2018 ANZ Premiership - A new generation set to unleash
With the second year of the ANZ Premiership about to get under way, much attention will focus on the impact provided by the burgeoning pool of exciting young talent on show.
Experience remains a vital ingredient but it is how the up-and-comers – and there are plenty of them – perform at this level that could well prove the difference in the race to the play-offs during a gruelling 13-round competition.
Many of the younger brigade showed their pedigree with accomplished performances in the inaugural 2017 competition and now with a target on their backs, the real test of their character looms second time around.
Young shooters Monica Falkner (Magic) and Tiana Metuarau (Pulse) played with a poise and maturity beyond their years to deliver outstanding first seasons at this level, wiser and better for the experience, the super-talented pair expected to play prominent roles in 2018.
They will be joined by Netball World Youth Cup-winning NZU21 team-mates, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson (Mystics), Maia Wilson (Stars), Fa’amu Ioane (Stars), Aliyah Dunn (Pulse), Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Pulse) and Kimiora Poi (Tactix) as players poised to leave a big imprint on this year’s competition.
All teams have a number of potent youngsters returning with a season at the top level under their belts, including silky-skilled Pulse midcourter Whitney Souness, who was a standout after missing all of 2016 with a serious knee injury.
Jamie Hume (Mystics), Christina Oscar (Stars), Amorangi Malesala (Magic), Ariana Cable-Dixon (Magic) and towering shooters Ellie Bird (Tactix) and Jennifer O’Connell (Steel) are others in this category who are all set to reinforce the early promise shown.
Highly regarded young defender Holly Fowler (Stars) will also get to make her long awaited debut after being side-lined for all of last season with a knee injury.
There is an even spread of experience and rising young talent imbedded in each of this year’s teams leading to a tight and evenly-contested competition being forecast. There’s no doubting the value of experience but within each line-up, there’s a cluster of new generation players who have the ability to be game-changes while ushering in an exciting new era.
Veteran defender and Mystics captain Anna Harrison is one who is more than happy to be rubbing shoulders with the bounty of young talent that will be on show this season.
``Everyone should be happy about the youth we’re seeing coming through,’’ she said. ``I love playing with them because they’re always so eager and keen and it’s always a thrill to play with new people, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s all very pleasing.’’