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2020 ANZ Premiership | Round 1 Preview

2020 ANZ Premiership | Round 1 Preview

2020 ANZ Premiership | Round 1 Preview

Sunday, 15 March

Tactix v Pulse, 4.10pm at Stadium 2000 in Blenheim

It doesn’t get much better than this to open the 2020 ANZ Premiership with last year’s defending champions, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse, heading to Blenheim to take on one of the competition threats, The Good Oil Tactix.

The Pulse, with the addition of defender Kelly Jury and midcourter Renee Savai’inea, went undefeated at pre-season in Ōtaki and have again set the benchmark high so early in the season.

The match-up in the midcourt promises plenty with speedsters Kimiora Poi (Tactix) and Maddy Gordon (Pulse) players to watch. Much of the Tactix’ build-up will be around the return of defender Temalisi Fakahokotau and her partnership with captain Jane Watson. Also watch out for Erikana Pedersen who is another back from injury and keen to re-establish her seamless links up front with shooter Ellie Bird.

The addition of Silver Fern Te Paea Selby-Rickit will be greeted with plenty of optimism from Tactix fans, with the area on attack proving their Achilles heel in recent seasons. It will be a litmus test for the Tactix attack as they come up against Silver Ferns Katrina Rore and Karin Burger along with Kelly Jury on defence.

Stars v Mystics, 6.10pm at Pulman Arena in Papakura

The Barfoot & Thompson Northern Challenge comes in to play from the opening whistles for these two northern rivals. There have been a number of changes for both squads leading into the ANZ Premiership and just who will get the upper hand in this battle of the bridge could be determined by the bedding in of new combinations.

Defensively the Mystics have been strengthened with the inclusion of Sulu Fitzpatrick although the Helene Wilson-coached side took a massive blow in losing one of their key performers Michaela Sokolich-Beatson to injury.

There will be lots of interest in the progress of Grace Nweke, an instant hit during her debut season last year, who is again likely to team up with Silver Fern Bailey Mes. The shooting circle is where it’s all happening for the Robinhood Stars as well with former Samoan international Julianna Naoupu returning to elite netball. She joins Jamie Hume and Silver Fern Maia Wilson on attack.

The Stars retain the netball nous of Temepara Bailey on the bench as she resumes her role as assistant coach while her midcourt replacement Grace Kara brings plenty of experience to fill the void. Kara is back after the birth of her first child and will link up with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Lisa Mather through the middle.

Monday, 16 March

Steel v Magic, 7.15pm at More FM Arena in Dunedin

New Splice Construction Magic captain Sam Winders (nee Sinclair) has acknowledged the importance of starting their ANZ Premiership campaign in the right fashion. They have put a focus on getting that performance right over the first three or four games and head south for their season opener against the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.

Injury has cruelly robbed Monica Falkner of resuming her role on attack having taken on a more senior position in the circle last season. Australian import Georgia Marshall has temporarily replaced her, but it could be the tussle in the midcourt which dictates the pace of this game with fitness a key component for both sides.

The Magic’s Winders and Ariana Cable-Dixon have been joined by Whitney Souness giving plenty of options for coach Amigene Metcalfe, but the Steel opposites are no slouches in Silver Ferns duo Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders.

A new-look Steel shooting circle will take some getting used to with former attacker Te Paea Selby-Rickit no longer in the blue strip. Shooter Jen O’Connell will want to make the most of her opportunities this season having sat much of last year on the bench. Her combination with import Kalifa McCollin (Trinidad & Tobago) will be one to watch.