2020 Season Preview: Northern Stars
Despite undergoing six changes of personnel, the most of any team, there are some familiar faces the Northern Stars will be welcoming back for the 2020 ANZ Premiership.
“If the players coming in were brand new to the mix then I’d be a little bit worried but we’ve got Mu (Fa’amu Ioane) coming back from her ACL injury, and Grace Kara back from having her first baby, so that makes me feel more comfortable about all the changes,” Stars coach Kiri wills said.
Shooter Jamie Hume and midcourter Lisa Mather head to the Stars from the Mystics and Magic respectively while Trinidad & Tobago international defender Daystar Swift and playmaking shooter Julianna Naoupu round out the newcomers.
“Daystar is a big and strong goalkeeper. Looking at the competition there’s a lot of really big, tall shooters and losing Leana (de Bruin) to retirement, we had to replace that height and genuinely in New Zealand there’s a real lack of goalkeepers in that height range,” Wills said.
“We’ve still got Storm (Purvis) and Kate (Burley) who are really mobile and who will go hunting for ball. It’s just if the high ball keeps going in and we need something in front of it, we’ve got that in Daystar.
“It’s always challenging for imports to come in, especially when they’re from halfway across the world. Daystar’s a long way from home, she’s given up a lot to be here but is very determined to make the most of this opportunity.”
Naoupu last played at this level in the former trans-Tasman competition for the Mainland Tactix in 2014 before representing Samoa at the 2015 Netball World Cup which left her unable to play as a New Zealand eligible player in the ANZ Premiership until this season. She has continued to play netball in her hometown of Christchurch in the interim.
A naturally gifted player, Naoupu is adept in both shooting positions, has exceptional ball skills, slick timing and ability to find space. She was part of the Waikato BOP Magic team that won the ANZ Championship in 2012, the only New Zealand team to do so.
“Julianna is working really hard, looking good and that shot of hers is going in and that’s what we want in the end. She’s also very clever with the ball,” Wills said.
The Stars coach is expecting the fourth edition of the ANZ Premiership to be the tightest yet with no team standing out as the clear-cut favourite.
“I reckon it’s going to be really tight and bonus points are going to be critical,” she said.
“If you’re not winning, you’ve got to be within five (goals) and if you’re out of that five-point buffer, you could be in trouble.
“It just seems that the teams are quite even and every game’s going to count. It’s not going to be easy. Last year we could target games where we were confident of getting points but this year, it feels like we could have a crack at every single one of these teams if we play well and they can have a crack at us, so it’s going to keep everyone honest which is exciting.”
Robinhood Northern Stars 2020:
Kate Burley, Jamie Hume, Fa’amu Ioane, Grace Kara, Lisa Mather, Julianna Naoupu, Storm Purvis, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Daystar Swift, Maia Wilson.