Tag: Tayla Earle

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Pulse hold off a determined Mystics outfit

IN a battle of the undefeated teams it was the reigning premiers that came out on top in what was an intense and highly defensive battle to finish the third round of the ANZ Premiership. Neither the Pulse or Mystics were willing to give an inch and despite it being their second game of the round the Mystics did not seem fazed coming out strong and sticking to their structures but ultimately the Pulse had all the answers able to combat everything thrown at them. The lead chopped and changed throughout the game before the Pulse pulled away in the final term to run away with a seven goal victory (42-35) and keep their perfect record intact. 

The opening term started with a bang with both sides feeling each other out. With the centre pass in hand, the Pulse hit the scoreboard first and converted off a turnover to nail two goals in a row despite the immense pressure from the Mystics. The Mystics made it hard in defence for the Pulse, clogging up the space and making Pulse flick the ball around. It was a scrappy couple of minutes from both teams with a lot of turnover ball before the Pulse started to settle in. Youngster Maddy Gordon continued her hot form from last round, lighting up the court with her speed and deceptive pressure while Aliyah Dunn showcased her strength with her solid positioning on the rebound and ability to find good space in the circle. The Mystics were costly in attack giving away a couple of offensive penalties allowing the Pulse to go on a mini goal scoring spree and open up a four goal buffer with seven minutes left in the quarter. Kelly Jury made Grace Nweke work for every ball before the Mystics goal shooter started to find her groove in attack and hold more of a commanding position. Pulse, goal defence Katrina Rore showcased her class taking a screaming intercept through the midcourt followed with a quick transition down the court and easy conversion under the post. The Pulse kept the pressure up going on another three goal run at the four minute mark while Nweke kept getting caught on the body and getting pinned for penalties. But she quickly changed up her game play sparking the Mystics in attack and prompting a flurry of goals to reduce the margin to two heading into the break. 

Much like the first, the second was filled with intensity and excitement, however it was the Mystics that seemed to have the upper hand. Peta Toeava found Nweke with ease under the post, constantly delivering the ball to her on a silver platter. Disregarding the height difference between Toeava and Karin Burger, the wing attack had a field day, turning Burger inside out with her speed off the mark and unstoppable connection with Nweke. In defence the Mystics applied a wealth of pressure with Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka shutting down every single option making the Pulse work for absolutely everything. With nine minutes remaining in the quarter, scores were tied up with the Mystics looking much more composed with ball in hand so much so they went on a three goal running spree to snatch the lead for the first time this match. Nweke was doing all the damage for the Mystics with Asher Grapes only managing the one goal for the game while the Pulse goalers struggled for accuracy. Sloppiness continued for the Pulse with Gordon breaking the centre pass and the Mystics applying a wealth of pressure only limiting the reigning premiers to two goals up until the 5 minute mark. With less than two minutes to go the Pulse kicked it up a gear inspired by captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Dunn stringing four goals together and clenching a one goal lead. 

The half time break did not slow either side down but brought plenty of changes. A slow start from Grapes saw Saviour Tui come on at goal attack for the Mystics while moments later Tiana Metuarau pulled on the wing attack bib for the Pulse. It was goal for goal for most of the quarter with neither side willing to give up possession before the Mystics defence prevailed forcing a turnover. It did not take long for the Pulse to return serve with Jury and Rore working in overdrive to claim a huge rebound. Toeava seemed to have the ball on a string able to deliver to Nweke with ease while for the Pulse Claire Kersten kicked it up a gear, linking well with Ekenasio in the attacking third. After being level pegging for the opening couple of minutes the Mystics took the lead capitalizing off the back of a turnover sparked by Fitzpatrick while Jury kept getting pinned for contact thanks to Nweke being so strong on the hold. With the Pulse struggling to generate turnover ball in defence and hit the scoreboard, Dunn went to the bench pushing Ekenasio to goal shooter while Metuarau moved into her preferred position of goal attack. The change up seemed to be the spark the Pulse needed with Ekenasio upping the ante in attack and Metuarau good on the shot. After a quiet start, Burger leapt into action taking an important intercept to swing momentum back to Pulse, helping her side to three consecutive goals with Metuarau nailing a shot on the buzzer. 

With the final 12 minutes of the game underway the Pulse unleashed, proving why they are still the team to beat. A turnover from the Mystics gifted the Pulse with an opportunity to bounce and that they did. Pulse were not afraid to go back and reset the play instead working the ball around to find an opening. The Mystics lost their way with Nweke giving away another offensive penalty while the Pulse kicked it up a gear to really pull away and cement their spot as top dog. It was a physical encounter with bodies flying everywhere, Gordon hit the deck midway through the quarter but immediately bounced back up. Ekenasio was as cool as they come under the post for the Pulse, dictating the play and sinking them from here, there and everywhere to push her side out to a solid lead. 

It was an accurate display of shooting with Dunn finishing the game with 12 from 14 before heading to the bench while Nweke also flexed her muscles under the post sitting at 85 per cent thanks to her 28 from 33 attempts. The real difference came from the goal attack output with Ekenasio a strong target under the post and converting 21 from 24 while Mystics youngster Tui struggled to generate a lot of scoring opportunities with six from seven. Fitzpatrick was key in defence with two gains, four deflections and two rebounds while Burger managed three intercepts and three gains.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

CENTRAL PULSE 10 | 8 | 12 | 12 (42)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 8 | 9 | 11 | 7 (35)

STARTING SEVEN:

Central Pulse:

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

Northern Mystics:

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

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.

2020 ANZ Premiership stats wrap: Round 2

ROUND 2 of the 2020 ANZ Premiership season saw matches produce some stellar scorelines and showcase some impressive talent on the return of netball. In such a massive round of action, Draft Central delves into the best stats of the week.

Topping the goaling tally for the week was Maia Wilson, and while the talented goal shooter played two matches this round her combined 67 goals were a testament to her ability to find the ball and apply scoreboard pressure. Also with two matches behind her, Ellie Bird racked up 49 goals though her accuracy left something to be desired, shooting at 79 per cent. 

Hot on Bird’s tail was towering Mystics teenager, Grace Nweke who was impeccable at the post with 41 goals from 45 attempts in her single outing. Pulse’s Aliyah Dunn was similarly impressive, shooting 44 goals at the highest accuracy of that volume and teamed up impeccably with Silver Ferns captain, Ameliaranne Ekenasio who scored 19 goals of her own out in goal attack. Joining Ekenasio in second place for goal attacks this week was Te Paea Selby-Rickit who shot 31 goals across two matches, while Kalifa McCollin impressed in her second outing with the Southern Steel, racking up 20 goals to topscore for her position.

When it came to feeding the goalers from circle edge, Peta Toeava (27 assists from 33 feeds) and Grace Kara (35 assists from 68 feeds across two matches) in her 150th game while Claire Kersten had pinpoint accuracy with 20 assists from 24 circle feeds. Meanwhile, Tayla Earle dominated through the midcourt racking up four intercepts to propel the ball back up the court, allowing Toeava to do the heavy lifting in attack for Mystics.

Defensively, players put on a show with their anticipation and read of the play, with Kelly Jury and Erena Mikaere leading the charge for the round. Jury racked up six intercepts and three gains while Mikaere was hot on her tail with four intercepts to her name. Jane Watson also collected four intercepts across two games, with her stellar first game effort (nine gains) unmatched by her second (one gain) though she did seem to be proppy after a knee knock. 

Kate Burley, Temalisi Fakahokotau and Phoenix Karaka all racked up three intercepts, with Burley managing four gains and Fakahokotau eight – across two matches – while Katrina Rore aided Jury with five gains and Karaka put in an even effort with Sulu Fitzpatrick to combine for 11 gains.

MORE MATCH STATS

>> WBOP Magic (40) defeated by Northern Mystics (47) 

>> Southern Steel (36) defeated by Mainland Tactix (43)

>> Northern Stars (39) defeated by Central Pulse (63)

>> Northern Stars (49) defeated Mainland Tactix (43)

2020 ANZ Premiership Player of the Week: Round 2

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

Missing just the four goals for the game in Round 2 it is no surprise that Grace Nweke took out Player of the Week honours given her sheer dominance under the post. Taking it upon herself to own the goal circle with her strength and commanding figure, Nweke was unfazed by the defensive pressure of Erena Mikaere, Holly Fowler and Georgia Tong instead rising to the challenge each time the Magic tinkered with their line-up. Nweke was clearly the go-to girl shooting the lights out with 41 goals from 45 at 91 per cent, a clear testament to her deadeye accuracy. Despite shouldering the load in the goal circle she did not look overwhelmed, instead composed at the post. 

Her aerial strength was near unstoppable as her hops and clean hands allowed her to reel down every ball that came her way. Her read of the play allowed her slot back into space, hold on the baseline or pop out when needed. Nweke was on fire from the get go, nailing the first four goals of the game before her partner in crime even got a sniff of the goals. Her explosiveness was unmatched, proving too strong on the take and using her split to edge closer to the post. With Bailey Mes missing for the remainder of the season it is hard to believe that Nweke is the most experienced goaler in the side given her youth, but that did not seem to weigh on the mind of the talented goaler who took it all in her stride, absorbing the physicality and double teaming on Friday night. Nweke is the complete package for the Mystics leading that young attacking end and aided by Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui who are both still finding their feet but have the backing of Nweke to go out and ply their trade.  

The goal shooter’s connection with Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle was also formidable in the season return with the midcourters able to easily spot Nweke under the post and delivering the ball with plenty of confidence. Their quick ball release was a credit to Nweke’s clever positioning and speed to catch the defenders off guard, making her such a dominant threat. Her strong early form will send a warning shot to the rest of the competition as the 18-year-old only builds in stature, skill and match fitness as the season goes on. 

2020 ANZ Premiership Team of the Week: Round 2

AFTER impressive performances across the returning round of ANZ Premiership action it was difficult to narrow down which players should get the nod for Round 2’s Team of the Week. A strong win to Central Pulse saw the reigning premiers secure four players in the team credit to their sheer dominance on court, while Northern Stars and Northern Mystics also managed two players apiece. 

GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Grace Kara
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Kelly Jury

BENCH: Maia Wilson, Maddy Gordon, Jane Watson

It is no surprise that the goal circle sees the combination of Pulse duo Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio. Dunn was simply too hot to handle for the defenders in Round 2 with the goal shooter building into the game and putting on a spectacle in the second quarter with 18 goals at 100 percent. She finished the game with 44 goals from 46 attempts proving just how much of a deadeye she is in the goal circle. Partner in crime Ekenasio was just as accurate to post only missing two goals for the game with 19 from 21. Her playmaking abilities were on show throughout with the goal attack seamlessly opening up space and delivering the ball on a silver platter to Dunn.

Through the midcourt Grace Kara took charge in the wing attack position for the Stars. Despite having a rather quiet game by her standards in the first game of the round, she took her play to the next level in her 150th match lighting up the court with her dynamic movement and pinpoint feeds. Tayla Earle took out the centre bib with the nippy midcourter showcasing her defensive pressure to win back a wealth of ball. She notched up four gains, four intercepts and two pickups while her efforts in attack also did not go unnoticed with 13 goal assists. The only Steel representative in this week’s team, Kate Heffernan showcased her potential and skill in wing defence. While it was not a stats filling performance from the youngster, her work rate, ability to get hands to ball and movement to clog up space earned her the spot racking up two gains, one intercept and two deflections.  

Defensively there were a plethora of options but in the end it was Phoenix Karaka that stood tall for the Mystics. The talented goal defence was in everything, picking off passes, using her nifty footwork and read of the play to wreak havoc in the defensive third. Her cleanliness and skill to pick up ball was on show throughout the full 48 minutes amassing seven gains, three intercepts, three deflections and three rebounds. Pulse defender Kelly Jury takes out the goal keeper position with the 23-year-old lighting up the court with her hunt for the ball and execution. On song from the opening minutes of the game, Jury leaped into action collecting a staggering six intercepts, nine gains, three deflections and two rebounds while her hands over pressure also provided an intimidating element to the Pulse defensive unit. 

Well held in her first outing, Maia Wilson came out with a real fire in the belly in her second game, owning the goal circle with her accuracy and high volume of shots. Although she was unlucky not to get the start slotting 67 goals from 76 attempts across the round Wilson proved to be no easy beat using her strong holds to command the ball. Speedy midcourter Maddy Gordon earned herself a spot on the bench after a dazzling performance for the Pulse with 19 goal assists and intercept to her name. Despite an un-Jane Watsonlike performance in her second game of the round the skilful Tactix defender did enough to warrant a spot on the bench after picking up an impressive nine gains, three intercepts, eight deflections and two rebounds in her opening game.

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Mystics fly out of blocks on return

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. 

In what was a messy start for both teams, neither could really find much clean possession with the defensive pressure starting out strong and not really letting up throughout. Mystics got the first four goals on the board and while they had the edge, Magic were not far behind and kept evening up the ledger with the talent at their disposal. Always a threatening figure at the post, young gun Grace Nweke did not disappoint, using her clean hands and strength to hold ground in the circle and take possession with ease. While many speculated about how the Mystics would cope without the experience of level-headed goaler Bailey Mes due to injury, the side flew out of the blocks with all three young goalers taking the court and finding purchase at the post. 

With average passes floating around from both teams, neither the Mystics or Magic were as clean as they wanted to be, though it did mean the defending players were able to propel the ball back down court with ease as the match turned to a more defensive show after the first. A tight first quarter culminated in a close three goal margin heading into the second, with the Mystics leading marginally throughout thanks to Nweke’s dominance and stellar work rate from the likes of Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle who were workhorses through the midcourt. 

The second quarter saw Erena Mikaere come out of her shell and begin adding her own flair to the match, using her clever ball use and instinctive leap to close in on the loose ball and create intercepts. With messy passes dominating the possessions, both teams were able to capitalise on the others’ messiness to create attacking forays, and while the scores drew even throughout the second, at one point sitting on 16 goals apiece, it did not take long for Mystics to stabilise and take out a four goal lead heading into the half time break (22-18). Mystics centre, Earle also put on a show, using her tenacious chase for the ball to open up space for turnovers, and using her clean footwork to stay on side and remain a consistent threat defensively, which provided a crucial balance with Toeava consistent to a t in attack. 

While it was the second term where Magic’s defence really came alive, the third was when the attack took charge and while Kelsey McPhee was not the most accurate, she took her chances to provide a moving option inside the circle rather than a typical holding tall, using her clever connection with Abigail Latu-Meafou to hold up in attack and sink the long bomb. But where McPhee picked up her game, using plenty of backup provided by the ever consistent Sam Winders, the likes of Nweke found plenty of ball as Toeava raced around attack, setting up play and evading her opposition with ease. Meanwhile, defensive efforts from Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick continued to dog every Magic move both inside and outside the circle, finding plenty of the ball as they used their clever rotation and intensity to steal back crucial ball. 

Whitney Souness and Winders used their experience to create plenty of movement through the midcourt as did Ariana Cable-Dixon, and while there were a couple of shuffles the trio was relatively clean and composed up in the contest, using their smooth play to drive in attack and evade the arms of Fitzpatrick and Karaka as they fed into the circle. With plenty of argy bargy and defenders using quick wits and footwork to outplay their opposition, both teams were tight in the final quarter but it was Mystics that found the form to collect their second win of the season, reigning supreme by seven goals (47-40). 

Leading the stats sheet for intercepts were Mikaere and Earle, both racking up four and finding plenty of purchase defensively, while Karaka was not far behind with three intercepts. Nweke was accurate to post with 41 goals from 45 attempts followed by Magic’s shared load in McPhee (26 from 38) and Latu-Meafou (14 from 18), thanks to the equally shard feeding effort from Souness and Cable-Dixon who racked up 20 and 24 feeds respectively. Meanwhile, Toeava dominated on circle edge with 27 assists from 33 feeds, cleanly disposing of the ball to Nweke and using her flair to consistently put the ball into open space. As for penalty count, Mikaere topped the overall tally with 14, a whopping ten more than her next teammates in line, while Toeava collected six to top the Mystics’ sheet, as the side proved much cleaner off the ball. 

Both teams escape playing a second match this round, as Magic takes on Mainland Tactix next Friday while Mystics take on Southern Steel (Saturday) and Pulse (Monday).

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> MAGIC TEAM PAGE

STARTING SEVENS:

WBOP MAGIC

GS: Kelsey McPhee
GA: Abigail Latu-Meafou
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Ariana Cable-Dixon
WD: Sam Winders
GD: Holly Fowler
GK: Erena Mikaere

NORTHERN MYSTICS

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

Mystics win northern thriller over Stars

IN their first game of the season, the Northern Mystics showed plenty of promise for the year ahead notching up a well-deserved win over grand finalists Northern Stars, 59-55. After an up and down 2019 season, the Mystics seemed to iron out their on-court issues and string together a strong performance despite being challenged throughout the game.

The Mystics got off to a flyer piling on a whopping 20 goals in the opening 15 minutes of the game mainly thanks to teenage sensation Grace Nweke. The talented goal shooter did all of the damage under the post proving too strong for Oceane Maihi who simply could not combat her aerial strength and most importantly accuracy to post. Nweke managed an impressive 19 goals from 20 attempts in the first quarter alone showcasing just how explosive she can be when given the time and space to do so. On the other hand, the Stars only managed to record 16 goals putting them on the back foot from the very beginning. Still working on their combination both Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume took some time to sight each other in the circle but for Wilson it was business as usual with the towering youngster doing the bulk of the shooting with 11 goals from 13 attempts.

As the game went on things evened out across the court with both sides tightening up defensively and through the midcourt to make the most of their chances. New recruit Daystar Swift made her way onto the court for the first time with the Trinidadian defender easing into the game and using her height to disrupt the play. She ended with two pickups for the quarter highlighting her hunt for the ball while youngster Kate Burley also showcased her worth with five deflections and a gain. The increased defensive pressure paid dividends for the Stars while Mystics goal defence Phoenix Karaka starred with three gains, one intercept and three deflections. Karaka was a real workhorse down back confusing the space and also showing her attacking attributes with a five centre pass receives to transition the ball into the goal circle. Typical goal shooter Saviour Tui came onto the court with the goal attack bib late in the term to replace Asher Grapes who while had struggled to find the net throughout the game did a wealth of work out the front to feed Nweke and create space. Tui eased her way into the game using her height to provide an option across the court while also displaying her ability to go to post.

With a four-goal buffer still in play the Stars threw everything they had at Mystics in the third term to win the quarter and ultimately cut the deficit to a mere two goals thanks to Wilson and Hume going on a three goal run and the defence end kicking it up a gear. The Stars forced Northern Mystics into making four more turnovers and capitalised on those chances. In hope to find some fresh legs Dani Gray made her way into centre replacing youngster Tayla Earle while wing attack Peta Toeava continued her heavy workload with her ball movement and impressive vision on full display thanks to her seven goal assists. For the Stars Lisa Mather and Fa’amu Ioane stepped up a gear to take control through the midcourt and have an influence with their ball movement and defensive pressure taking centre stage with a combined two gains and two intercepts. The Stars dominated the play controlling the tempo of the game throughout the third term and limiting the Mystics’ opportunity to hit the scoreboard as easily.

Down by a couple of goals heading into the last quarter, the Stars did not have enough to go with their opponents eventually falling four goals short. The Mystics backed themselves across the court with wing defence Courtney Elliot plying her trade and Sulu Fitzpatrick going about her business despite not registering her normal stats filling performance. Earle and Toeava combined once again with the two using their speed and quick release to cause havoc and get the defenders heads swinging in the final term to secure the win. The influence of Grace Kara in wing attack for the Stars was important with the captain using her experience to hit the circle edge and deliver well weighted passes into the circle.

Despite slowing her scoring down in the second half Nweke notched up a team-high 40 goals from 43 attempts at 93 per cent while Tui finished at 80 per cent after slotting 16 goals from 20 attempts. The Stars were led by Wilson with the 188cm shooter scoring 40 goals from 45 attempts at 89 per cent while Hume struggled to find her rhythm under the post converting 15 goals from 24 shots.

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

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

Central Pulse (52) defeated Mainland Tactix (51)

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

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

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

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

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

Central Pulse (42) defeated Southern Steel (25)

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

Northern Stars (42) defeated Central Pulse (61)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central Pulse (69) defeated Northern Mystics (55)

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

ANZ Premiership: 2020 Season team preview – Northern Mystics

WITH the ANZ Premiership season just around the corner we take a look at each teams chances heading into the year and a key player to keep an eye on. The first cab off the rank is the Northern Mystics.

Coach: Helene Wilson
Captain: Phoenix Karaka
2019 finish: 6th

It was a disappointing 2019 season for the Northern Mystics, who struggled to generate any real winning momentum throughout the year but seemed to kick into gear in the latter half of the season. They only racked up four wins for the year, dropping 11 to round out a relatively unsuccessful season.

2020 predictions/expectations:

They picked up some key players over the off-season to give them a real boost across the court particularly up the defensive end, with Sulu Fitzpatrick headlining the recruits. Her inclusion alongside an already stacked defensive line-up could pay dividends for the Mystics. Michaela Sokolich-Beatson oozes versatility able to swap between wing defence and circle defence while Phoenix Karaka has come into her own. Up the other end, Grace Nweke made a name for herself in the latter half of the season with the young goaler hoping to maintain that strong form under the post this season and steer the ship to success. Nweke was a key cog in the goal circle using her height, silky footwork and strong holds to cause havoc. Through the midcourt the Mystics will be hoping to develop the connections between Emma Iversen and Elisapeta Toeava. The two have proven that they have plenty of attacking flair with their impressive vision and quick ball movement to swing the ball around the top of the goal circle.

Key player/pick up: Sulu Fitzpatrick

With a premiership under her belt the talented defender will offer plenty of excitement, versatility and experience down back. Fitzpatrick is a class above with her aerial ability and dynamic footwork two key aspects of her game play. She backs herself in defence not afraid to go out flying for an intercept

Team list:

Tayla Earle
Sulu Fitzpatrick
Danielle Gray
Emma Iversen
Phoenix Karaka
Bailey Mes
Grace Nweke
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson
Elisapeta Toeava
Saviour Tui