Tag: taneisha fifita

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 5: Pulse survive nailbiter against error-ridden Steel

SOUTHERN Steel pushed the Central Pulse in Round 4 of the ANZ Premiership, and while they backed it up a week on, the Pulse treasured ball and maintained accuracy for a close 40-37 victory. It was the Pulse’s continuous drive that propelled them to a sixth straight victory, with the close finish for the Steel soured by a late injury.

Pulse started strong as ever, pinning down the attacking third well in the beginning to limit Steel’s speed in attack. A couple handy loose ball-gets early on saw the Steel take an early three goal lead, before Pulse switched into once more to steal back some momentum. But the midpoint of the term saw the Pulse draw level, with the side slow to start but quicker to get into their regular rhythm. 

A couple of pickups from Shannon Saunders early proved that the Steel had come to play, putting pressure on through the midcourt but where Saunders did it the entire Pulse side went one better on the defence, forcing Steel into short, sharp passes in attack. While the Steel maintained patience and did not try to take risks, Trinidad and Tobago product Kalifa McCollin still injected her usual flair, finding clever avenues to Jennifer O’Connell at the post. 

But where the Steel were solid up forward, sloppiness down back from Taneisha Fifita allowed too many easy attempts at goal for the highly accurate Pulse goalers in Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn. Defensively, the Steel were on fire early putting a wealth of pressure on the Pulse attack unit but threw away just as much as they gained, only coming away with a one goal lead at the first change.

The match continued virtually goal for goal, with Maddy Gordon finding plenty of purchase on circle edge, but small errors back-to-back from Dunn handed the Steel a couple of crucial opportunities. However, inaccuracy plagued O’Connell and McCollin, sitting on 65 per cent accuracy in the second thanks to impressive defensive pressure and box-outs from Katrina Rore and Kelly Jury. While Steel appeared to have much of the momentum early, critical errors saw Pulse take the lead with under five minutes left in the term, seeing Steel in real danger of fazing out of the match heading into half-time. 

While the patient approach by the Steel early on seemed to work, pressure from the Pulse saw movement stagnate in the second which allowed the top side to gain some precious ball. Though Saunders continued to have her way finding plenty of turnover ball through the centre, matched well by Claire Kersten who gave Saunders a run for her money on the deflection tally. But the Steel managed to retain a two-goal buffer throughout a frantic last minute, seeing Pulse just ahead but the Steel within touching distance. With persistent contact calls plaguing Fifita, the young goal keeper was handed a caution late in the second, having tallied eight contact penalties by half-time. 

With just two goals in it coming into the second half, one side had to give. The Steel injected some better speed in the third, finding faster options to post but wasted opportunities from McCollin and O’Connell saw Pulse maintain the lead, with Jury getting into O’Connell’s head. It was a better third quarter from the Pulse, finding a bit more purchase in attack though the Steel continued to keep them on their toes and forcing some uncharacteristic errors from the usually composed attack. 

Kate Heffernan was solid, applying constant pressure on Gordon and seeing the pair almost cancel each other out with their consistent shadowing. McCollin’s speed saw the goal attack continue to evade Rore, though the Pulse defensive unit did a solid job limiting Steel’s ability to drive toward the ball in attack. The Pulse began to pull away toward the end of the third, maintaining momentum and holding ground against the tenacious and ball hungry Steel side.

Tiana Metuarau joined the fray out in wing attack to start the final quarter, with the speedster injecting a bit of flair into the Pulse attack. Continued errors and hesitance in front of goal from the Steel saw the Pulse begin to pull away, with accuracy on the shot proving crucial. Where the match may have seemed sealed up early in the final quarter, the Steel had a much more composed second half of the term and really began to push back, absorbing the pressure in attack and winning back critical ball in defence before the ball could reach the circle. 

With the match on the line, the Steel were on a roll and looked to be in with a real chance, until the worst case scenario played out with O’Connell going down with a suspected knee injury and less than a minute on the clock. Two goals down with 55 seconds on the clock Steel’s Kiana Pelasio entered the court in goal attack, but it was not enough with the Pulse happy to ferret away the time and finish with a sombre 40-37 victory.

The Pulse may have had another scare with a potential loss on their hands this week but were too good with quality names bookending the court. Player of the match Jury was silent but deadly in defence, racking up seven gains while Kersten was solid with three intercepts. Despite just playing the three quarters, Gordon led the Pulse assists tally with 13 from 17 feeds, joined by Ekenasio with nine assists and 17 goals from 20 attempts. Dunn finished well with 23 goals at 92 per cent to lead on accuracy. Rore had a quiet match when it came to her usual flair, but was consistent as ever with the four gains and only five penalties to her name.

While the Steel had more attempts on goal for the second match running, it was their inaccuracy at the post that was the real kicker. O’Connell was sturdy at the post but came away with 25 goals at 73 per cent, while McCollin was electric out the front with 12 goals from 17 attempts and eight assists. Saunders racked up three intercepts, while Gina Crampton did much of the heavy lifting in wing attack with 15 assists, 19 centre pass receives and a potentially game saving intercept in the final term to really put the pressure on. Defensively, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Fifita were consistent but did not do enough to put off the Pulse, seeing the pair only combine for two intercepts. 

Steel are unlucky coming out of this loss and injury scare with a back-to-back match on Saturday night against Northern Stars – the only team they have beaten thus far – and will now need to work a different goaler into their game plan. Meanwhile the Pulse have a week off, not back on the court until Round 6.

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 11 | 11 | 11 | 7 (40)
SOUTHERN STEEL 12 | 8 | 9 | 8 (37)

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

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 5

ROUND 5 of the ANZ Premiership sees five matches over the course of the weekend with the Magic, Stars and Tactix all taking the court twice. There are a couple of identical clashes from Round 4 with some teams hoping history does not repeat itself. The Pulse will be eager to maintain their unblemished start to 2020 while the Magic will be wanting to go one step better than last round and collect their second win to climb up the ladder.

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Friday, 10 July

A fourth quarter demolition gifted Central Pulse the win over the Steel last round, however the Steel will take plenty of confidence out of their last outing, going toe-to-toe with their opponents for three quarters. Shooting at 100 per cent for the match, the Pulse goalers were on song sinking them from everywhere – something the Steel will really have to double down on this round if they are any chance to knock the Pulse off their perch.

It is fair to say that the battle in the goal circle was won by Ameliaranne Ekenasio with the star goal attack taking ownership and dominating with 25 goals from 25 attempts. Last round, Steel defenders Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita gave all their attention to Aliyah Dunn under the post and while the towering goal shooter was down on her usual volume sitting at 21 goals at 100 per cent, it allowed for Ekenasio to dictate the terms out the front. Fifita and Selby-Rickit are both strong prospects in the defensive circle with their physicality, hands over pressure and quick footwork but Abby Erwood should not be forgotten about and could be another option to come on for the Steel and upset the Pulse attacking duo with her tagging style of play. Heading into their second clash in less than seven days the Steel will be keen to rectify those issues in defence and shut down Ekenasio more effectively if they are to come out on top. While the combination between Ekenasio and Dunn is commanding to say the least youngster Tiana Metuarau is also proving to be a handful for the opposition whether it be in goal attack or wing attach with her silky movement, precise ball placement and netball nous.

Defensively the Pulse are stacked with Kelly Jury having the time of her life down back. The goal keeper has starred in recent weeks with her hunt for the ball, long arms and skill to contest the aerial ball. She really shut down Jennifer O’Connell in Round 4 with the goal shooter only managing 27 goals from 32 attempts at 84 per cent and denied any easy access into the goal circle. The influence of Katrina Rore and Karin Burger is also a key aspect to the Pulse defence with Rore putting in a wealth of work out the front to shut down the goal attack entering the goal circle and Burger nullifying the wing attack with her with arms over pressure and commanding height. Goal attack Kalifa McCollin will have to get busy for the Steel if she is to occupy Rore while Gina Crampton had Burger’s number for the majority of their last encounter using her speed and strength to tussle for prime position around circle edge.

It could be a case of history repeating itself with the Pulse in ripping form with their impressive ball movement, strong connections and ability to withstand the waves of pressure.

Southern Steel v. Northern Stars
Saturday, 11 July

In their second game of the round the Steel will be hoping to keep the winning streak against the Stars alive, getting the wood over them earlier in the season, albeit by just two goals. Both teams are evenly poised and match-up similarly headlined by a tall holding goal shooter and experienced midcourt.

The contest between the Northern Stars captain, Grace Kara and youngster Kate Heffernan will draw plenty of attention. Kara is a real lynchpin for the Stars in attack, providing that link into the goal circle with her effortless and perfectly weighted passes. She also does a wealth of work at the centre pass to ease the pressure on her shooters, meaning it will up to Heffernan to get in her head and stop her. Although still developing her craft, Heffernan is quick on her feet and can apply strong hands over pressure to block Kara’s vision into the circle. Another option in wing defence for the Stars is Kendall Corkery with the midcourter renowned for her niggly, physical style which can get under the skin of opponents. Expect veteran, Shannon Saunders to lead the midcourt cohort for the Steel especially up against 22-year-old Mila Reuelu-Buchanan. Saunders can run all day in centre and use her smarts to outwit Reuelu-Buchanan who is still honing her craft.

If the Stars are to register another win for the season, Maia Wilson will have to be on her game from the opening whistle. The goal shooter is a commanding presence under the post and has increased her range throughout 2020, looking more comfortable from further out. Her high volume of shots however puts a target on her back with the likes of Fifita, Selby-Rickit and Erwood likely to work in overdrive to smother her, meaning it will be up to Jamie Hume to take the load off Wilson. Hume will be hoping to put out a consistent four quarter performance against the Steel to really assert herself on the competition and take the heat off Wilson under the post, with her cleverly timed drives, long range shooting and play making abilities.

If the Steel can shut down the likes of Kara and Reuelu-Buchanan around circle edge and limit their chance to feed into Wilson it will put them in good stead to collect another win.

Northern Stars v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, 12 July

After playing out the first draw in ANZ Premiership history the Stars will be eager to put that to bed and claim the “W”. The Magic came from seven goals behind last round to finish strongly and clench a draw and will be keen to go one better this round.

The Stars will be hoping to make amends for their fourth quarter slump and run out a consistent performance this round with the defensive duo renowned for their balling winning abilities. One of the more experienced defenders in the group, Storm Purvis can change the course of a game in an instance with her leap and deceptive speed to dart around the court and force turnovers. Teammate Kate Burley has blossomed into a commanding prospect in the goal circle with her tenacity, often throwing herself at every contest and creating doubt in the feeders minds while Oceane Maihi is able to inject plenty of height and aerial presence, something the Stars might need in order to contend with Kelsey McPhee at the post. The goal shooter can suffer from the yips at times under the post, but when she is on song she is hard to stop credit to her strong hands, quick footwork and clever body positioning. The influence of Abigail Latu-Meafou will be crucial if the Magic are to replicate their Round 4 performance or notch up a win with the goal attack showcasing her accuracy to post, smooth movement and skill to slot them from range. A cameo appearance from youngster Khiarna Williams could also work wonders for the Magic in order to offset the Stars defence.

Through the midcourt the Stars boast some exciting players with Fa’amu Ioane one of the most electric wing defences in the competition, with her speed off the mark and quick hands. Her presence around circle edge and in the defensive third allows her to gobble up turnover ball and spring into transition. The versatility of Lisa Mather is another key for the Stars able to swing from wing defence into centre when needed. For the Magic, Whitney Souness is a real powerhouse able to deliver the ball with great pace and precision to catch defenders off guard while Ariana Cable-Dixon is reliable through centre.

This game could once again go down to the wire but expect the Stars to have learnt from their mistakes last round and impose themselves for a full four quarters.

Mainland Tactix v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 12 July

Playing only nine days earlier both sides would have taken plenty out of their match-up when it comes to one-on-ones and overall team strategy. A quick start from the Tactix gave them the early ascendancy before the Mystics rallied and wrestled back the momentum to win the next three quarters. With this in mind expect the Tactix to come out with a real fire in the belly and increased intensity.

Shooting prodigy Grace Nweke is relishing every single minute of court time with the 18-year-old dominating in all facets such as volume and accuracy. She is simply unstoppable under the post using her 193cm frame to ward off defenders and dictate the space. Her aerial presence is second to none while her balance is equally impressive. Goal attack Saviour Tui is growing with confidence, not afraid to look to the post while Asher Grapes is constantly able to find space and create attacking forays. Up against some stiff opposition in Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson the Mystics goalers will once again have to be on their A-game. Fakahokotau impressed last week with her hunt for the ball, vision and quick footwork while Watson is renowned for her cleanliness and lean over the shot. If both defenders can work in tandem to minimise the influence of Nweke and win ball back it will be a huge bonus for the Tactix.

Wing attack Peta Toeava is the real barometer for the Mystics with her turn of speed and sheer ball placement. Toeava only needs a second to look into the goal circle and deliver a pinpoint pass into Nweke under the post such is her vision, understanding and connection with the goaler. It will be up to Charlotte Elley to limit her influence around circle edge and apply strong hands over pressure given Toeava’s shorter stature. The battle in centre will also be interesting with Tayla Earle and Kimiora Poi donning very similar styles. Earle has been really dominating for the Mystics with her high level of endurance and energetic style of play, helping out both in offence and defence. Poi plays a more defensive role with her strong hands over pressure and three foot marking, allowing her wing attacks to do the heavy lifting in attack.

It will ultimately come down to whether or not the Tactix can generate enough turnover ball and restrict Nweke under the post or if Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka can shut down the Tactix shooting end once more.

Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, 13 July

In the final game of the round, fatigue could be a key element for both sides as they enter their second game. The last time these two sides met it was the Tactix that got the win by nine goals but the Magic have come along in leaps and bounds since Round 3 with their on court connections strengthening.

Boasting an impressive shooting combination in Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird the Tactix will be hoping to take advantage of the tall goaler and apply some real scoreboard pressure. Down on their accuracy last round expect both shooters to come out with a real intensity. It is unlikely for Selby-Rickit to have two quiet games in a row given her class and ability to spark back into action. The goal attack is a key cog in attack with her play making abilities often bringing Bird into the game with her well executed passes. However the tussle in the goal circle will be extremely physical as Magic goal keeper Erena Mikaere is not afraid to contest every ball that comes her way. Mikaere’s aerial presence is impressive and so too is Georgia Tong, with the two able to swat away balls with ease. Holly Fowler is another one to keep an eye out for in the Magic defence unit with her ability to read the play and take a key intercept at any given moment.

With a game saving intercept under her belt, Magic captain and wing defence Sam Winders is a real barometer for her side. she is able to spark the Magic into action with her constant effort around the court to create a tip and then transition into attack. Her ability to seamlessly switch from wing defence to centre is second to none able to shake up the course of a game. Winders will have to be on her game from the opening whistle with Erikana Pedersen and Samon Nathan both clever in their movement and strong around circle edge for the Tactix in attack.

To stay in touch with the top of the pack, the Tactix have to win this clash so expect them to pull out all the stops and assert themselves from the get-go against an inconsistent Magic side.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Five talking points: Round 4

ROUND 4 of the ANZ Premiership was historic with two sides playing out the first draw in competition history, while season high scores were recorded. The Pulse and Magic played two games apiece with fellow teams Southern Steel, Northern Stars, Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix playing just the one. We take a look at the top talking point this round.

Young shooters leave their mark on the competition

It was a display of accurate shooting from youngsters Aliyah Dunn (Central Pulse) and Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics). Faced with a challenging task the two goal shooters showcased not only their accuracy but so too their composure to ride the physicality, stand up under the pressure and score. Their clever holds, aerial capabilities and strong hands did all the talking with the two goalers reeling in plenty of ball. 18-year-old Nweke managed a staggering 38 goals from 40 attempts at 95 per cent along with two rebounds. Dunn was just as impressive slotting 22 goals straight in her first outing and backed up her performance with a commanding 23 goals from 27 attempts at 85 per cent in her three-and-a-bit quarters on Sunday. The future is well and truly bright for both goal shooters given their dominant stature under the post and sheer circle presence.

Pulse record highest score of the season

In their second outing of the round, the Pulse stamped their authority on the competition piling on a season high 51 goals. Led by the towering timber in Dunn under the post, Pulse midcourters Claire Kersten and Maddy Gordon found easy avenue to circle credit to their goalers’ clever holds and body positioning. Dunn managed 23 goals for the game while the influence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio was just as prolific with the highly talented goal attack slotting them from everywhere in the circle finishing with 21 goals from 24 attempts. Her skill and knowledge to seamlessly create space and back herself from around the perimeter made her a tough opponent for the Magic to match-up on, ultimately allowing the Pulse shooters free reign inside the circle. The introduction of Tiana Metaurau did not go unnoticed, converting seven goals however at a lower accuracy than she would have liked.

Double team defence was the flavour of the round

With a wealth of tall shooters to contend with most teams opted to double team the goal shooter across Round 4 with Mainland Tactix, Southern Steel and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic the main culprits. Up against Nweke in the goal circle the combination of Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau attempted to double team the young shooter, smothering her every movement and encroaching on her space. However the Mystics shooter proved too strong with her centre court teammates delivering the ball to her on a silver platter. The Steel adopted the same approach, with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita doubling down on Dunn at the post, using their physicality, constant movement and long arms to deny any easy entrance into the goal circle. However with their attention solely focused on Dunn it allowed Ekenasio to roam freely out the front and in the circle where she punished them on the scoreboard. The Magic defensive unit in Erena Mikaere, Georgia Tong and Holly Fowler all focused their attention on Maia Wilson under the post, forcing Jamie Hume to shoulder more of the load.

First draw in ANZ Premiership history

After a disappointing outing on Sunday the Magic came out with an undeniable fire in the belly in the final game of the round. Despite being down by seven goals at the final change the Magic mustered up a miracle thanks to captain, Sam Winders coming through for a huge intercept and screaming down court to get back on level pegging. Although her side did not win, the all-round effort of the Magic to get back within striking distance of the Stars will give them plenty of confidence. Now in its fourth season, the draw was a momentous occasion given it was the first in competition history.

Penalty discrepancies

The Mystics put on a masterclass in defence headlined by Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka with the two working in tandem to win ball back and most importantly do it cleanly. Renowned for their physical nature their skill to come off the body and cherry pick passes was evident throughout the game and was reflected through the penalty count. Karaka racked up a team high of nine penalties, seven of which were contact and two obstruction while Fitzpatrick starred with a mere five penalties, two contact and three obstruction. It was a clean performance across the board for the Mystics only recording 28 for the entire game. On the other end of the scale, the Magic amassed a whopping 66 penalties with most of them stemming from Mikaere and Fowler. The two defenders combined for 26 penalties with 18 coming as contacts, while Winders racked up nine and goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou recorded seven penalties. Their inability to stay away from the whistle cost them at times throughout the game, giving away plenty of ball and crucial opportunities to hit the scoreboard.

2020 ANZ Premiership: Round 4- Player of the Week

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

It is hard to go past the efforts of Ameliaranne Ekenasio with the Pulse superstar elevating her game to a whole other level and subsequently earning herself “Player of the Week” honours. With patience and skill to boot, Ekenasio was a key cog for the Pulse across both games in Round 4 well and truly leading from the front and dictating the flow of the game. Her composure with ball in hand was second to none, using her full three seconds to assess all of her options inside the attacking third and reverting to the transverse line when in need.

The goal attack was on song throughout both matches but starred particularly in the contest against the Steel, commanding the ball under the post. Her ability to take the heat off goal shooter Aliyah Dunn is a testament to her shooting prowess and sheer netball smarts. When she sensed the need to grab the game by the scruff of the neck she did exactly that, shooting at a whopping 100 per cent accuracy with 25 goals from 25 attempts. Ekenasio was unfazed by the physicality, riding every bump and most importantly delivering. Her skill to create space in the attacking third and take the hard drive into the goal circle kept the defenders head on a swivel allowing her to take full control in the goal circle.

Up against Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita, Ekenasio had to really think her way through the defensive pressure and double teaming of Dunn to have an influence at the post. With Maddy Gordon relatively well held throughout the game, Ekenasio picked up the slack with the goal attack doing a wealth of work at the centre pass to receive a team high 16 while her second phase work was just as impressive showcasing her impressive stamina.

The heavy workload did not seem to slow Ekenasio down with the goal attack going on a tear in the second game of the round, simply running rings around the Magic defence with her timing, silky ball movement and fancy footwork. Opposed to Holly Fowler, Georgia Tong and Erena Mikaere in the goal circle, Ekenasio was not bothered by their physicality and aerial presence instead backing herself from range and using her dynamic movement to edge closer to the post. Her smarts to lower her eyes and deliver bullet passes to Dunn or cut across the top of the circle allowed her to play with freedom for the Pulse and set them up for the win.

Although her accuracy was down compared to her previous outing- sitting at 88 per cent her output was just as dominant. Ekenasio managed 21 goals from 24 attempts while also amassing seven goal assists and another team high 12 centre pass receives. Her ability to constantly remain in the game and use her deceptive turn of speed to catch defenders off guard makes her impossible to stop, pair that with her impeccable balance and Ekenasio proved why she is such a commanding presence. Connecting well with Claire Kersten through the midcourt Ekenasio found good space both under the post and in the attacking third to create scoring opportunities.

The Silver Ferns captain, showcased her wealth of experience and skill to seamlessly transition into goal shooter, while also adjusting her game to allow the likes of Tiana Metuarau to have an influence in the goal circle. It was a complete performance by Ekenasio who once again starred and rose to the challenge each time.

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

2020 ANZ Premiership stats wrap: Round 3

WITH Round 3 of the ANZ Premiership done and dusted, it’s time to take a look at the best stats of the week. Both Northern Mystics and Southern Steel took the court twice, making for some interesting numbers to finish the round.

In a round that seemed a lot more defensively focused than last week, a couple of defenders stood out with Sulu Fitzpatrick leading the way with four intercepts and nine gains in a winning Mystics outfit on Saturday, before adding two more gains to her tally against the Pulse on Monday. Fitzpatrick’s partner in crime Phoenix Karaka had a similar output, pulling off three intercepts in the first match while Emily Burgess combined for three intercepts across the two games. Also impressive was the explosive defensive unit of the Tactix, with the side running out victors thanks to the efforts of Temalisi Fakahokotau (three intercepts, six gains), Jane Watson (two intercepts from five gains) and Charlotte Elley (two intercepts).

Magic’s Holly Fowler racked up five gains and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was also solid with six evenly spread across her two matches, while Taneisha Fifita well and truly led the penalty tally this round with 32 and four gains across the two games.

Down the other end, Maia Wilson led the way in singular games thanks to a phenomenal 37-goal output at 88 per cent accuracy, while Grace Nweke was similarly dominant across her two matches, shooting 63 goals from 73 attempts. Jennifer O’Connell had a much better week, scoring 60 goals at 88 per cent accuracy in her back-to-back matches, while Ellie Bird was solid once more with 33 goals.

For Magic, Kelsey McPhee (21 from 26) and Abigail Latu-Meafou (15 from 21) shared the load while Ameliaranne Ekenasio led the tally for goal attacks, shooting 21 from 24 and spending some time in goal shooter towards the end of the match, while Kalifa McCollin was slightly down on her output and accuracy this week but across her two games still managed 26 goals from her 35 attempts. Te Paea Selby-Rickit was not quite as dominant to post with 12 from 19 but made up for it with her 17 centre pass receives, doing a wealth of work out the front.

Through the midcourt, dual match players in Peta Toeava (39 assists across both games) and Steel’s Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders (33 assists apiece) dominated the stats sheet, while Mila Reuelu Buchanan stepped up to dominate the individual match stats with 20 assists against the Steel. Reuelu Buchanan was closely followed by Claire Kersten (18 assists) and Erikana Pedersen (17 assists) while Whitney Souness put out an impressive well-rounded performance with 17 goal assists and two intercepts.

 

MORE MATCH STATS:

>> Mainland Tactix (45) defeated WBOP Magic (36) 

>> Northern Mystics (46) defeated Southern Steel (42)

>> Northern Stars (47) defeated by Southern Steel (49)

>> Central Pulse (42) defeated Northern Mystics (35)

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Steel notch up opening win of the season

IN a rematch of the 2019 elimination final there was plenty of feeling in the game with the Steel claiming redemption and their first win of the season (49-47). Although the two goal win was marred with injury the Steel proved the short turnaround did not phase them, coming out hot from the get go, flicking the ball around with precision in the attacking third. Despite a strong win in Round 2 the Northern Stars did not seem to find their mojo for the full four quarters, rattled by the Steel’s pressure and tenacity. 

The Steel raced out of the blocks in the opening quarter with their connections in attack on full display. Stars goal shooter Maia Wilson slotted the first goal of the game, but from there on in it was all the Steel with their clever ball movement and defensive pressure causing all sorts of headaches. The Steel defenders pushed Wilson to shoot from range with the goaler missing two consecutive shots and making them pay with their 100 per cent shooting accuracy up the other end. The patient approach in attack paid dividends for the Steel with Jennifer O’Connell holding strong and owning the backspace. The Steel shooting end of O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin got on a roll sinking five goals straight and opening up a commanding lead. Their dominance was so profound it caused the Stars to make changes down back with Storm Purvis pushing out to goal defence and Oceane Maihi coming on at goal keeper to provide that aerial presence. The Northern Stars struggled to generate any second phase play in the attacking third giving the Steel plenty of chances to cause turnovers. Steel continued to put the foot down establishing a five goal lead despite the Stars pushing hard and rallying late in the term to try and create some attacking momentum. 

Down by five goals at quarter time the Stars came out with a real pep in their step and heightened defensive pressure. Clearly on the hunt for turnover ball Purvis got her hands to ball in the opening minute of the game contesting the high ball and placing doubt in the feeders minds. Moments later partner in crime Kate Burley delivered, taking a huge intercept and propelled the ball back down the court. With increased intensity in defence, Wilson found her groove under the post with her strong rebounding positioning and impressive balance to dance along the baseline and keep the ball in. With nine minutes left in the quarter the Steel were yet to score while the Stars went on a four goal shooting spree using the angles in attack to open up space and apply scoreboard pressure. Jamie Hume continued to impress from her first quarter output, proving to be a real playmaker in the attacking third with her well weighted passes and drive while teammate Grace Kara was crucial throughout the quarter using her vision to deliver into the circle. With the Stars pushing, Kate Heffernan was pinged with a caution, while Taneisha Fifita struggled to combat Wilson under the post. A mere goal separated the sides before Gina Crampton kicked it up a gear for the Steel with her impressive vision into the circle prompting the Steel to go on a surge in the final five minutes of the quarter. 

After getting within touching distance before the half time break the Stars continued with the same line-up while the Steel opted for some changes across the court. Georgia Heffernan replaced McCollin while Abby Erwood pulled on the goal defence bib pushing Selby-Rickit to goal keeper and Fifita to the bench. It was goal for goal for the opening few minutes of the quarter with both sides feeling each other out and adapting to the changes. Heffernan had a shaky start with a held ball on her first attempt before steadily building into the game. The Stars were getting plenty of hands to ball in defence with Burley and Purvis creating a strong wall in defence while up the other end the connection between Wilson and Hume was blossoming. With momentum swinging back and forth the Steel were struck by injury with Georgia Heffernan going down with a suspected knee injury. Crampton upped the ante in attack, releasing the ball from distance but that did not seem to phase the Stars who managed three goals in a row for and drew even with 10 seconds left in the quarter, showcasing just how intense the battle was. 

The final quarter lived up to the hype with the game going right down to the wire. Steel sunk the opening goal of the term with the Stars replying instantly. It was goal for goal once again with both sides treasuring possession and capitalising on their centre pass. Kendall Corkery had a profound impact for the Steel, niggling at Kara and making her work hard to win any ball circle edge. Shannon Saunders showcased her brilliance with a timely tip to turn the ball over and was the clear spark for the Steel who opened up a three goal lead and did not look back. With two minutes left Purvis took a key rebound to reduce the margin to three goals and give her side a fighting chance but it was to no avail with O’Connell landing the final blow. 

O’Connell was a constant under the post for the Steel with 32 goals from 36 attempts at 89 per cent while McCollin was deadly going at 93 per cent sinking 14 goals from her 15 attempts. For the Stars WIlson dominated with 37 goals from 42 attempts at 88 per cent while Hume was down on her accuracy sitting at 67 per cent missing five of her 15 shots. Defensively Purvis starred with three gains, three deflections and two rebounds. Fifita and Selby-Rickit combined for five gains and seven deflections.

 

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> STARS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

NORTHERN STARS 10 | 13 | 13 | 11 (47)
SOUTHERN STEEL 15 | 11 | 10 | 13 (49)

STARTING SEVEN:

Northern Stars:

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

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

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

2020 ANZ Premiership Preview: Round 3

AFTER an action packed return of netball, teams will be eager to prove that it was not a one off with strong showings in Round 3. The Steel and Magic will both play two games this round with the remainder only taking part in the one game. Arguably the game of the round will be between the two unbeaten teams on Monday with Pulse and Mystics set to go to head to head. 

Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Friday, 26 June

Sitting on a win apiece heading into the round both teams will be searching for some consistency and more importantly their second win of the season. The Tactix had an up and down performance last round, struck down by a tummy bug in their second game which well and truly showed while the Magic simply could not generate enough accuracy to post to worry their opposition. 

With a stacked defensive end the Tactix will be hoping to use their physicality and ball winning abilities to stop the Magic from getting close to post. Copping a knock on her knee early in the last game, all eyes will turn to Jane Watson with the captain a real lynchpin for the Tactix as she can take huge game changing intercepts. After a hot start Temalisi Fakahokotau faded out of the game last round but will be wanting to showcase her prowess once again with her intercepting skills, leap and pressure over the shot to ruffle the feathers of Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou. The Magic shooters while they had plenty of opportunities struggled to convert and will have their work cut out for them again this round given the immense pressure Fakahokotau and Watson are renowned for.  

The midcourt battle will be another point of interest given the depth and speed that the Tactix have. Kimiora Poi is lightning quick in at centre, able to dart around the court and facilitate that second phase play for her side while also getting back and applying defensive pressure. Wing attack Samon Nathan and Erikana Pedersen also pose a threat for the Magic with their ability to come on and have an immediate impact with their quick ball movement, strength around circle edge and pin point precision passes into the circle. It will be up to Magic captain Sam Winders to really lead the midcourt with her defensive pressure, skill to clog up space and ability to keep her opposition off circle edge. In attack it will be up to Whitney Souness and Ariana Cable-Dixon to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Latu-Meafou and McPhee. 

It will be a tight battle between both sides but if the Tactix are at full strength they should be able to get the job done given the extra experience they have across the court both in attack and defence. 

Northern Mystics v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 27 June

Yet to register a win this season the Steel will be hoping to unlock something in their match-up against the Mystics and get their first “W” on the board. Meanwhile the Mystics will be hoping to keep their unbeaten record intact and notch up their third victory for the season after another impressive outing in Round 2.

With a developing attacking unit the Steel will have to be on their a-game if they are any chance to topple the Mystics. Kalifa McCollin proved to be a real pocket last round and has speed to boot, zipping around the attacking third and creating plays with her flair. The Trinidad and Tobago recruit is not afraid to go to post backing herself from anywhere in the circle and can adapt her game style to suit her fellow goalers. Youngster Georgia Heffernan is still working on her craft but has the potential to come on and have an impact with her athletic style of play and accuracy. While goal shooter Jennifer O’Connell is renowned for her holding shooter role and ability to score quickly and easily, something she will be hoping to capitalise on up against the likes of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka. The Mystics defenders are a formidable unit that can pick off passes with ease and use their quick footwork to maneuver around the body of their opponents and create timely deflections. Fitzpatrick is a strong driving force down back with her hands over pressure and aerial ability while Karaka is key through the midcourt. 

After starring in Round with her pace, strength and ball delivery Peta Toeava will be one to watch for the Steel. The Mystics wing attack is a key cog using her balance, impressive vision and variety of passes to seamlessly deliver the ball into the goal circle. Toeava is quick on her feet and strong around the circle edge to demand the ball and dish off well-weighted passes. Fellow midcourter and centre Tayla Earle also starred last week and will be hoping to replicate that form with her defensive pressure to force turnovers and pick off intercepts for the Mystics. Her battle with Shannon Saunders will generate plenty of interest given just how damaging Saunders can be with ball in hand. Her experience, speed and vision is second to none while her connection with Gina Crampton is exceptional. The two know each others game inside out making them extremely difficult to combat given their read of the play and space, stamina and general netball nous. 

Vying for their first win of the season, expect the Steel to throw everything they have at the Mystics in hope of securing that elusive victory. However the Mystics have proven that they have the firepower to withstand challenges and can use their defensive pressure to win ball back and create scoring opportunities. 

Northern Stars v. Southern Steel
Sunday, 28 June

In Steel’s second game of the round the element of fatigue could play a huge factor up against a developing Stars unit who will be still riding that winning wave after downing the Tactix in Round 2. It will be the first time these two sides have met since the final last year where the Stars bundled the Steel out of grand final contention, so expect plenty of feeling in this game. With young players on both sides it will be up to the experienced heads to lead the way and forge a way forward for their team to win. 

The tussle in the goal circle for the Stars will be exciting with Maia Wilson a commanding presence under the post as her strong holds and accuracy to post is hard to combat. Wilson is able to read the play with ease and use her feet to move to the ball or create space in the circle. Still developing her partnership with Jamie Hume and Vika Koloto it will be up to Wilson to shoulder a lot of the scoring load but will have her work cut out for her against Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, Taneisha Fifita and Abby Erwood. Fifita is a real livewire down in defence renowned for her spring in her step and skill to cause confusion with her quick footwork while both Selby-Rickit and Erwood ooze consistency.

Coming off a relatively disappointing outing expect O’Connell to come back with a vengeance and assert herself with her scoring ability. O’Connell can hit the scoreboard quickly and easily given her height and clever body positioning to ward off defenders. Partner in crime, McCollin is the playmaker for the Steel in the goal circle using her turn of speed and spatial awareness to full effect. But Stars defenders Storm Purvis and Kate Burley are no easy beats with the two strong in the air and able to swat away their fair share of ball. Burley impressed last round with her smothering style of play and skill to switch into transition with ease while Storm showcased her skillset to seamlessly push out to goal defence. Another prominent threat for the Stars is the inclusion of Oceane Maihi who is a serious competitor in the air given her leap and strong hands. 

Potentially still on the hunt for their first win the Steel will be eager to secure a win but come up against a strong unit, in the Stars who will be raring to go. With key players across the Stars are in the box seat heading into the contest having already notched up a win. 

Central Pulse v. Northern Mystics
Monday, 29 June

In what could be a battle of the two undefeated teams the clash between the Pulse and Mystics will be one of youth and experience. There is no denying that the Pulse are the team to beat, once again announcing themselves as a powerhouse of the competition last round while the Mystics continue to showcase their composure and pressure each time they step out on court. There will be all-star match ups across the court with both teams littered with Silver Ferns stars making for an intriguing contest.

Young talent Grace Nweke has continued to take the competition by storm, letting her goal scoring do all the talking. Hardly ever out positioned, Nweke is a staple hold for the Mystics under the post with her commanding figure, aerial strength, read of the play and sheer dominance, but could meet her match in fellow youngster Kelly Jury. The Pulse goal keeper really hit her straps last round with her quick footwork, long limbs, lean over the shot and skill to get hands to ball. Throw in defensive comrades in Katrina Rore and Karin Burger and the Pulse are incredibly difficult to match-up on given their ability to shut down space, hunt the ball and suffocate attacking forays. While Nweke is the go to girl for the Mystics the likes of Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui will have to up their output if they are to draw away the defence from Nweke and apply some serious scoreboard pressure. 

Moving down into the defensive end for the Mystics and they too have no shortage of fire power with Fitzpatrick and Karaka. Up against her old side, Fitzpatrick will be desperate to have an immediate impact with her hands over pressure, physicality under the post and intercepting ability. Directly opposed to Pulse goal shooter Aliyah Dunn, Fitzpatrick will have to be on her a-game to stop the high ball release into her with Dunn renowned for her height, ability to reel ball in and nifty footwork along the baseline to hold space. Goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio is another huge obstacle for the Mystics defensive unit to conquer with the Silver Ferns goaler in impressive form. Her vision is exceptional, able to see two passes ahead, while her ball placement, turn of speed and strong drives into the circle is second to none. Throw in the fact Ekenasio can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle and is cool, calm and composed with ball in hand and the Pulse are in a commanding position.

With star power across the court and tried and tested combinations the Pulse should reign supreme but the Mystics definitely have the players to cause an upset given their defensive pressure.