgow going down in Round 13 with an ACL injury of her own. Prior to that, the 21-year-old showcased her dominance under the post with her strong holds, accuracy to post and rangy shooting abilities. These two key injuries ultimately had an adverse effect on the Thunderbirds’ ability to compete consistently and at the highest level possible.

Despite making it to the finals, 2019 was a season of what ifs for the Magpies and one littered with injuries. Co-captain Madi Browne ruptured her ACL in the pre-season Team Girls Cup and failed to take the court throughout the season and it is fair to say that her presence was well and truly missed out on her court. Her slick ball movement, spatial awareness and dynamism makes her hard to stop when on song. Towards the tail end of the season sister, Kelsey Browne also fell victim to the ACL curse, ruling her out for the remainder of the season and putting a dampener on their finals hopes. It was clear that the connection both Browne sisters had with their goalers and fellow midcourters was lacking despite recruiting the services of Kimiora Poi to help fill the void.

Overall, it was a difficult season for the Firebirds, only winning a handful of games throughout the year and also riddled with injuries. In Round 5 Mahalia Cassidy’s season was cut short with the talented midcourter suffering her second ACL injury. Her speed and endurance was missed across the court with the fancy footed centre court player able to exploit any bit of space and deliver the ball into the goalers. Cassidy’s absence had an impact on the Firebirds’ drive through the middle and reliability with the centre known for her consistent and strong defence.

While the NSW Swifts went on to win the coveted 2019 SSN premiership it was without their inspirational captain Maddy Proud who did her ACL midway through the year. Proud was arguably in career best form with the midcourter consistently showcasing her strength around the circle edge and quick hands. The Swifts showed plenty of grit and determination throughout the season but with recruits like Kayla Cullen and Katrina Rore both plying their trade for the club it put them in good stead to come out on top. The versatility through the midcourt added an extra element of class to the already strong and well-connected Swifts outfit.

If the Thunderbirds were given a clear run at the competition free from injury they could have potentially registered more wins, while Collingwood could have gone further into the finals series given their midcourt depth and versatility. While the Firebirds struggled to generate wins, the option to bring Cassidy on could have given them that extra element of unpredictability to their starting line-up. Although the Swifts reaped in the rewards it would have been interesting to see how they competed with the likes of Proud amongst the mix for a whole season.

What if … Katrina Rore did not join the Swifts?

THE 2019 season of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) was a drought breaking and historic year for the New South Wales Swifts winning their inaugural SSN premiership but it was not without their fair share of challenges.

The Swifts were dealt plenty of injury blows throughout the season with England Roses wing attack and part time shooter Natalie Haythornthwaite sidelined for a large portion of the season, fellow Roses representative Helen Housby forced to the bench with a leg injury and Kate Eddy dealt a season ending ankle injury. But the biggest blow of them all was that to inspirational leader and captain Maddy Proud with the dynamo centre rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) midway through the season.

Bruised and battered the Swifts reverted to their up and coming stocks with the likes of Tayla Fraser and Elle Bennetts taking to the court to bolster their line-up. Former Silver Ferns, defender Kayla Cullen also made a brief appearance in the blue, red and white but was just a temporary replacement. While they offered fresh legs and a new perspective on the game the biggest coup of them all was the acquisition of Katrina Rore. Fresh off a premiership with the Central Pulse in the ANZ Premiership, Rore added that extra touch of class around the court while also boasting versatility to move between circle defence and wing defence.

What if Rore did not join the NSW Swifts? Would they have won the premiership?

Although the Swifts were littered with stars, Rore’s influence down in defence was unquestionable with the steady head and experience defender a commanding presence. Her ability to read the play, stand up in the big moments and do the unthinkable is what made her such an influential presence throughout her time in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN). Rore’s long arms, deceptive speed and high netball IQ played a pivotal role in shutting down opposition attacks.

While she spent the majority of her time out in wing defence, a position she has quickly made her own, her seamless transition into circle defence was something the Swifts made the most out of. Her presence in the goal circle with her lean over the shot, body-on-body physicality and quick feet to manoeuvre around the body created doubt in feeders minds. She was quickly able to adapt to the game play of fellow defenders Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau while the likes of Sophie Craig also had important cameos. Rore has an uncanny tact to go out and hunt the ball, using her impressive timing, long limbs and cleanliness to stop the ball from entering the attacking third with ease while also using her attacking mindset to propel the ball back down the court.

Rore had a game changing impact on the Swifts defensive line-up offering that calming sense down back when things got frantic and pulling out the unthinkable to keep her side afloat. Her experience and netball nous helped to guide the Swifts to victory even when she had a quiet day out on the court. While New South Wales had a solid team with a host of stars in their own right it is fair to say that she was the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle that got them over the line.

Would NSW Swifts have still won the 2019 SSN title without Katrina Rore?
Yes
No
Created with QuizMaker

Memorable Matches: Central Pulse finally breaks premiership drought

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look back at memorable matches. Next up is Central Pulse’s 2019 premiership victory over Northern Stars.

While this memorable match only happened last year, it makes the cut thanks to it being Central Pulse’s inaugural grand final victory since the club’s inception in 1998. Factor in it was Pulse’s third grand final appearance in a row, and the victory is all the more sweet for the side which sat top of the ladder all season. Despite a solid second and final quarter, the Stars were unable to capitalise on any momentum, falling 52-48 at the final hurdle.

Pulse were threatening from the get-go, with defence holding strong to thwart options in the circle and deny precious goals on the board, propelling the netball down the court to attack and while Silver Ferns goaler Ameliaranne Ekenasio was slow off the ranks with only two goals from six first quarter attempts, youngster Aliyah Dunn stole the show with 10 goals from 12 to ensure a lead at the first break. Whitney Souness was key on circle edge collecting the seven assists from 12 feeds, working well with Ekenasio and Dunn who rotated seamlessly to the post. Souness ran circles around her opposition in Kayla Cullen, finding plenty of space and racking up 20 assists from 38 feeds throughout the match. It was no slow quarter for the Stars however, well and truly in the game thanks to early gains from defenders Leana de Bruin and Storm Purvis, with the duo capitalising off Ekenasio’s slow start and racking up a combined five first quarter gains. 

The second quarter saw neither side able to really capitalise, with Pulse unable to pull away from the Stars who had three more attempts on goal but finished the second with 15 apiece for the quarter, down by two goals at the main change. It was an impressive quarter in attack for Pulse who went 15 from 15 for the quarter, with Dunn shooting up a storm while Tiana Metuarau made her way onto the court to replace Ekenasio, not putting up any shots but teaming up well with Souness and Claire Kersten to serve Dunn the ball on a platter. Defensively, Sulu Fitzpatrick and Katrina Rore may not have been racking up the stats but it was the work they did off the ball that made all the difference, making it tough for Maia Wilson and Charlee Hodges to find clean ball at the post. The pair were far more accurate in the second sitting on 83 per cent thanks to stellar feeds from Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Temepara Bailey who shared the load on circle edge. 

Where de Bruin and Purvis were in control early, the third quarter saw Pulse lift their game with Rore and Fitzpatrick reducing the Stars goalers to just 11 attempts, seeing Wilson being tagged out and Hodges having to lift her game to hold down the fort. Bailey moved into wing attack on circle edge but had a tough time with Karin Burger who did not necessarily open her bag of tricks but dogged every effort of the wing attack, reducing Bailey to just the four assists. Ekenasio returned to the court and was far more accurate, shooting four from five to take some pressure off Dunn, with the youngster continuing to put on a show.

A brave effort from the Stars saw them win the final quarter but it wasn’t enough, going down by four goals after an impressive fourth term effort. Where Wilson had a quiet third quarter, she came out of the blocks well to shoot 12 from 14 in the final term, with Hodges, Reuelu-Buchanan and Bailey plying their trade to get the ball to her at the post. But Pulse were just too good, with Dunn and Ekenasio sharing the load to take the trophy home in the intense matchup.
__

PULSE 12 | 15 | 13 | 12 (52)
STARS 10 | 15 | 9 | 14 (48)

STARTING SEVENS

Central Pulse
GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

BENCH: Elle Temu, Tiana Metuarau, Maddy Gordon
COACH: Yvette McCausland-Durie

Northern Stars

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Charlee Hodges
WA: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
C: Temepara Bailey
WD: Kayla Cullen
GD: Leana de Bruin
GK: Storm Purvis

BENCH: Ellen Halpenny, Holly Fowler, Kate Burley
COACH: Kiri Wills

SHOOTING STATS

PULSE:
Aliyah Dunn 40/43
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 12/19

STARS:
Maia Wilson 34/41
Charlee Hodges 14/20

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: Pulse and Tactix star in Te Wānanga o Raukawa pre-season tournament

THE Te Wānanga o Raukawa pre-season tournament over the weekend gave teams one more hit out before the season officially commences in two weeks. There were 11 games played throughout the tournament with the Mainland Tactix taking it to reigning premiers Central Pulse, while the Northern Stars failed to find their rhythm given the host of off-season changes. The Southern Steel, Northern Mystics and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic also took part in the pre-season competition.

Central Pulse (52) defeated Mainland Tactix (51)

It was an even game throughout with the Pulse claiming a narrow victory over the new and improved Mainland Tactix. The lead ebbed and flowed with both sides putting on a show across the court thanks to their exciting brand of netball and high calibre of players. the Tactix got out to a handy lead in the second term before the reigning premiers hit back in their usual fashion as the game went on to reclaim the lead. New Pulse recruit Kelly Jury showcased her class down in goal keeper with the lanky defender using her physical presence on court to out-body her opponents. Her connection with goal defence Karin Burger continued to develop as the game went on with the two picking off passes as they pleased. The ever-reliable Ameliaranne Ekenasio was strong under the post for the Pulse with her smooth movement, accuracy to post and netball smarts all on show. Maddy Gordon was strong in the midcourt putting her body on the line to win the ball and transition down court.

Northern Mystics (57) defeated by Southern Steel (63)

The Southern Steel opened up a handy lead in the first quarter and kept their foot on the pedal for the remaining three quarters to get the win. Steel played with plenty of flair and speed transitioning from one end of the court to the other with ease. After making the switch from the Pulse to the Steel, Sulu Fitzpatrick displayed her tenacity and hunt for the ball using her aerial ability to become a real threat to the Mystics. Fitzpatrick combined well with Phoenix Karaka to try and limit the options to post for the likes of Jennifer O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin. It was hard to stop the connection between Northern Mystics wing attack Elisapeta Toeava and goal shooter Grace Nweke with Toeava delivering quick feeds into the circle and consistently shaking up the delivery with loopy or direct passes. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had her work cut out for her in the defensive circle having to combat Nweke with her aerial ability and accuracy under the post.

Northern Stars (52) defeated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (60)

The Stars came out with a fire in the belly establishing a one goal lead at quarter time with the likes of Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume combining well under the post. As the game went on they struggled to maintain that high intensity thanks to the Magic piling on 17 goals in the second term. With only two goals the difference at half time the Stars clawed back another goal with a sole goal the difference once again but that was where it ended for the Stars with the Magic powering ahead in the fourth quarter. Waikato Bay kicked it up a gear in the final term with Mikaere showing her prowess down back with her hands over pressure. Whitney Souness displayed her speed through the midcourt with the dynamic wing attack slicing and dicing her way through the attacking third hitting the circle edge with pace and delivering pin point precision passes into the circle. Youngster Georgia Marshall also got her time to shine in the goal circle pairing well with Abigail Latu-Meafou in the circle with her movement and ball control on display.

Central Pulse (42) defeated Southern Steel (25)

The Pulse dominated the Southern Steel in all aspects limiting them to a mere 25 goals credit to their high defensive intensity paired with their attacking intent. The Steel’s defensive unit proved to be no match for the Pulse who picked them apart with their clever ball placement and good vision. Through the midcourt the inclusion of Renee Savai’inaea paid dividends with the centre using her strong hands and drive to the circle edge time and time again to deliver the ball into Ekenasio and Metuarua. Savai’inaea’s movement in general was strong commanding the ball and playing a good link-up role to re-offer across the court. With Jury only coming into the side this season her connection with Elle Temu developed as the game went on with the two using their physicality to push McCollin and O’Connell wide and restrict their ability to go to post. Both Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders were well held through the midcourt and attacking third for Steel which in turn limited the flow to goal.

Northern Stars (42) defeated Central Pulse (61)

The tried and tested combo of Wilson and Hume combined once again in the goal circle with the likes of captain Grace Kara doing a wealth of work out the front to feed the ball into them. Kara was strong in the midcourt with her quick hands while Fa’amu Ioane plied her trade in centre. True to form they came out hot in the first quarter holding a three goal lead against the reigning premiers but as the game went on fell off the boil. The Pulse used their experience and skill to think and work their way back into the clash with a 16 to 10 goal quarter handing them the ascendancy. From there onwards Pulse did not look back, steadily adding to the margin and hitting the scoreboard with ease thanks to the likes of Aliyah Dunn and Tiana Metuarau. Defensively the Stars had their work cut out against the all-star shooting line-up with the loss of Leana de Bruin, Kayla Cullen and absence of Storm Purvis on show. In saying that the likes of youngster Kate Burley and Oceane Maihi worked tirelessly to win ball back for their side.

Southern Steel (47) defeated by Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (57)

The Magic stunned the Steel running out with a 10-goal win. They skipped out to an early seven goal lead pushing the Steel into chase position from early on, a deficit they simply could not reduce. Latu-Meafou showcased her netball smarts throughout the game with a clever throw in hitting the post and jumping back on court to score highlighting just how much she has developed over the off-season. Whitney Souness stepped it up through the midcourt with the speedy wing attack darting across the transverse line and providing that link into the goal circle. On the other hand, Steel wing defence Kate Heffernan could not keep up with Souness’ pace and dynamic movement allowing her to run freely in the attacking third. Magic’s swarming style of defence was on full display with each and every player looking to hunt the loose ball and propel it back down the court.

Mainland Tactix (62) defeated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (53)

From the first whistle the Tactix skipped out to a strong lead and they did not look back building on their performance each quarter. The defensive duo of Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson brought plenty of excitement in the opening 15 minutes with the pair bringing the physical pressure along with the intensity in the goal circle, hunting any ball that came their way and using their three-foot marking to get in the head of their younger opponents. Ellie Bird was strong under the post using her change of speed and height to reel in passes. The inclusion of Te Paea Selby-Rickit in the goal circle worked wonders for the Tactix with the goal attack using her accuracy to post and passing skills to do damage in the attacking third with defender Erena Mikaere struggling to break the connection. Through the midcourt the battle between Kimiora Poi and Samantha Winders brought plenty of intrigue with the two ultimately nullifying each other. In the goal circle Latu-Meafou proved her worth with her smooth movement and ability to find easy avenue to goal but it was not enough to get them over the line.

Northern Mystics (50) defeated by Mainland Tactix (56)

The Mainland Tactix continued their strong showing at the pre-season tournament with a hard fought win over the Mystics. Mainland got out to an early lead and did not look like giving it up despite the Mystics’ best efforts to disrupt their game play. The Tactix were simply too strong across the court and impressed particularly in the goal circle thanks to Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit finding the net time and time again with their clever screens and accuracy to post. Fitzpatrick and Karaka struggled to stop the Tactix shooters despite their intercepting ability. Through the midcourt, centre Charlotte Elley created plenty of excitement with her efforts in the attacking third to thread the needle. Poi and Elley looked like a well-oiled machine spread around the circle edge and not leading into the same space causing havoc for the Mystics defenders.

Central Pulse (39) defeated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (36)

The lead see-sawed throughout the game with both sides unable to truly break away from the other such was the closeness and evenness across the court. The Magic got to within one goal in the dying minutes of the final quarter before the Pulse put the foot down to notch up a three-goal victory. It was a fast pace game with players looking to move the ball with urgency and create space with well-timed drives. The ball placement into the circle was aerial for both sides with the Magic feeders backing in the strength of Kelsey McPhee under the post to reel in the ball and shoot. In her new colours Holly Fowler plied her trade down back and despite being a deal shorter than her opponents she used her speed to dart around the circle and cause confusion. Pulse captain, Katrina Rore was up to her usual tricks applying a truckload of pressure around the circle edge with her three-foot marking, long arms and deceptive speed to cover the court with ease and rack up intercepts.

Northern Stars (52) defeated by Southern Steel (64)

It was a convincing performance from the Steel who did not skip a beat against the Stars. Despite Wilson plying her trade in the goal circle the defensive pressure of both Selby-Rickit and Abby Erwood proved too strong. Recruit, Daystar Swift worked hard down back for the Stars and although she was often beaten in the air her effort was immense moving around the body of her opponent to confuse the space. Through the midcourt Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was impressive using her change of direction and quick ball movement to slice through the defensive zones and deliver into Wilson and Hume. But all in all it was the Southern Steel that were head and shoulders above their opponent hunting down every cross court ball and making the most of their opportunities under the ring.

Central Pulse (69) defeated Northern Mystics (55)

In the final game of the pre-season tournament the Pulse flexed their muscles once again showcasing why they are the team to beat in 2020. They owned the game from the first centre pass, creating a strong lead and steadily building on it as the game went on. It is hard to get past them credit to their defensive stocks with Burger, Rore, Jury and Temu all able to have a profound influence under the post such is their read of the play and defensive prowess while up the other end the shooting duo of Dunn and Ekenasio is hard to stop. Gordon took her game to another level in the midcourt with the centre using her body positioning and turn of speed to get around Tayla Earle and Dani Gray. Nweke was her usual consistent self under the post using her impressive athleticism and high volume to control the airways and provide a target but it was not enough to get her side over the line.

ANZ Premiership: 2020 team preview- Northern Stars

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 second team in our preview is the Northern Stars.

Coach: Kiri Wills
Captain: Grace Kara
2019 finish: 2nd

Last year brought plenty of excitement for the Northern Stars with the team making it to the big dance after hitting some good form late in the season. They dropped off midway through the year but recovered when it counted however they simply could not get over the line against the Pulse in the grand final. Their connections across the court and defensive pressure were second to none able to intercept the ball and propel it back down the court making them a real threat.

2020 predictions/expectations:
It will be hard to replace the wealth of players that departed the club with the likes of Temepara Bailey, Ellen Halpenny and Kayla Cullen all leaving notable holes in the Stars line-up. But they have plenty of young players that will be searching for their moment in the spotlight. The Stars took many by surprise last year and will be looking to do the same this year despite having less star power. With Halpenny retiring and Australian, Charlee Hodges leaving the inclusion of Jamie Hume will be huge with the goal attack able to stand up under pressure and shoot from range. Mila Reuelu-Buchanan found her feet through the midcourt as the season went on and will have to carry more of the load with Bailey gone and new recruit Lisa Mather coming into the side. Grace Kara will be another one looking to step up and enforce herself with her experience and ball speed a couple of key aspects of her game. Defensively Storm Purvis has skills to boot with her hands over pressure and three foot marking. Although it may take a while for all the cogs to click into gear the Stars could push for a top three spot in 2020.

Key player:
After a breakout international season expect big things from the talented goal shooter Maia Wilson. The 22-year-old oozes excitement able to break a game wide open with her strong holds and ability to score quickly. She is a confidence player and will rely on the influence of teammates to help get her up and about but when she is firing she is hard to stop. Wilson has a plethora of skills able to get up for the high balls and display good ball control to reel errant passes in. She can shoot from anywhere in the circle making her the key cog in attack for the Stars and has shown throughout pre-season tournaments that she can pull her weight out in goal attack.  She could be the key to unlocking the Stars success in 2020.

Team list:

Kate Burley
Jamie Hume
Fa’amu Ioane
Grace Kara
Lisa Mather
Julianna Naoupu
Storm Purvis
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
*Daystar Swift (Trinidad & Tobago)
Maia Wilson

Cullen crosses the ditch to join NSW Swifts

NEW Zealand Silver Ferns versatile defender Kayla Cullen has signed with the NSW Swifts for 2020. The talented defender will fill the void left by Kate Eddy and add to the defensive stocks with the likes of Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau.

Despite her injury battles, Cullen is no stranger to the big stage having played with the Ferns and plying her trade with the Northern Stars throughout 2019. The Stars fell agonisingly short in the grand final this year but she showed moments of magic with her speed, long reach and ball winning ability. She can play both circle defence and wing defence credit to her read of the play, general netball know how and experience on the international stage.

Cullen made her debut for the Swifts earlier in the year acting as a temporary replacement player in Round 10 and 11 making her an exciting prospect for the coming seasons with the Swifts. With a premiership under their belt and captain Maddy Proud set to return some stage next year the Swifts are shaping up to be hot contenders once again next season.

With an already decorated trophy cabinet thanks to her Silver medal in the 2015 Netball World Cup and gold medal from the Fast5, Cullen will be looking to add to her collection and bring the heat in 2020.

Coach Briony Akle is excited to have the talented defender apart of her squad next year.

“Kayla is a world class player and to have almost 50 international caps to her name at her age is a testament to this,” Akle said. “With Kate Eddy moving to the Vixens and Katrina Rore back in New Zealand, we needed a top class operator to come into our defensive end, and Kayla has a massive body of work behind her so fits that bill perfectly.”

Having played in New Zealand for the past couple of seasons, Cullen is now ready to cross the ditch and play in the Suncorp Super Netball on a more permanent basis and is looking forward to the chance.

“I am really happy to have this opportunity to play with a club as welcoming and successful as the Swifts,” Cullen said. “I love living in Sydney and buy into the vision Briony and her team have. “They’ve had an amazing 2019 and I know they want to go better again in 2020, which makes me very excited.”