Tag: southern steel

Netball Draft Central: Volunteer writing opportunities

WITH Suncorp Super Netball around the corner the team at Netball Draft Central are looking for fresh faces to join the team. Already covering the ANZ Premiership this season, we are hoping to find volunteer writers who are interested in both competitions and have a passion for all things netball. 

In the past we have covered other leagues such as the Vitality Netball Superleague along with a host of Australian competitions such as the Australian Netball League (ANL), Victorian Netball League (VNL) and M-League, but have not been able to do so this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This diverse coverage of netball allows Draft Central to have a point of difference from many other netball news outlets catering specifically to netball fans across the globe. 

We are looking for minimum second year media/journalism students that have an interest in sport, particularly netball and are wanting to gain valuable experience with a dedicated team of writers. 

Writing skills, dedication, flexibility, and effective communication are all crucial characteristics to be a part of the Draft Central team. While writing experience is preferable it is not a necessity for this role.

If you are interested, please email Sophie Taylor at sophie.t@rookieme.com

ANZ Premiership – Round 5: Mighty finish seals the deal for Stars

NORTHERN Stars have capitalised against a determined but understrength Southern Steel team that had to shuffle the magnets in the wake of key shooter, Jennifer O’Connell‘s injury. Despite the Steel coming close and giving the Stars a scare, the fourth quarter again proved to be the Steel’s downfall. The Stars, on the other hand, looked composed, fluent in attack, dogged in defense and are showing great form in Round 5, eventually getting the points in a 48-39 victory.

The Stars opened the game with determination and seemed to relish the opportunity to get their revenge for their Round 3 loss. Steel were working with a new shooting partnership of Kalifa McCollin at goal shooter and the youngster Kiana Pelasio getting the start at goal attack. This combination took a while to settle in which heaped pressure on Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton to dictate play and keep creating opportunities. There was hesitance in the Steel’s attacking end, and Storm Purvis and the Stars punished the Steel’s nervous start by getting out to an early lead. The contrast between the shooting partnerships was clear: Stars were well oiled, presenting holding and moving options, and Maia Wilson was backing herself at the post. A timely surge from the Steel midcourt towards the end of the first quarter brought the score back to within one, and the Stars kept a narrow lead of 12-11 going into the break. 

Both teams started the second quarter with intensity, and there was a sense that the game was very much up for grabs. A fierce battle was developing between plucky Georgia Heffernan and Stars’ captain Grace Kara, who was having to work hard to shake the tenacious wing defence. Miscommunication hampered the Steel’s attacking efforts and the Stars made no mistake at the post. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita were struggling to have an impact against dominant Wilson, supported by Jamie Hume. As the score crept out to 19-15, there was a sense that the game may start to unravel for Steel. A textbook interception from Kate Burley was answered by a gain from Selby-Rickit and the defence for both teams started to make their presence felt. Coming in at goal keeper for Steel Oceane Maihi had an immediate impact, allowing Purvis to roam and create more turnover ball at goal defense. With seconds remaining, the Steel failed to convert an attacking opportunity and went into half-time trailing by four goals. 

After the break, Abby Erwood came into goal defense for Steel with Selby-Rickit slotting into goal keeper, in an attempt to shut down the threat of Wilson who was shooting at 95 per cent. Maihi picked off a poor feed from Crampton and the Stars extended their lead. Steel were still struggling to find their timing in attack, and the midcourt were being effectively held up by Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Fa’amu Ioane playing at full strength. A change was inevitable for the Steel, resulting in McCollin switching out to goal attack (where she is most comfortable) and Grace Namana making her ANZ debut. As the third quarter progressed, both teams took things up a gear, and it started to get interesting. Steel clawed their way back in and narrowed the gap to just two goals at three quarter time. They were not about to let this game go without a fight.

Unfortunately Steel could not sustain this momentum in the final quarter. In a striking parallel to the previous game against the Pulse, errors in the fourth quarter proved to be the Steel’s downfall. Erwood had a standout quarter at goal defense, and although the partnership between McCollin and Namara was blossoming, it will need a little more time to click. The Steel fought tirelessly to cling on to the scoreline but the impressive hops and dynamism of the Stars defense end proved too much. Reuelu-Buchanan and Iowane were relentless, exploiting the Steel mistakes and really pushing for the win. After a ruthless final quarter, the Stars proved their worth in the competition and ended the game 48-39. 

Following an emotional and tiring few games for the Steel, they will be glad of a rest and chance to rebuild. Both teams will take a lot away from this game, and can be proud of the low overall turnover rate – 11 and 10 for Steel and Stars respectively – combined with impressive shooting stats from Wilson and McCollin in particular. Stars are certainly on the rise and will go into their next game against Magic with heaps of confidence following this strong performance.

>>>STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>>STARS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 9 | 11 | 8 (39)
NORTHERN STARS 12 | 12 | 9 | 15 (48)

STARTING SEVEN:

Southern Steel:

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

Northern Stars:

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

 

ANZ Premiership: Round 4 – Pulse remain unbeaten after topsy-turvy victory over the Steel

COMING into the game with nothing to lose, the Steel put up a good fight over the Pulse but left empty-handed after the fiery Round 4 contest. While the Pulse did not have it all their own way, they were utterly dominant under the post and defensively it is hard to see any teams really coming close. At points, it was a lot closer than expected, with the Steel ahead at three quarter time, but the reigning champions were just too good and do not look likely to be giving up their crown any time soon, getting up with a 14-5 last term to run away with a 47-40 victory.

A held ball on the first centre pass meant the Steel were in chase mode from the very start. Ameliaranne Ekenasio put on an absolute clinic in the goal attack position, moving flawlessly and demonstrating her balanced and effortless shooting technique. She combined fantastically with Maddy Gordon at wing attack to provide plenty of options in the Pulse attack end. Despite a few early turnovers from both sides, Pulse started off in control, whilst the Steel seemed tense and took a while to find their feet. Through some smooth playmaking from Kalifa McCollin, the Steel pulled it back to within one, but the opening quarter was the Ekenasio show.

The Silver Ferns captain provides so much inspiration for her team, and they were contesting every ball and making transition play very difficult for the Steel. There were moments of fluency in the Steel attack but a couple of misplaced feeds were eaten alive by Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore. For the Steel, Kate Heffernan’s work rate was impressive, and they managed to claw their way back in through a timely intercept from Shannon Saunders. The Pulse demonstrated strong drives and plenty of punch while the Steel were struggling to get the ball over the transverse line and their feeding accuracy let them down. Towards the end of the first quarter, the Pulse took their foot off the pedal to finish the quarter with a slim three-goal lead.

In the second quarter, Jury’s height was causing all sorts of problems, and the Steel ended up giving away the ball several times by taking too many passes before going to post. The Pulse were lethal on their transitions, and though the Steel were clinging on there was a sense that the game may turn into a total washout. But Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had other ideas and was ready to take on the challenge of Ekenasio. She came to life in the second quarter and the Steel notched up five in a row with the chance to take the lead heading into the break.

Gina Crampton was finding great feeding position, letting the ball go easily and seemed to have the measure of Karin Burger. As the Pulse started to lose their connections and tense up, the Steel made it seven on the trot and forced Pulse to make a change in the defensive end. Elle Temu came on to offer another look but Jennifer O’Connell was confident and really firing, so Temu struggled to have the desired impact.

The experienced pair of Saunders and Claire Kersten were having a good tussle in the midcourt, but this quarter was all about the wing attacks. When Crampton started to lift, Gordon did the same and the vision and pinpoint feeds helped keep shooting percentages very high for both teams. Through pure willpower, and with help from a couple of Pulse errors, the Steel steamed on ahead with a defiant display and the score was 24-23 at half-time.

The Steel attack combination of Crampton, O’Connell and McCollin really started to sing in the second and third quarters. Steel came out of the blocks very strong defensively in the third, with Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita getting hands everywhere. The Pulse defence, in contrast, seemed flat. Changes for the Pulse saw Jury return to the court and Tiana Metuarau come into wing attack, replacing Gordon. Fifita was doing a lot of work at the back keeping Aliyah Dunn busy, she had actually shot fewer goals than Ekenasio in the first half. In a total switch from the first quarter, it was now the Pulse clinging on to the game, trailing by two when the whistle blew for three-quarter time.

In a game that was expected to be a blowout, it was now danger time for the Pulse and they knew they needed a big effort for the final quarter. Gordon replaced Kersten at centre and the talented youngster Metuarau stayed on in wing attack. Pulse equalised and started the quarter all guns blazing, playing with power and presence. In a complete turnaround from the third quarter, Pulse began to dominate defensively and really punish the Steel.

After scoring eight in a row, the Pulse finally let the Steel score their first goal of the final quarter with six minutes remaining – the score was now 42-36 to the Pulse. Steel had lost their fluency in attack and the Pulse were taking advantage of the slower ball speed and miscommunication. The champions were ruthless in the final quarter, pushing the score out to 47-40 and denying the Steel a much-needed bonus point. Too many errors for Steel and their final quarter let them down, it was a shame they could not come away with something after such a strong opening three quarters.

The Pulse finished the game on 100 per cent shooting accuracy, and it is hard to know what teams can really do to stop them. The Magic will take on this challenge next, while the Steel will need to maintain a full performance when they take on the Pulse for the second time next week.

>>>PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>>STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 14 | 9 | 10 | 14 (47)
SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 13 | 5 (40)

STARTING SEVEN:

PULSE:

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

STEEL:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Mystics maintain their winning streak in third round clash

IN a fairly predictable result for both teams, the Mystics remained unbeaten in Season 2020 while the Steel are still on the hunt for their first win of the year. Steel came in carrying the weight of a string of difficult losses and never quite managed to shake off that burden. In contrast, the Mystics, with their young and fiery shooting line-up, produced a full-court performance led by experienced defensive duo captain Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick, setting themselves up nicely for some tough tests coming up.

The Mystics were brimming with confidence at the start of the game and despite being without Bailey Mes they have proven their worth in the competition so far and earned a decent reputation. The tall timber of Grace Nweke is such an asset for them, and she came into the game fresh after shooting 41 from 45 last week. Tayla Earle was up against the experienced World Cup Champion Shannon Saunders, who has over one hundred more national league appearances than the youngster.

The Steel got off to a shaky start and it seemed that Jennifer O’Connell lacked confidence in the shooting circle, which had a ripple effect on the team. A couple of early turnovers gave the Mystics the edge, and the defensive pressure from Karaka and Fitzpatrick set the tone for the game. Kalifa McCollin played excellently in the goal attack position but needed O’Connell to create a stronger target in order to build flow and connections in the attack end. In contrast, the Mystics were fearless in attack, with Peta Toeava’s rapid speed and vision into Nweke giving them the upper hand early.

A couple of turnovers later, the Steel were still struggling to find each other and the Mystics used this to their advantage with their rock-solid defence scooping up plenty of ball. Steel managed to gather momentum towards the second half of the quarter and capitalised on a couple of Mystics errors to go on a five goal run. This comeback showed they had really warmed into the game and they started finding space and options in the middle channel. Mystics let go of a healthy lead allowing the Steel to creep back in with the quarter ending at 13-12 to the Northern side.

In the second quarter, Georgia Heffernan replaced McCollin – a bizarre change considering McCollin had been running the show in the Steel attack end. Fitzpatrick took advantage of a couple of sloppy feeds, and the Mystics went on a run, taking the score out to 17-14. Then the momentum swung, and with O’Connell growing in confidence at the post the Steel somehow managed to get back level, partly due to fantastic hustle from wing defence Kate Heffernan.

For the Mystics, Asher Grapes was having trouble finding a good shooting position and was not able to draw the defenders away from Nweke. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita realised Grapes was hesitant to go to post and started to double back on Nweke. This prompted coach Helene Wilson, assisted by Dame Noeline Taurua for this game, to swap in Saviour Tui to provide a different look for the attack end. This had an immediate impact and combined with two timely intercepts from Karaka, gave the Mystics a well-needed lift. There was a turning point in the game, taking the Mystics into half time with a four goal lead.

Steel went into the locker room with just one intercept to the Mystic’s six and were only shooting at 74 per cent. The Mystics were putting on a full-court defensive display, and Emily Burgess was doing an excellent job at keeping Gina Crampton away from good feeding position. Consistency was lacking in places for both teams, and the Steel, in particular, appeared to lose focus at points during the first half.

With McCollin back on at goal attack, the third quarter started well for the Steel, but their rebounding let them down and the Mystics extended to a six-goal lead. Bringing on the youngster Tui was doing wonders for the Mystics attack, and Selby-Rickit was being kept unusually quiet. Tui made a huge difference, as there were now two threatening options in the goal circle for the Steel defenders to choose between. Something was still not quite clicking in the Steel attack end and two held balls on O’Connell’s shot meant the Mystics pulled ahead. The Steel looked a little frustrated and were almost trying too hard. They lacked the composure and the leadership of the Mystics side and this began to show in the scoreline, with the Steel trailing 29–37 at the end of the third quarter.

The Steel came out all guns blazing for the final quarter, with an urgency and intensity that gave fans a sliver of hope they were making a comeback. Through sheer force of will, they pulled it back to within three with eight minutes remaining. This heaped pressure on the young Mystics shooters, but they managed to dig deep and ride the wave, making use of the well-trodden route over the top to Nweke. Unfortunately towards the second half of the quarter the play started to lose fluidity and became scrappy. Mystics were rushing it, possibly already thinking ahead to their next match. The final score of 46 – 42 was a testament to the Steel’s hard work in the final quarter, and they were fortunate to come away with a bonus point. Overall the Steel showed patches of promise but were inconsistent and struggled to make it click. The Mystics gave a standout defensive performance and have found confidence in the young shooting duo of Nweke and Tui.

The Mystics managed to secure 10 rebounds to the Steel’s five, a surprising stat considering they both had the same number of attempts at the post. Low shooting percentage (76 per cent), as well as a high penalty count (51), tells the tale of the game for the Steel. While the Mystics managed the win, they still gave away 19 turnovers, something they will certainly want to improve before their next game.

The Steel will have to pick themselves up again for their second game of the weekend against the Stars, while the Mystics will look forward to an exciting test against the Pulse on Monday.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

NORTHERN MYSTICS 13 | 11 | 13 | 9 (46)
SOUTHERN STEEL 12 | 8 | 9 | 13 (42)

STARTING SEVENS:

MYSTICS:

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

STEEL:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

ANZ Premiership Round 2 midpoint update: Mystics and Tactix secure seven-goal wins

AT the midpoint of the ANZ Premiership’s Round 2, the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix have secured early wins to kick-start their seasons again, whilst Northern Stars prepare to go back-to-back over the next two days, including a grand final rematch tonight.

COMPLETED MATCHES:

Northern Mystics (47) defeated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (40)

THE first match back of the ANZ Premiership since the COVID-19 lockdown did not disappoint, as the Northern Mystics came out with a point to prove and blew the Waikato Bay of Plenty (WBOP) Magic out of the water as they did so. While Magic may have had a more expansive and experienced midcourt, it was Mystics’ young attack line and experienced defence that held down the fort, battering the Magic with their accuracy and impressing with the wealth of talent they possessed on their way to a 47-40 win. [ … CONTINUE READING … ]

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

Mainland Tactix (43) defeated Southern Steel (36)

AS the rest of the netball world looked on in envy, the ANZ Premiership once again displayed why their domestic league has produced some of the best talent on the planet. Much like the first game back after the break, the matchup between Mainland Tactix and Southern Steel lived up to the hype. It was a smothering defensive display from the Tactix and they certainly laid out their intentions for the season ahead thanks to a 43-36 triumph. [ … CONTINUE READING … ]

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

UPCOMING MATCHES:

Northern Stars vs. Central Pulse
Sunday, 7pm

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

Northern Stars v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 7pm

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

[ … CONTINUE READING PREVIEWS … ]

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Tactix topple Steel in the Southern Derby

AS the rest of the netball world looked on in envy, the ANZ Premiership once again displayed why their domestic league has produced some of the best talent on the planet. Much like the first game back after the break, the matchup between Mainland Tactix and Southern Steel lived up to the hype. It was a smothering defensive display from the Tactix and they certainly laid out their intentions for the season ahead thanks to a 43-36 triumph. 

Going into the game there were a few key matchups to note. Firstly, the tussle between World Cup Champion Shannon Saunders and zippy youngster Kimiora Poi. These two never gave each other an inch, both of them having a point to prove being at opposite ends of their netball career. Another hotly anticipated contest was the Selby-Rickit sisters, facing off against each other on opposing teams for the first time since 2015. Another Silver Fern with a reputation to uphold was the formidable Jane Watson, and she did just that against Trinidadian import, Kalifa McCollin. Watson has to be by far one of the most infuriating defenders in the game to play against, up there with Karla Pretorious, stealing balls for fun and disrupting play left, right and centre. She plays formidably at goal defence, that extra third giving her even more opportunities to cause chaos.

From the moment the toy car delivered the ball and Steel took the first centre pass, the pressure was on. Watson managed a steal after just one minute of play, and the battle between the Selby-Rickit sisters playing at goal attack and goal defense was very willing. The Tactix managed to exploit the height of their goaling duo in Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird, with Selby-Rickit shooting long bombs and oozing confidence from the outset. During the first quarter the Tactix had the opportunity to mount a sizeable lead but the Steel showed their grit and weren’t going down without a fight. Both teams opened the game by playing with real freedom and being totally fearless to let the ball go. After the first quarter the Tactix had their noses in front, leading the Steel by 12 goals to 11.

Southern Steel came out of the blocks with a fire in the belly for the second quarter, with McCollin’s cut and drives carving up the attack end and creating endless options – she actually ended up shooting more goals than Jennifer O’Connell in the first half. They started to really find flow in attack and ended up winning the quarter by one goal. Tactix showed great hustle, and were always first to a loose ball, backing this up with amazing vision into the circle, sometimes even from way back in the centre third. Watson’s “Mr Tickle” arms were causing a real mess for the Steel midcourt, and she combined with Temalisi Fakahokotau to form a ferocious defensive partnership. The sides ended the first half all tied up at 20 goals apiece, with both teams demonstrating real ease and flow in their play. 

Poi and Saunders kept each other busy in the midcourt, with Saunders’ ability to transition swiftly from attack to defense providing a good test for Poi’s speed and agility. Poi appeared determined to keep the ball alive at any cost and displayed some incredible acrobatics to do so. She looked like she was having an absolute day out and relishing the chance to match up against the experienced Saunders.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit silenced any potential critics about her shooting accuracy, remaining on 100 per cent at half-time and only missing two shots in the whole game, despite often shooting from range. With Noeline Taurua as assistant coach, the Tactix probably never really felt they were going to lose. Erikana Pedersen came on at wing attack after half-time and spurred on the Tactix to a deadly championship quarter. While both teams were heavily penalised, the Tactix managed to gain momentum in the third quarter, limiting the Steel to just seven goals. 

Wholesale changes in the fourth quarter for Steel gave them a chance to claw the score back, but the Tactix had their tails up after smashing the third quarter and the Steel ran out of time to make a comeback. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit moved back to goal keeper for the Steel with Abbey Erwood coming on in goal defence. At the other end, McCollin went into goal shooter and Georgia Heffernan slotted into goal attack, meaning there were two pairs of netball sisters on court during the final 12. For the Tactix, Bird’s shooting percentage started to dip, most likely due to the style of the physical Te Huinga Selby-Rickit. A held ball on the centre pass for the Steel added insult to injury and allowed the Tactix to pull away further. Unforced errors started to creep in for both teams, possibly due to fatigue setting in – something we may see a little more of with teams playing two games per weekend. There were also several attacking contacts from both goal shooters and Bird in particular got frustrated by the Steel defenders and ended up with two attacking contacts in a row. 

Tactix were ferocious, however both teams showed amazing vision, athleticism and slick play proving they are no worse for the break. As the Tactix started to relax in the final period, the Steel managed to notch up five in a row in what looked like the beginning of a comeback. However it was too little too late after their disappointing third quarter. After drawing the first half, the second half was 23-16 to the Tactix, meaning the final score was 43-36. The Tactix side were able to get early depth on the centre pass and have multiple options to ball, with Bird on a strong hold in the circle and Selby-Rickit setting up the attack end with ease. Both teams ended up fairly even across the board when it comes to penalties and turnovers, but the Tactix were able to pick up seven intercepts to the Steel’s two, and the large majority of rebounds to boot. 

The Tactix will have to maintain their enthusiasm and tenacity when they come up against the Stars on Monday, and the Steel can have another chance to notch up their first win of the season against the Mystics next weekend.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

STARTING SEVENS:

MAINLAND TACTIX

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

SOUTHERN STEEL

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

2020 revised ANZ Premiership fixture announced

IN breaking news, the ANZ Premiership announced it 2020 season fixture today following on from its announcement last week that the ANZ Premiership will resume on Friday, June 19. While the competition will resume under new conditions – adhering to the social distancing regulations – it has given netball fans something to look forward to from mid-June through until late August.

While the season began in March, only the one round was played prior to the competition being put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis. But according to the ANZ Premiership’s statement, the competition will resume from Round 2 onwards, with a 10 weeks season featuring games every Friday through Monday evening.

This may mean some teams play twice in the same round, but will be made easier by the season being entirely restricted to the Auckland Netball Centre to limit exposure to uncontrolled environments and excessive travel. The season will be entirely closed to the public to comply with New Zealand’s health requirements due to the coronavirus.

A revised finals schedule has also been put into play, with a triple header finals series culminating on Sunday, August 23, featuring playoffs between fifth and sixth, and third and fourth before a premier is crowned in the 7pm first versus second match.

“While the situation is not ideal, it has also allowed for ingenuity and innovation around how we continue to present matches as a vibrant spectacle and maintain maximum engagement with fans and viewers,” said Netball New Zealand chief executive, Jennie Wyllie.

The season kicks off with a Friday night match-up between Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Northern Mystics at 7pm. In the other Round 1 games, Southern Steel takes on Mainland Tactix the day after, Northern Stars face Central Pulse in a massive grand final rematch on Sunday, before the Stars front up again a day later to take on the Northern Mystics in those sides second games for the round.

While there will be no crowds allowed at matches, all games will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 3.

Pharmacist by day, Southern Steel star by weekend

NEW Zealand netball sensation Shannon Saunders has doubled as an essential worker throughout the COVID-19 outbreak with the Southern Steel midcourter focusing on her job as a pharmacist throughout the pandemic.

“I’m probably lucky because I’m classed as an essential worker in New Zealand because I’m a pharmacist, so I’ve still got to do a wee bit of work and get out of the house and kind of help the community a wee bit in that instance,” she said.

Saunders has got the balance between netball and being a pharmacist down to a fine art with the highly touted midcourter working both jobs throughout the standard netball season.

“It’s definitely challenging and yeah I don’t do as much pharmacy work now as I used to, but yeah I try and get a couple of days in throughout the week if I can. I do a bit of individual training, I’ll do it before and after work and then can just turn up to team training which is good so they allow me that flexibility to be able to do a bit of both which is nice,” she said.

While Saunders has been kept busy over the counter, she has not skipped a beat off the court, training hard in isolation and resorting to other measures to stay fit and active in isolation.

“Yeah so our trainer was pretty good and kind of gave us the structure of what they need us to do but also gave us flexibility to kind of mix it up day to day,” Saunders said. “But just trying to keep lots of running involved and as we’ve gotten closer to coming out of lockdown we have done more change of direction and more court specific stuff.

“Then just whatever weights you can do at home really. “I’ve got a little bit of equipment so just trying to maintain as much strength as possible but we are quite realistic that it is not going to be the same as if we were in the gym.”

Renowned for her silky ball movement the centre has been a permanent fixture for the Steel across the past nine years and played a key role in pushing her side to the finals last year. Although they bowed out in straight sets, Saunders was pleased with their efforts, but is aware that 2020 will look different and could be very taxing on the players given the amount of travel.

“Now that the draw has changed we now have to fly to Auckland every week for 10 weeks so that’s going to be challenging in itself because we are both placed in two places. We are about two and half hours apart so we travel a lot anyway to train together as a team and then having to fly to Auckland is going to be pretty tough. But it is just exciting that the competition is going ahead,” Saunders said.

“Some of the other teams can fly home after a game and all that whereas we can’t. We always have to stay and that kind of drags it out a bit more and limits our ability to train as a team. But we are used to always having to travel, so we just get on with it.”

The Steel have had a shake-up to their 2020 roster with Silver Ferns goaler, Te Paea Selby-Rickit departing the club and Trinidad and Tobago goal attack Kalifa McCollin coming into the mix. With plenty of speed to burn and an element of unpredictability about her, Saunders has quickly adapted to the new look line-up.

“We’ve got a wee bit of a different team this year so I think we are just building on the new connections and combinations that we have and just trying to put out a really solid performance this year,” she said.

“We are lucky we have got Kelly (Kalifa McCollin) from Trinidad and Tobago, so she’s stepped into those shoes and I think it’ll be interesting to see how she’s been going over lockdown because she’s such a long way from home and it’s been so good of her to stay over here and kind of commit to the team. But she adds that bit of flair to us and she’s super quick and just adds a different dynamic to what we are used to,” she said.

With a fresh season also comes new opportunities, with young wing defence Kate Heffernan vying for more court time and hoping to have a lasting impact on the competition.

“She’s that little bit more confident and sure of herself as a player and I think that is really kind of showing out on court when we’ve been training so I’m excited to see how she builds this year,” Saunders said.

Standing at 174cm, Saunders uses her speed, dynamic footwork and spatial awareness to have an impact in the attacking third. Her partnership with fellow midcourter and wing attack, Gina Crampton is arguably one of the most threatening duos in the ANZ Premiership having played together for the past 10 years and at an international level. The two can make something out of nothing and create space seamlessly such is their class.

“I think we just know each other inside and out and I know what she is going to do before she probably does it and then we also have a great relationship where we can have those conversations,” she said.

With the ANZ Premiership set to recommence in less than a month it’s full steam ahead for Saunders who is excited but is also harbouring a couple of nerves ahead of the restart.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” she said. “I feel like, I’m like do I know how to play? But I think once we get back out there and just that competitiveness and excitement when it’s a tough close game and that physicality as well I’ve really been missing.”

“I think everyone is looking forward to seeing the end of it and just looking forward to getting back out on court.”

Netball fantasy teams: ANZ Premiership All-Stars v. VNSL All-Stars

BOTH the ANZ Premiership and Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) play host to a wealth of a-list talent making for some impressive squads. The ANZ Premiership is filled with a multitude of Ferns players while the VNSL also has a couple of Roses featured in the team creating an interesting contest between the two sides.

ANZ Premiership All-Stars:

GK: Jane Watson
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Karin Burger
C: Shannon Saunders
WA: Gina Crampton
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Maia Wilson

BENCH: Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Whitney Souness, Phoenix Karaka

The ANZ Premiership is littered with New Zealand Silver Ferns representatives as shown by this stacked line-up. But their strength really lies in their defensive end with Jane Watson taking out the goal keeper position. Watson is a machine down back with her cleanliness, hunt for the ball and ability to shut down opponents with ease a couple of her key attributes. The goal keeper is not afraid to back herself, often out hunting for an intercept with her quick feet doing all the work while her lean over the shot is highly intimidating. Fellow defender and veteran Katrina Rore is one of a kind. Just like a fine wine she continues to get better with time, able to read the play with ease and disrupt the attacking flow of the opposition with her aerial ability and long arms. Rore is never out of the contest always able to weasel her way back into the play and is strong in transition thanks to her offensive minded style of play. Wing defence and partner-in-crime at the Central Pulse, Karin Burger is another key cog down back. Burger has really come into her own in recent seasons with her tenacity and tagging style of defence often wearing opponents down. Her long arms and height causes havoc in the wing defence position while her deceptive speed gives her another competitive edge around circle edge to swat away any passes into the goal circle. Throw in her ability to move into goal defence or keeper and Burger is one of a kind for the All-Stars line-up. Through the midcourt, the tried and tested duo of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton adds another strong element to the already stacked squad. While Saunders is more defensively minded, she can hit the circle edge and provide an option in attack while teammate, Crampton consistently showcases her impressive vision into the circle with her pinpoint precision passes and good timing. Crampton has good balance around the circle edge and is not often worried by the physicality of the game. Headlining the goal circle is none other than fan favourite Ameliaranne Ekenasio. The highly talented goaler has class to boot able to sink them from just about anywhere in the circle while her impeccable timing is envious. Ekenasio is renowned for her smooth movement in the circle, strong baseline drives, quick ball movement, accuracy and most importantly ability to stand up under pressure. Youngster Maia Wilson takes out the goal shooter position with the towering shooter able to hold strong and provide a commanding target under the post. Unlucky not to make the starting All-Stars squad are Silver Ferns shooter Te Paea Selby Rickit, speedy midcourter Whitney Souness and Northern Mystics defender, Phoenix Karaka.

Vitality Netball Superleague (VNLS) All-Stars:

GK: Razia Quashie
GD: Fran Williams
WD: Nat Panagarry
C: Jade Clarke
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon
GA: Eleanor Cardwell
GS: Rachel Dunn

BENCH: Sigi Burger, Adean Thomas, Eboni Usoro-Brown

Although the VNSL has less Roses players in the competition due to the majority of them joining the Suncorp Super Netball League, there are still plenty of classy players amongst the ranks. When it comes to options in the goal circle there was no shortage of possibilities, however it was veteran and deadeye shooter Rachel Dunn that claimed the starting goal shooter position. Dunn is one of the most experienced shooters in the league with her silky footwork, strong hands and impressive timing consistently on display along with her accuracy. While Eleanor Cardwell is typically suited to the goal shooter position she has proven that she can do just as much damage out in goal attack with her clever ball placement into the circle and strong movement. Through the midcourt Caroline O’Hanlon provides plenty of experience with her gut running and ability to hit the circle edge time and time again. Adding to the experience through the midcourt is Jade Clarke with the Wasps centre consistently able to do the unthinkable. Clarke oozes class, netball understanding and is cautious with ball in hand able to dish off well weighted passes making her an easy pick for the all-stars squad, while also able to move into wing defence given her defensive abilities. Loughborough Lightning’s Nat Pangarry dons the wing defence position thanks to her defensive skills, long arms, speed off the mark and ability to cause havoc down back to propel the ball into the attacking third. She can clog up space with her shadowing movements and can read the play often forcing turnovers. Roses representative Fran Williams takes out the goal defence position. Williams is an excitement machine and works tirelessly down in defence to build pressure and cause confusion with her quick feet and three-footy marking. She is not afraid to go out and hunt the ball and has a good netball nous to sense the moment. Rounding out the starting seven is goal keeper Razia Quashie. The goal keeper is strong, not often outmuscled under the post and uses her long arms to intimidate shooters when going for goal. Making their way onto the bench for the VNSL all-stars is London Pulse and South African goaler Sigi Burger, Jamaican Adean Thomas and former Roses defender Eboni Usoro-Brown.

Who would win?

With plenty of talent amongst both sides it is tricky to decide who would have the edge however given that the ANZ Premiership All-stars team is virtually filled with Silver Ferns players it is fair to say that they should have the upper hand. Their strength clearly lies in the defence end and while the VNSL All-stars line-up has a couple of handy goalers in the mix they would have to be on their a-game to overcome the prowess of the Ferns. The ANZ Premiership squad is strong through the midcourt with their dynamic movement and experience further adding to their competitive edge.

Which All-Stars team would win in this match up?
ANZ Premiership All-Stars
Vitality Netball Superleague All-Stars
Created with Quiz Maker

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Tactix, Stars and Steel search for first win

ROUND 2 of the ANZ Premiership will see three teams looking for their first win while the others will be hoping to make it two straight.

Northern Mystics v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 22 March
Eventfinda Stadium, Auckland

The Northern Mystics are coming off a narrow win, while the Tactix on the other hand will be hoping to notch up their first win of the season. The Tactix had a strong quarter and will want to build on that if they are to get over the line against a strong Mystics team that have plenty of firepower. But it will be a very tight battle given just how similar both sides are when it comes to game style and strengths.

The home side have arguably one of the strongest defence units in the competition thanks to the edition of Sulu Fitzpatrick and will be hoping to capitalise against a developing Tactix shooting combination. The battle between Fitzpatrick and goal shooter Ellie Bird will bring plenty of interest with Bird renowned for her holding style of game, something that Fitzpatrick is more than capable of disrupting given her aerial ability and hunt for the ball. Phoenix Karaka has also been in hot form, even if it is only after one round. The goal defence is strong in the air and at ground level able to track the ball and force timely turnovers with her long arms and speed. Her connection with Fitzpatrick will go a long way in stopping Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit who is still finding her feet in her new colours. Through the midcourt the combination of Kimiora Poi and Samon Nathan must stand up if the Tactix are any chance to win, as opposing wing attack Peta Toeava is deadly on the feed, able to quickly turn and deliver pin-point precision passes.

Defensively the Tactix are also strong with captain, Jane Watson the real barometer for the side. Watson is in a league of her own able to make something out of nothing with her quick feet and vision. Her partnership with Temalisi Fakahokotau will only develop as time goes on with the two able to cause havoc down back with their ball winning abilities and high netball IQ. However, they will have their work cut out for them up against teenage prodigy Grace Nweke who currently sits first for goals credit to her ability to score from anywhere and do accurately. If they can shut down Nweke the likes of Bailey Mes if available, Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes will have to stand up to help shoulder the load under the post.

In the end, it will be a battle of the defence ends with both sides boasting a plethora of game changers.

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Sunday, 22 March
TSB Bank Arena, Wellington

Coming off a win and their first home game despite it not being in front of a crowd the Central Pulse will be hoping to make it two on the trot and repeat the lengthy undefeated streak of last year. Meanwhile, the Southern Steel will be wanting to right the wrongs of last week and notch up their first win of the year.

With very limited change over the off-season the Pulse have one of the most formidable outfits in the competition headlined by their defensive unit. The trio of Katrina Rore, Karin Burger and Kelly Jury is one simply cannot resist. Both Rore and Burger can swap out to wing defence giving the Pulse that added bit of pressure and defensive prowess across the court making life hard for the likes of Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders who like to zip around the circle edge. While Crampton and Saunders have speed to boot if the Pulse defenders can shut down their avenue to goal and block their vision they will be able to gain the upper hand. Inside the circle, expect Jury to have an impact with her long lean over the shot and ability to contest the high ball especially up against the likes of Jennifer O’Connell. The Steel goal shooter will need further assistance from the likes of recruit Kalifa McCollin and youngster Georgia Heffernan to put up a damaging score and keep their respective defender busy.

The Pulse also boast a tried and tested duo in the goal circle with Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio one of the competitions strongest connections. They know each others game inside out able to dish off perfectly weighted passes and able to back themselves when inside the circle. While Dunn is the more prominent shooter, Ekenasio’s work out the front is what makes them such a dynamic team meaning the likes of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita will have to be on their a-game. If Fifita can win ball back like she did last round and receive support from the likes of Kate Heffernan and Abby Erwood it will go a long way in shutting the Pulse down.

However, given the strength and class across the court the Pulse should get the job done against a rebuilding Steel team.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Northern Stars
Monday, 23 March
Trustpower Arena, Tauranga

In a clash of second verse fourth expect plenty of action, with the Stars hoping to topple the Magic and claim their first win of 2020. The Stars underwent a massive change over the off-season and are still searching for that winning combination while the Magic seemed to have found their groove. Both sides have a couple of young, up and coming players that will be hoping to make an impact.

The Magic’s strength lies within their midcourt with newcomer Whitney Souness already lighting the court up with her dynamic movement and impressive vision. Souness has quickly become a key cog in the attacking third, not afraid to release the ball from distance and back herself while her connection with centre Ariana Cable-Dixon is steadily developing. The versatility of Sam Winders able to move between centre and wing defence given her defensive attributes is pivotal to the Magic’s success. But Winders will have to pull out all the stops against experienced campaigner Grace Kara to stop the wing attack from having an influence. Kara is cool, calm and collected able to think her way through scenarios and deliver well executed passes into the circle. Fellow midcourters Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Lisa Mather will also have to be on high alert. Stars, wing defence Fa’amu Ioane will be hoping to continue her ball winning ways after starring last round with a couple of timely intercepts.

With a relatively new defensive line-up with Daystar Swift and Kate Burley at the helm the Magic shooting combination of Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou will be hoping to capitalise. McPhee has shown that she can be explosive under the post able to post high numbers and relatively accurate. On the other hand, Maia Wilson is one of the highest scoring goalers in the competition able to find the net with ease and use her clever body positioning and strong holds to edge herself closer to the post. If she can have a big influence and Jamie Hume can chip in on the scoreboard then it will be hard work for Erena Mikaere and Holly Fowler. In only her second game for the club, Mikaere will be wanting to cause mayhem with her reach and speed making the goal circle match-up an exciting one.

The game could really go either way seeing just how evenly poised both teams are but it could be argued that the Magic have a little bit more depth and that could be the edge they need.