THE final round of the ANZ Premiership is set to have some ladder implications, although the Northern Mystics have already locked up top spot. The Stars and Magic will be battling it out for respect while the Pulse will be hoping to end their season on a high after not making finals for the first time since the competitions inception.
Southern Steel vs. Central Pulse
Saturday, July 24 @5:15pm
The Pulse will be hoping to farewell outgoing coach Gail Parata in style with a huge upset win over the Southern Steel who will be riding a wave of success of their own after toppling the Stars last round and securing a finals berth. It has been a disappointing season for the Pulse who have struggled to hit their straps but will be eager to cause an upset and finish their season on a high, while the Steel will be hoping to gain even more momentum.
The battle between George Fisher and Kelera Nawai will once again be the focal point as the two sides rely heavily on the influence of the aforementioned players. Fisher has well and truly asserted herself on the ANZ Premiership competition with her clever holds and fancy footwork enabling her to dictate the play meaning Nawai will have to be on her toes to stop the ball from entering the circle with any fluidity. The real barometer and concern for the Pulse however is, Tiana Metuarau with the Steel goal attack able to control proceedings credit to her crafty court work and pinpoint ball placement. With speed to burn she is going to be a tough task for Kelly Jury who well and truly has her height but no so much for court coverage. The contest between Shannon Saunders and Maddy Gordon is set to be a good one with the pair at different stages in their career but unrelenting when it comes to their pressure and desperation to impact the play for their respective sides.
It will all come down to whether or not Aliyah Dunn is able to withstand the physical nature of Taneisha Fifita for a full 60 minutes with the goal keeper coming off a dominant performance last round. Dunn does not take well to a bit of argy-bargy under the post meaning Te Amo Amaru-Tibble will have to up the ante inside the circle if the Pulse are any chance of causing an upset. The goal attack has showcased moments of magic but will need a consistent four quarter performance against the experienced head of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit. Speedster Whitney Souness and Claire Kersten will need to be on their a-game in attack if they are to bypass the hands over pressure from Kate Heffernan and Renee Savai’inaea to get easy passage into the circle.
Mainland Tactix vs. Northern Mystics
Sunday, July 25 @4:15pm
In what could be a potential grand final preview the contest between the Mainland Tactix and Northern Mystics is set to be an eye catching one to say the least. Both sides are coming in off narrow wins and with the Mystics securing a spot in the grand final it will all come down to bragging rights and confidence as the two sides battle it out in the last game of the home and away season.
It is going to be a battle of the goal shooters with Ellie Bird up one end of the court and Grace Nweke up the other. Bird is a lynchpin for the Tactix in attack with her strong holds and extra centimetres set to be the real kicker when up against the likes of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kate Burley who are likely to double-team the goal shooter. The Tactix will need the likes of Te Paea Selby-Rickit to be at her damaging best if they are to detract from Bird with the goal attack able to shoot from anywhere inside the circle when given enough time and space. For the Mystics, Nweke is the most prolific goaler in the league and for good reason with her dominance in the air and overall athleticism setting her apart from the rest. She will have wits tested though against Jane Watson and Karin Burger who are both renowned for their constant hustle and tenacity with the latter in career best form. Expect the Mystics to rely on the experience of Bailey Mes to combat the Tactix defensive pressure while Filda Vui is more than capable of holding her own in the circle.
The midcourt is littered with speed as Kimiora Poi headlines the Tactix in attack and defence while Tayla Earle is incredibly dynamic for the Mystics. But it will all come down to the battle between Peta Toeava and Charlotte Elley. Toeava can turn a game on its head within a heartbeat with her pinpoint precision passes into Nweke likely to set the tone for the game. therefore it will be up to Elley to stop the wing attack from finding any freedom and implement some strong hands over pressure to block her vision. For the Tactix if Samon Nathan can break free early then it will go a long way in setting things up for the home side.
Northern Stars vs Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, July 26 @7:15pm
It is going to be a matter of respectability for both sides as the Stars have fallen out of finals contention and the Magic looking to end their year on a high after only securing the one win way back in Round 1. It has been a very different journey for both sides but that will not stop them from putting out a blockbuster clash with the Magic really hitting their stride the last couple of rounds but just falling short.
Maia Wilson has well and truly been off her game the past couple of weeks with her accuracy and volume both down. But she is a true competitor and will be hoping to return back to her dominant ways under the post. If not the Stars will take full confidence in the number of bench options they have with the likes of Monica Falkner and Amorangi Malesala both able to come on and have an impact. Jamie Hume has been in career best form but will have her work cut out for her against the long arms of Erena Mikaere who is likely to be joined by the likes of Temalisi Fakahokotau down in defence. Holly Fowler has not skipped a beat since her return and will need to negate the influence of Gina Crampton if the Magic are to cause an upset.
The midcourt worked wonders last week with the connections between Grace Kara and Sam Winders firing on all cylinders. The duo will need to replicate this form if they are to sight Caitlin Bassett and Khiarna Williams under the post and bypass the pressure from Anna Harrison and Elle Temu. The Magic play their best netball when they release the ball with confidence and accuracy into the circle to allow Bassett to set up nicely inside the circle something they will be aiming to continue from last round. Harrison is a real threat in defence with her closing speed and athleticism as is Temu while throw in the likes of Oceane Maihi and the Stars have choices aplenty.