Tag: Phoenix Karaka

ANZ Premiership: Northern Stars and Northern Mystics look to bolster 2021 squad

WITH the ANZ Premiership season done and dusted, teams have started to finalise squads for the 2021 season as the Northern Stars and Northern Mystics announced their player lists throughout the week.  There are a couple of notable changes for both sides, with some key players either departing or retiring while some shock inclusions are set to send tongues wagging next season.

The announcements did not stop there, as Central Pulse released the replacement for Yvette McCausland-Durie with Gail Parata set to take the reins for the upcoming season. After taking the Pulse to back-to-back premierships McCausland-Durie parted ways with the club, paving the way for Parata who boasts a wealth of experience having coached the Scottish Thistles for six years while also spending time as an assistant coach for the Pulse and Northern Mystics. The Pulse have already lost the services of defender Elle Temu with the goal keeper committing to the Northern Stars in hope to get some more court time, meaning Parata will be hopeful to retain the remainder of her list.

Temu joins a couple of other new faces at the Northern Stars in 2020 with Gina Crampton switching from the Southern Steel after eight years. Crampton will add a wealth of experience to the frontend with captain Grace Kara not announced in the squad. Expect Crampton to link up well with Maia Wilson given their Silver Ferns connection and sheer dominance in their respective positions. But the most surprising signing was in the form of Anna Harrison who retired from the game two years ago, but is set to make a comeback much like Renae Ingles did in the Suncorp Super Netball. Famously known for her chairlift and aerial ability Harrison is an exciting prospect for the Stars who lost Storm Purvis to retirement and Kate Burley to the Northern Mystics, however they did retain the services of the talented Oceane Maihi. Another inclusion in the form of Monica Falkner from Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and the acquisition of Amorangi Malesala who has spent time in the Australian pathways will further bolster their line-up for their 2021 campaign.

On the other hand the Northern Mystics have maintained a relatively unchanged line-up bar one or two forced changes with Phoenix Karaka announcing her pregnancy. As noted before, Burley has joined the Mystics and is likely to pair up with Sulu Fitzpatrick while Michaela Sokolich-Beatson is set to return after missing the 2020 season with injury. Speaking of injury, Silver Ferns goaler Bailey Mes has also been named for next season with the goaler offering a wealth of composure and knowledge under the post. It is no surprise the Mystics held onto talented goal shooter Grace Nweke, with the 18-year-old able to single-handedly change the course of a game. Joining her inside the goal circle is Filda Vui with the former Beko League shooter relishing the opportunity to get on court throughout the season while Saviour Tui is back for another season. Another Stars transfer in the form of Fa’amu Ioane has also been announced as part of the Mystics squad for 2021 with the wing defence boasting plenty of firepower and excitement through the middle third as the Mystics push for a potential finals tilt after falling just short this year.

The remaining four clubs are yet to announce their squads for the 2021 season but give the number of change ups already listed there could be some wholesale alterations across the board.

2020 ANZ Premiership season review – Northern Mystics

IT was an unprecedented season as the ANZ Premiership came to a halt after Round 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but later returned in June to round out the remainder of the season, bar Round 10. The season saw plenty of intriguing battles as teams plied their trade across the court in hope to work their way up the ladder. Draft Central takes a look back at the year that was, with the Northern Mystics narrowly missing out on the finals after what was a strong 2020 season.

Win-loss: 7-2-6
Ladder position: 3rd
Captain: Phoenix Karaka

Overall season review:

Despite being struck with injury early, as goaler Bailey Mes was ruled out of the season, the Northern Mystics piled on the pressure throughout the season to become a serious finals contender. A disappointing end to the season saw those hopes dashed but that did not discount the impressive performances they put out throughout the home and away season. The defensive combination of new-comer Sulu Fitzpatrick and captain Phoenix Karaka worked wonders as the duo were renowned for their impressive defensive pressure, ball hunting ability and physicality. Through the midcourt youngster Tayla Earle elevated her game throughout the season, taking the hard drive to the top of the circle and plying her trade in defence however it was Peta Toeava that was the real barometer for the Mystics. She was able to single-handedly change the course of a game with her speed of release, dynamic footwork and constant attack to drive the ball forward. One area the Mystics struggled with throughout the season however was the goal attack position with the likes of Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes often rotating through in hope to provide some scoreboard pressure. Although they did not finish the season on a high, there were plenty of positives to take out of the season as a whole, after just narrowly missing out on finals.

Star player:

It is hard to go past the efforts of teenage shooting prodigy Grace Nweke who was solid as ever under the post for the Northern Mystics. The goal shooter did not skip a beat often leading the way under the post with her strong holds and sheer scoreboard dominance. She was often a lone hand in the goal circle left to fend off both defenders but that did not seem to faze the youngster who took every encounter in her stride. Nweke put on a masterclass with her aerial presence second to none while her footwork also impressed, consistently able to edge herself closer to the post. Her ability to command ball and withstand the contest in the air to strongly reel in the ball was a testament to her development throughout the season, as she was a lynchpin in attack for the Mystics.

Surprise packet:

With the goal attack position up for grabs it was Filda Vui that brought the intensity and commitment. While she did not get a wealth of court time the youngster plied her trade effectively and most importantly proved that she was not afraid to take the game on. Vui made her way onto the list midway through the season and showcased her impressive footspeed and spatial awareness to continuously deliver ball into Nweke on the hold. Her injection of speed paired flawlessly with Toeava in the attacking third while her drive along the baseline also opened up the goal circle for the Mystics. Having played in the Beko League with Nweke the combination between the two was strong often showcased through their crafty shooter to shooter interplay while Vui also highlighted her skill to shoot from range.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Season stats leaders

THE 2020 ANZ Premiership season has come to a close with Central Pulse claiming back to back premierships after a dominant season. There were plenty of star players across the competition as Draft Central reflects on the top five players in each key performance indicator. Mainland Tactix and Northern Mystics impressed throughout the year with a couple of players featuring highly in the top five for their respective areas while Pulse also starred.

GOALS

Grace Nweke (471)
Maia Wilson (461)
Elie Bird (421)
Aliyah Dunn (340)
Kelsey McPhee (270)

It is no surprise that teenage shooting prodigy Grace Nweke tops the table for 2020 with the goal shooter once again starring for the Mystics with her high volume of shots week in week out and accuracy to post. Nweke proved to be a formidable force under the post credit to her sheer athleticism and strength. Hot on her heels in second place is Maia Wilson with the Northern Stars goal shooter guiding her side through the season acting as the go-to girl under the post. Wilson was consistent as ever and diversified her game in 2020 while Ellie Bird found some hot form towards the backend of the season to push her side into the grand final. Aliyah Dunn was influential for the Pulse sitting at the highest accuracy of the top 10 shooters in the league with 91 per cent highlighting just how damaging she was and the reason why the Pulse secured another premiership. The final spot in the top five goes to Kelsey McPhee who had somewhat of an up and down season but still managed to find the net to sink 240 goals for the year for the Magic.

CENTRE PASS RECEIVES

Gina Crampton (319)
Whitney Souness (311)
Grace Kara (250)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit (194)
Erikana Pedersen (182)

It was a testing season for the Southern Steel but that did not stop Gina Crampton with the wing attack plying her trade at the centre pass to receive a wealth of ball and create that flow in attack. Crampton showcased her speed and impressive timing to pop out at the line to take out number one spot while Whitney Souness was a key contributor for Waikato Bay of Plenty using her evasiveness to receive ball at the centre pass. Veteran and Stars captain, Grace Kara was strong at the line while two Mainland Tactix attackers round out the top five. Goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit was a real workhorse often involved in what felt like every second pass, while Erikana Pedersen showed no sign of slowing down, returning from injury this season.

FEEDS

Gina Crampton (434)
Grace Kara (394)
Whitney Souness (393)
Erikana Pedersen (384)
Peta Toeava (368)

Dominating the centre pass receives it is no surprise that Crampton starred around circle edge with her clever feeds credit to her exceptional vision into the circle. Kara was a real barometer for the Stars with the wing attack often controlling the tempo of the game and executing the pass into the shooter while Souness used her speed and give and go to hit circle edge for the Magic time and time again. Pedersen was solid for the Tactix varying her passes into the circle to keep the defenders guessing. Coming in at fifth was Peta Toeava with the speedy wing attack darting around the attacking third and taking advantage of her quick release to rack up the feeds.

REBOUNDS

Sulu Fitzpatrick (23)
Erena Mikaere (21)
Te Huinga Selby-Rickit (18)
Temalisi Fakahokotau  (16)
Katrina Rore (16)

In new colours for season 2020 Sulu Fitzpatrick did not skip a beat with the Mystics goal keeper oozing her class and experience to box out her opponents and gobble up rebounds. She was a tough competitor in the air often reeling in any shot that fell short while Erena Mikaere was also a commanding presence in the defensive third as her long limbs enabled her to collect a wealth of rebounds for Magic. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit toiled hard in defence for the Steel working in overdrive to reclaim possession while Mainland Tactix goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau came out with a point to prove after missing last season through injury. Fakahokotau was a menace on the rebound with her aerial ability and read on the shot while the experience and class of Katrina Rore shone allowing the Pulse defender to pick up plenty of ball.

DEFLECTIONS

Jane Watson (72)
Temalisi Fakahokotau (70)
Sulu Fitzpatrick (58)
Erena Mikaere (53)
Phoenix Karaka (49)

Mainland Tactix captain, Jane Watson led all-comers when it came to deflections with her long arms and read of the play causing a ruckus for opposition teams. Watson’s cleanliness at the contest and speed off the mark allowed her to impact the play. It is no surprise that partner in crime Fakahokotau took out second spot in the top five with the goal keeper injecting herself on the contest thanks to her fancy footwork to manoeuvre around her opponent. Fitzpatrick and Mikaere were consistent performers for their respective teams, often sitting back to read the flow of the game and then go out hunting to disrupt the attack. Captain Phoenix Karaka also proved to be a commanding force out in goal defence for the Mystics able to use her speed and long arms to force tips and chances to regain possession for her side.

INTERCEPTS

Kelly Jury (26)
Temalisi Fakahokotau (22)
Phoenix Karaka (22)
Kate Burley (22)
Karin Burger (22)

Swapping dresses in season 2020 and seeming to have recovered from a niggling shoulder injury, Kelly Jury showcased just how dominant she can be racking up a season high 26 intercepts. Jury was unstoppable in the defensive third, not afraid to go out hunting putting fear into the attackers. Fakahokotau was just as exciting as the goal keeper left no ball uncontested and used her footspeed to get hands to ball while Karaka also recorded 22 intercepts. Kate Burley was a silent achiever for the Stars showcasing moments of brilliance with her tenacity and relative cleanliness. The only non-circle defender, Karin Burger takes out fifth spot with the wing defence often leaving many in awe credit to her work around circle edge to not only stay on side but so too rack up the intercepts.

2020 Silver Ferns squad predictions

ONE day out from the Silver Ferns squad announcement, Draft Central has compiled a team of 16 potential players to don the black dress when the international season commences. We take a look at some new players likely to join the fray after an impressive 2020 ANZ Premiership season along with some familiar names also set to take the court.

Familiar faces:

There will be plenty of fan favourites raring to go for the 2020 international season with Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Katrina Rore and Karin Burger all likely to be named again in this year’s squad. The trio are a formidable force and are in scintillating form coming off a premiership in the ANZ Premiership and will be eager to replicate that level of intensity on the international stage, with Ekenasio the current Ferns captain. Other familiar names in Jane Watson and Te Paea Selby-Rickit have all but secured their spot once again in the Ferns outfit with Watson earning Player of the Year honours in the ANZ Premiership thanks to her dominance and cleanliness in defence while Selby-Rickit consistently showcased her playmaking abilities. Maia Wilson impressed with her accuracy, increased movement in the goal circle and heightened stamina while the midcourt combination of Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders is one of reliability and precision, something the Ferns will be hoping to take advantage of.

Next in line:

After starring throughout the ANZ Premiership season Kelly Jury has well and truly put her hand up for Ferns contention. The goal keeper has gone from strength to strength throughout the season working well with Rore and Burger in defence while her lean over the shot is an incredibly intimidating element to contend with for opposition teams. On the comeback from injury Temalisi Fakahokotau announced herself as a fierce competitor down back with her aerial presence and physicality under the post to win a host of possession and prime herself for selection. Up the other end in goal shooter, expect Aliyah Dunn to reclaim her spot in the black dress given her dominance to post, high volume of shots and increased versatility to come out of the circle and get on the move to shake up from her usual holding style of play.

The midcourt could have a new flavour with Kimiora Poi leading the charge for that starting centre bib thanks to her explosiveness and speed off the mark. She elevated her game to a whole new level throughout the domestic season and will be keen to carry that star power onto the international scene. Another possibility to re-join the Ferns for 2020 is Claire Kersten with the Pulse centre highlighting both her defensive and attacking attributes throughout the season to pick up ball and penetrate the attack. Magic captain, Sam Winders showcased her versatility to swing between wing defence and centre and could be a valuable inclusion into the Ferns midcourt and look to secure a permanent spot in the squad.

Maddy Gordon burst onto the scene in 2020 to well and truly cement her spot in the starting seven for the Central Pulse and put her hand up for Silver Ferns contention. Coming off an MVP performance in the grand final, the speedy midcourter injects enthusiasm and wisdom beyond her years to dart around the court and create space. Ultra-impressive in attack, her defensive efforts are just as captivating, able to track the ball with great ease to pick up intercepts or force deflections thanks to her incredible timing.

Who’s missing:

The Silver Ferns will be without a couple of key contributors, none bigger than veteran Laura Langman who announced on Monday her retirement from international duties. After being a key cog in the Ferns midcourt for the past 15 years it will be a huge loss for New Zealand and incredibly difficult to replace given her star power, gut running and reliability to do the unthinkable time and time again. Another notable absentee is Phoenix Karaka with the defender announcing her pregnancy while Michaela Sokolich-Beatson is also unlikely to be named in the squad, still recovering from injury.

Roughies:

While they might not get the call up to the Silver Ferns for the upcoming international season, Kate Heffernan and Grace Nweke are definitely knocking on the door. Heffernan was a quiet achiever for the Southern Steel across the ANZ Premiership season with the wing defence plying her trade and using her three-foot marking to block her opponents vision into the circle and pick up ball herself. Strong in defence, her work in transition was also impressive re-offering on the transverse line to allow her side to reset in attack. Nweke dominated under the post for the Mystics showcasing her sheer strength and athleticism week in and week out to topscore for her side. Her accuracy was second to none, often sitting in the high 90s and slicing up the defence, and most importantly withstanding the constant barrage of physicality under the post. Recovering from injury, it is yet to be seen whether or not Bailey Mes will be available to wear the black dress this year but if she is fit the experienced goaler will be a great asset to the Silver Ferns.

Predicted squad of 16:

Attack: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Aliyah Dunn, Maia Wilson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Bailey Mes
Midcourt: Claire Kersten, Kimiora Poi, Maddy Gordon, Gina Crampton, Shannon Saunders, Sam Winders
Defence: Karin Burger, Katrina Rore, Jane Watson, Kelly Jury, Temalisi Fakahokotau

ANZ Premiership playoff hypotheticals

ALTHOUGH no ANZ Premiership playoffs will be held on Sunday due to COVID-19 precautions, Draft Central poses some hypotheticals taking into account recent form and history to predict the end result of each game, which would have completed the 2020 season. The original setup would have seen the third placed Northern Mystics take on the fourth placed Northern Stars while the last placed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic booked a date with fifth on the ladder, Southern Steel.

NORTHERN MYSTICS (3rd) v. NORTHERN STARS (4th)

R1: Stars (55) defeated by Mystics (59)
R6: Mystics (51) defeated Stars (47)

History/recent form
The Mystics have had the wood over the Stars in their past two encounters, winning by four goals each time and making it a tough but not impossible task for the Stars heading into the clash. Falling agonisingly short of a top two spot after a couple of disappointing losses towards the backend of the season, the Northern Mystics would have been hoping to get some reward for their stellar season and hold onto third spot. They stunned the competition in 2020 with their youth taking a step up while 2019 grand finalists Northern Stars would have been hoping to end their season on a high after somewhat of a rollercoaster year.

How it could have gone down
Given their recent dominance against the Stars and the firepower they have across the court, it is fair to suggest that the game would have ended in the Mystics’ favour. Australian Emily Burgess has been a solid option in wing defence for the Mystics given her hands over pressure and speed off the mark while the switch up of Courtney Elliott into goal defence from wing defence has paid dividends with the defender hustling for every ball. Elliott can effectively ply her trade in either position and has a real desperation each time she steps out on court to regain possession and send the ball into attack making her potential match up against Stars captain Grace Kara exciting. The wing attack is a real leader for the Stars with her attack on circle edge, cleverly weighted passes into Wilson and strength to ward off defenders.

Peta Toeava has led the troops in attack throughout the season and has been busy in her past two outings against the Stars with Fa’amu Ioane unable to stop her lightning quick release into none other than Grace Nweke. Many would have expected that combination to be the breaking point for the Stars thanks to Nweke’s undeniable strength in the air and accuracy to post. However, announcing her retirement only days ago it is fair to say that Stars’ Storm Purvis would have left nothing to chance in her final game to push Nweke to her limits.

Key match-up
All eyes would have turned to the battle under the post between Maia Wilson for the Stars and the Mystics defence. Captain Phoenix Karaka has a strong record against the Stars with the goal defence able to use her experience and nous to dictate the flow of the game with her go get it mentality. Karaka is quite physical and is not afraid to contest each and every ball that comes her way partnering well with goal keeper Sulu Fitzpatrick in the defensive third. Fitzpatrick is a menace under the post with her constant niggle and clever footwork to get around the body of her opponent time and time again. Last time they met Fitzpatrick managed seven gains, an intercept and two rebounds to shut down the prolific Wilson under the post. Wilson is incredibly accurate and makes the most of her chances acting as the lynchpin for the Stars attacking unit while Jamie Hume has struggled in the past against the persistent Karaka.

Hypothetical MVP: Grace Nweke

 

SOUTHERN STEEL (5th) v. WAIKATO BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC (6th)

R1: Steel (48) defeated by Magic (54)
R6: Steel (41) defeated Magic (40)

History/recent form
The Steel were hit with injury after injury while the Magic struggled to find any continuity across the court. Last time these two sides met was back in Round 6 with the Steel getting over the line by the slimmest of margins while the encounter before that saw the Magic secure a six goal win. While the Magic only won the one match for the season, they displayed plenty of hunger and came close to wins on multiple occasions but were unable to clinch victory.

How it could have gone down
This game would have come down to pride and resilience with both teams faced with their fair share of challenges but building some strong form come the backend of the season. Sitting at one win apiece it was set to be an exciting encounter especially given the heightened stakes of not wanting to finish at the bottom of the ladder. But the devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to Holly Fowler would likely have tipped the odds into the Steel’s favour as the Magic would be forced to shake up their entire midcourt and defensive structure. With Ariana Cable-Dixon missing the latter half of the season after announcing her pregnancy the Magic would have had to bring in someone new for this game.

Captain Sam Winders was influential through the midcourt and really found her stride in centre using her defensive attributes to win ball back and then her speed and attacking mindset to swing into offence. She was likely to come up against the highly talented duo of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton in centre and wing attack respectively. The two have been relatively consistent throughout the season taking full advantage of their high level of endurance and experience to steer the ship. Kelsey McPhee, Abigail Latu-Meafou and Khiarna Williams steadily built a strong connection with Williams highlighting her versatility to move between goal shooter and goal attack and McPhee turning into a reliable source under the post. Youngster Taneisha Fifita has enjoyed the extra court time in 2020 and would have been a highly physical opponent for McPhee while Te Huinga Selby-Rickit has been the mainstay for the Steel and would have been hoping to once again lead her side to victory. Given the influx of injuries the Magic were faced with an uphill battle while the Steel had seemed to recover from the loss of Jennifer O’Connell and Kate Heffernan, making the most of their fresh faces.

Key match-up
Fowler found her feet out in wing defence allowing Erena Mikaere to ply her trade in goal defence and Georgia Tong in goal keeper to use her leap to get hands to ball. The potential match-up between Tong and Ellen Halpenny was set to be interesting as Halpenny got the chocolates last time they stepped out on court with her experience and class keeping Tong’s head on a swivel. Goal attack Kalifa McCollin was another one preparing for a big game with the shooter carving up the court with her silky footwork, spatial awareness and deadeye accuracy to post but had her work cut out for her against the long arms of Mikaere.

Hypothetical MVP: Kalifa McCollin

ANZ/SSN Stats wrap: Round 9/2,3

LAST week’s stats wrap looked a bit different with both the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and ANZ Premiership taking the court, and this week is no different with the SSN having an extra round of competition to add to the wrap. The two competitions saw some huge results over the combined 13 games across the last seven days – with at least one game played every night from Friday through Wednesday – and plenty of top talent stepping up to the plate. Like last week, it is important to take into consideration that the two leagues currently have different rules and matchplay times, with differing stats evident. 

ATTACK

Jhaniele Fowler continues to lead the goaling tally three rounds down and is likely to stay there thanks to her prolific volume and accuracy, combining for 111 goals at 90 per cent across Rounds 2 and 3. Next in line is Cara Koenen with the youngster backing up well between matches shooting 38 goals on the weekend and 30 to finish Round 3, while Caitlin Bassett racked up 47 goals in her 200th national appearance on Tuesday evening. Shimona Nelson took the court for the first time in Round 2, shooting 32 goals before going one better and backing up with 42 more to her tally on Tuesday night. Bassett’s partner in crime Jo Harten continues to have a huge influence on the scoreboard – especially when it comes to the super shot – shooting 20 goals in her first outing and 22 in her second, with 12 super shots converted across the two matches. Meanwhile, Lenize Potgieter sits fourth on the goal tally after three rounds, with 96 to her name from 101 attempts, shooting 43 from 45 in Round 2 but rested in her second match this week with 18 from 19. When it comes to the Vixens and Swifts, their respective rotating shooting trios do not lend to a leading stats performance, but given the two teams sit first and second on the ladder they must be doing something right. 

In the ANZ Premiership, Kalifa McCollin starred once more with a huge 32 goal haul in Southern Steel’s surprise victory over Northern Mystics, backed up with a 19 goal effort in her side’s loss the following day. Ameliaranne Ekenasio was also prolific in her single outing for the round with 19 goals at 95 per cent, while Abigail Latu-Meafou put up 15 from 17 in the Magic’s one goal loss to the Northern Stars. Looking to goal shooters, Maia Wilson was huge under the post as per usual with 37 goals at 90 per cent while her direct opposition in Kelsey McPhee was solid with 27 goals to go with Latu-Meafou’s haul. Of the players that took the court for multiple games, Grace Nweke (combined 78 goals), Ellie Bird (62 goals) and Aliyah Dunn (50 goals) led the tally.

MIDCOURT

A huge few rounds of SSN sees a couple of quality names lead the midcourt tally once more, with consistency coming in droves off the likes of Vixens co-captains Liz Watson and Kate Moloney, though it seemed to be goalers who racked up the assists this round with so many prolific wing defenders plying their trade. Watson and Moloney combined for 33 assists in the first outing and 40 in the second. Some impressive goaler-turned-feeders put on a show with their vision into the circle to spot their partner in crime, with Georgie Horjus, Kiera Austin and Alice Teague-Neeld stepping up across their respective performances. Austin led the assists tally for the week with 30 in her second match but just 10 in her first, coming away with a shooting accuracy of under 50 per cent against the Thunderbirds and only playing through the midcourt in her match against the Fever. Horjus managed 27 assists and 19 goals from 25 attempts across her two games, while Teague-Neeld may have only played 39 minutes in her second game she racked up 22 assists, but hit the scoreboard much better in her first with 11 goals and 20 assists. Mahalia Cassidy was a workhorse in both of her outings, combining for 35 goal assists and three pickups, while Amy Parmenter continued her strong start to the season, making up for a slower Round 2 with a huge seven gains (four intercepts) in her Round 3 outing. 

Peta Toeava and Gina Crampton are the repeat offenders over the past rounds through the midcourt, accounting for 45 and 37 assists respectively across their two games – both racking up 26 in their first match and nullifying each other – while Whitney Souness (19 assists, 33 centre pass receives, two intercepts) and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (20 assists, four pickups) both put in solid efforts in their single match against the other. Karin Burger had a solid match with four intercepts in the Pulse’s losing effort, while both Kimiora Poi and Charlotte Elley were also impressive on the defensive front with two intercepts apiece against the Pulse. Claire Kersten also collected two intercepts in her first outing, while Kate Heffernan was influential in the Steel’s finals crushing victory over the Mystics, racking up four intercepts.

DEFENCE

Sarah Klau and Shamera Sterling lead the deflections tally three matches down, with the two even on 22 apiece though their teams mirror each other in second and seventh on the ladder. Sterling’s combined 18 gains saw her rocket up the leaderboard this round, while Klau’s partner in crime Lauren Moore has continued to stun with another six intercepts to her name across Rounds 2 and 3. Kim Jenner had an absolute blinder against the Magpies in Round 3, racking up seven gains (five intercepts) though was quiet in her first outing, while her partner in crime Tara Hinchliffe combined for five gains across the two rounds. With two more wins under their belt this round, Vixens defenders Jo Weston and Emily Mannix were consistent as ever with three gains apiece (one and two intercepts) in the first match while Mannix turned on the afterburners in the second game with eight gains (three intercepts), with both players having breaks off the court. Young defensive duo Olivia Lewis and Sunday Aryang proved they were more than capable of holding up defensively, combining for 15 gains across the two matches, mostly down to Lewis’ rebounding ability but also Aryang’s three intercepts against the GIANTS. The Magpies have continued to rack up the highest amount of penalties across the round with a combined 138 across two matches, with Geva Mentor (41 penalties from two games) leading the charge.

Defensively, there is no surprise that Temalisi Fakahokotau was impressive as ever with her work rate continuously paying off for a combined seven gains across the round (two intercepts) while her partner in crime Jane Watson had a quiet second outing but was influential as ever in the side’s win over the Mystics. Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick combined for 11 gains (five intercepts) across the round, with both Courtney Elliott (two gains, one intercept) and Dani Gray (three gains, one intercept) contributing to the tally. Erena Mikaere pulled off six gains in her standalone game as did Kate Burley (three of which were intercepts), while Kelly Jury racked up four intercepts in her second match but was quiet in her first – the complete opposite of her partner in crime Katrina Rore, who collected four gains in the first but just two in the second. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had another solid week on the court, combining for four gains (two intercepts) across her two matches.

ANZ Premiership – Round 9: Tactix defeat Mystics en route to finals

A SEASON defining matchup between the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix opened Sunday’s proceedings of ANZ Premiership action, with both teams fighting to the finish and the Tactix running away with a thrilling one-goal win (43-42). The Tactix extended their consecutive winning record, with the tally now at five on the trot as the side edges closer to a top two finish and finals berth.

A strong start from the Tactix proved the side was well and truly ready for a huge match, with a couple quick deflections forcing errors from the Mystics. Patience down the court was critical with Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick in an arm wrestle with Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit early, not forcing any ball into the circle, where the Mystics’ ball speed into the circle was the complete opposite. 

The Tactix extended an early lead, with cleanliness paying off for a 9-4 start, just over five minutes on the clock in the first term. Charlotte Elley was all over Peta Toeava, and while Toeava was able to free herself with her burst of speed, Elley’s take off and height was paying dividends to force Toeava away from the circle. But brilliant work and a splash of momentum proved the Mystics would not be shot out of the match early, with the lead closing to three goals – though the hunt of Temalisi Fakahokotau was just warming up. 

Bird continued her strong form, while Mystics’ Filda Vui got the start in at goal attack with her cleverness with ball in hand paying off at the other end and influential feeding the ball to Grace Nweke at the post. The mismatch in height between Nweke and Fakahokotau was evident though the goal keeper was doing a great job forcing Nweke to the front space rather than her preferred goal line, allowing Jane Watson to speed into the circle and attempt the block. While Watson did not manage a heap of that ball early, if Nweke couldn’t hold her ground and find the goal line the Tactix were well and truly in with a chance on that long ball into the circle. The Mystics’ comeback saw just a one goal lead at the first change, with Tactix leading 12-11 at quarter time.

Where the circles had much of the action early, through the midcourt was where a huge amount of the battle was fought with Tayla Earle and Kimiora Poi evenly matched and all but cancelling each other out on the drive. Selby-Rickit’s playmaking ability was huge, opening up a heap of space though her direct opposition in Mystics captain, Karaka was huge early with her drive down the court off the turnover and ability to create the loose ball. Karaka switched on with the home crowd behind her, with exceptional timing to flick the ball back onto the court from behind the post, seeing the Mystics take a two goal lead. Fitzpatrick did a lot of the backup work, partnering well with her hands over pressure.

Up the other end, a few handy rebounds from the Tactix saw a heap of turnover ball drive back down the other end, with Watson’s anticipation and timing on the leap paying dividends as the Tactix turned the tides to take back the lead. Emily Burgess took the court in wing defence for the Mystics to block some of Erikana Pedersen’s vision into the circle with the wing attack’s feeds vital for Selby-Rickit. Meanwhile, Saviour Tui joined the fray with her zippy movement and height adding a different element to the Mystics attack and take some attention off Nweke. Every player on the court was hunting for the turnover and pouncing on any loose ball, though it was the Tactix that headed into the second half with a three goal advantage, 24-21.

A tough second half commenced with no changed from either side to start, with the tough contest continuing and neither side letting off. The Tactix’ versatility through the midcourt continued to pay off, able to zone where required but the one-on-one defence huge too, confusing the space well. The rebound and tap from Fakahokotau and Watson was during once more, with the defensive duo impeccable on the timing to deny ball to Nweke. But the Mystics’ defensive pressure outside the circle was great to limit access to circle edge where the Tactix typically prefer to feed from, with Earle and Burgess’ ability to control the space hard to contend with and allowing Karaka and Fitzpatrick to go out hunting. 

Toeava’s pinpoint feeds continued to shine with Fakahokotau just missing the ball at times and the penalties racking up as the Mystics edged ever closer. Courtney Elliott joined the fray in wing defence with just under five left in the quarter, with the Mystics defender able to adapt well to the contest and her hunt limiting options in attack for the Tactix. That being said, the Tactix continued to fire and maintained the lead, despite the Mystics marching them goal for goal as the treasured Tactix ball limited chances for turnovers in attack. A turnover, resulting goal and next centre pass saw the Mystics close to just two goals once more with less than a minute on the clock, seeing the Tactix head into the final change 34-32 but the Mystics ready to fight to the very end. 

The Mystics’ three-goal run at the end of the third saw them take the first centre pass but the Tactix turned it over immediately to make the Mystics work for a win. The Mystics were still struggling to generate that turnover ball, and while defensively Fitzpatrick had a great intercept the attacking unit was failing to really have that significant defensive impact through the midcourt. The change was made defensively with under five minutes on the clock, with Elliott replacing Karaka in goal defence and Dani Gray back into wing defence. It failed to have a huge impact though, with the Tactix maintaining all the momentum and connections firing all the way down the court. The tightness of the contest saw cautions aplenty handed out in the final term, and while a huge last few minutes from Toeava saw the Mystics come close to victory, the Tactix had the final centre pass and kept the ball safe for a huge one goal victory, 43-42.

Nweke was huge as ever with 37 goals at 88 per cent accuracy, winning the battle against Fakahokotau who racked up just three gains – two deflections and on rebound – while Watson was clinical as ever (four gains from six deflections) limiting attempts from both Tui and Vui with the two goal attacks combining for five goals from nine attempts. At the other end, Bird finished with 30 goals at 91 per cent, while Selby-Rickit plied her trade out the front with 13 goals,13 assists and an intercept to her name – the only Tactix intercept for the match. Karaka was huge with three gains (two intercepts) while Fitzpatrick was quiet compared to her usual form. Toeava led the assists tally with 19 and an intercept, while Tactix’ Pedersen and player of the match, Poi racked up 13 and 15 apiece to go with Selby-Rickit’s haul.

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

Northern Mystics 12 | 9 | 11 | 10 (42)
Mainland Tactix 13 | 11 | 10 | 9 (43)

STARTING SEVEN:

MYSTICS:

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Filda Vui
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Dani Gray
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

TACTIX

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

ANZ Premiership – Round 9: First quarter flurry gifts Steel huge win

AN energetic and highly contested match opened Round 9 of ANZ Premiership action, with the penultimate round seeing Southern Steel host the Northern Mystics. The Steel may not be in with a chance at a grand final berth, but they played like it against the Mystics and burst out of the blocks for a huge four-goal win (51-47).

A nice start from both sides saw predictable end to end play early, with clean hands and patience around the court not seeing a heap of turnover ball. That being said, Taneisha Fifita’s early physicality earned a turnover and early 4-1 lead, using her body-on-body and movement to pressure a feed into Grace Nweke and creating a turnover from the off-balance goaler.

The quick release feed into Nweke proved crucial early, with both Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle not hesitating in the slightest and paying off. While the Steel had the early lead, the Mystics held up well defensively, blocking easy avenues into the goal circle. Kalifa McCollin’s early form impressed, and a couple of uncharacteristic errors from the Mystics allowed the Steel to extend an early lead, knocking away crucial ball. Where each team’s start was clean, they both seemed to lose confidence in the feed, with defence from both sides finding a wealth of loose ball.

An early change towards the end of the quarter saw Filda Vui take the court, and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit immediately stepped up a gear to negate any easy ball in attack. At the other end, McCollin continued to star, putting up 11 goals at 100 per cent accuracy and really putting that offensive pressure on the Mystics who seemed out of sorts. The Steel’s impressive start saw them run away with a 17 goals to eight first quarter lead, with McCollin and Ellen Halpenny keeping the Mystics’ heads on a swivel.

An even start to the second quarter saw the Mystics’ impressive feeds continue, though Kate Heffernan’s ability to limit Toeava’s influence paid dividends with the Steel able to stay ahead of the pack. Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton were dominant with ball in hand, with their constant movement and drives around the circle seeing the duo rocket ball into the circle. While the Mystics were getting plenty of hands to ball, they were unable to collect the loose pickup and win the possession back to drive down court. 

The Steel could not compete with the transition down court off the Mystics centre pass but made up for it in droves with their constant midcourt defence, forcing the Mystics into the corners of the centre third and blocking vision with their zone defence. With both teams adopting a patient approach to the circle feed, the continuous passing caused plenty of opportunity for turnovers in a much more even quarter. The combination of Halpenny and McCollin continues to grow with every match and it shone in this encounter, with the duo rotating better than ever and sharing the load well, forcing a one-on-one defensive approach from the Mystics. But despite that, finicky errors from the Steel say the Mystics claw back the margin, trailing by seven goals at the main break.

The second half saw another change to the Mystics, with Saviour Tui taking the court and using her smooth moving to form a better connection into the circle, able to assist both in and around circle edge. That being said, the side lost the vision and speed of Vui, which stagnated the attack and allowed the Steel to work the lead out once more. Crampton was unstoppable on both the first and second phase, constantly freeing herself from her opposition in Courtney Elliott and able to spot Halpenny’s clever use of space to speed ball into the circle. 

Vision into the circle was spot on by the Steel, with Crampton and Saunders connecting with ease while the patience getting ball inside the circle allowed the Steel attack to continue moving and rotating accordingly. With so much riding on the lob into Nweke, the height difference between Toeava and Heffernan became very apparent as the Mystics wing attack became hesitant on the feed, with Tui’s injection into the game not quite as impactful as expected. Another stellar quarter from the Steel saw the home side extend their lead once more, always a few steps ahead of the entire Mystics unit.

With 58 circle edge feeds to 14 with just a minute left on the clock before three quarter time, it was clear that the defensive pressure from the Steel – and particularly Heffernan and Saunders out the front – was negating any easy feeds into the circle, consistently blocking drives and taking pressure off Fifita and Selby-Rickit inside the circle. With a nine-goal lead heading into the final quarter, the Steel had all the momentum and looked the goods on their way to a fourth win.

The final quarter saw a huge change with Elliott transitioning from wing into goal defence and captain Phoenix Karaka to the bench, and while Elliott added another element to the defensive circle the Mystics lost some of that great run and carry from Karaka driving through the midcourt. Before long the Mystics had drawn back the margin though, shooting the first four of the quarter and Elliott having an instant impact with her energy and hunt for the ball. The battle between Elliott and McCollin was immense, with the duo well matched in the contest and ultimately balancing each other out through the centre. 

While the Mystics were hungry for the ball, the Steel managed to remain ahead with the workrate of Crampton and Saunders continuing to pay dividends. A huge turnover from Dani Gray with under five on the clock saw the Mystics get back a few in a row but patience out the front from the Steel denied a late comeback despite a three-goal margin seeing Mystics well within their chances in the last few minutes. The eventual four goal win (51-47) saw the Steel potentially taking away a huge chance at finals for the Mystics who did not look like a winning team from the get-go.

While McCollin looked ginger in the final few minutes after a couple heavy landings, she continued to star at the post and finished well with a whopping 32 goals from 36 attempts, while Halpenny aided well with 19 goals of her own. Saunders (17 assists) and Crampton (26 assists, one intercept) impressed with their constant pressure paying dividends, while Heffernan was huge with four intercepts. For the Mystics, Nweke racked up 41 goals at 93 per cent, while Toeava racked up 26 assists but five turnovers in the process. Defensively, Karaka, Sulu Fitzpatrick and Elliott combined for seven gains between them, but it was not enough after an excellent start from the Steel set everything in motion.

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

SOUTHERN STEEL 17 | 12 | 14 | 8 (51)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 8 | 14 | 12 | 18 (47)

Steel

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

 

Mystics

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

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 ANZ Premiership – Team of the Week: Round 8

Round 8 of the ANZ Premiership brought plenty of surprises with the Northern Mystics toppling the Central Pulse and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic clinching a thrilling one goal win leading to a couple of fresh faces in this rounds Team of the Week. Winning both games for the round, four Mainland Tactix players earned their spot in the squad while for the first time this season the Pulse failed to register a player.

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Holly Fowler
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

BENCH: Grace Nweke, Erikana Pedersen, Jane Watson

Starting in the goal circle, Maia Wilson led the way for the Stars in both outings across the round with her prolific nature and skill to absorb the pressure. The goal shooter made it look easy under the post sinking 35 goals from 40 attempts up against strong opposition and using footwork to hold space. But it was her second performance that stunned many and was a testament to her true class slotting 39 goals at 100 per cent. Out in goal attack is Tactix playmaker Te Paea Selby-Rickit with the shooter not only plying her trade in the goal circle but so too in the attacking third with her touch on the pass and silky footwork. Selby-Rickit managed 31 goals from 37 attempts across two matches, showcasing her increased accuracy while also amassing 25 goal assists for her efforts across the round.

Through the midcourt it was the last quarter heroics from Whitney Souness that gifted her a start in the Team of the Week – as well as our Draft Central Player of the Week award – with the Magic wing attack snatching an intercept on the transverse line. Although not as prominent in her first game of the round, she well and truly made up for it in her second outing zipping around the court and hitting circle edge with pace and precision.  Her hot hand into the circle saw her collect 35 goal assists for the round while teammate and wing defence Holly Fowler secured her first spot in Team of the Week thanks to her defensive efforts. Her hands over pressure, acceleration off the mark and tenacity enabled her to get hands to ball and disrupt the play in attack amassing three gains and four deflections. Stars centre, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan takes out the final midcourt position thanks to her two way running and ability to impact the play in all facets of the game. Quiet in her first outing with just the 13 goal assists, Reuelu-Buchanan upped the ante in the second seeming to have the ball on a string and hitting the circle edge with precision to rack up a team high 26 goal assists.

There was options aplenty in defence with Phoenix Karaka getting the nod in at goal defence thanks to her stellar performance against the Pulse. Karaka was involved in everything in her sole outing for the round nullifying Ameliaranne Ekenasio and winning back a wealth of ball. It was a stats-stuffing performance from the Mystics goal defence who finished with five gains, two intercepts, four deflections and two rebounds. Finalising the starting seven is Mainland Tactix goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau who once again shone in her sides two victories. Fakahokotau imposed herself from the get-go with her aerial ability and physicality at the contest to throw herself at everything and most importantly regain possession amassing a staggering 18 deflections, 10 gains and four intercepts.

Rounding out the team and unlucky to not get the start is Mystics goal shooter Grace Nweke who displayed her dominance and strength under the post, using her height and fancy footwork along the baseline to reel in passes. Credit to a couple of strong performances over the weekend Tactix teammates Erikana Pedersen and Jane Watson also find themselves on the bench. Pedersen was electric through the midcourt with her speed and vision while Watson proved to be a menace in defence with her rangy arms and quick footwork.