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2021 ANZ Premiership - Round 2 Preview

2021 ANZ Premiership - Round 2 Preview

We break down all three match-ups in Round 2 of the 2021 ANZ Premiership.

Saturday, 24 April

Mystics v Steel
5.15pm at Eventfinda Stadium in Auckland

The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel made the biggest statement of the ANZ Premiership’s opening round and will be out to back that up against the Northern Mystics in Auckland. English import George Fisher and Tiana Metuarau looked like a well-established combination and are set to test any defence line in the Premiership.

But it wasn’t just in the shooting circle where the southerners impressed. Captain Shannon Saunders dominated; Kate Heffernan was assured in the centre role while Renee Savai’inaea was a nuisance on defence. Defensively the Steel also picked off plenty of ball – Taneisha Fifita with six deflections, two rebounds and an intercept – but face a different prospect this week in the form of Grace Nweke and Silver Fern Bailey Mes.

Nweke was the league’s most prolific scorer in week one but getting the ball safely into the teenager’s hands was the Mystics’ undoing on a number of occasions.

Captain Sulu Fitzpatrick said a key focus moving forward, following their narrow loss to the Magic, would be about “discipline and grind” both on attack and defence.

“Especially when it’s tight. That’s when we get a brain spasm and give ball that we don’t need to or on defence, we just get stuck on body.”

Sunday, 25 April

Stars v Tactix

4.15pm at Pulman Arena in Auckland

The Good Oil Tactix are back on the road as they lick their wounds from a scathing southern attack. Few would have predicted such a heavy loss for the Tactix in the opening round but they have the opportunity to make amends with a trip to Auckland.

Lying in wait are the Robinhood Stars – a team ready to inflict more pain having impressed with an opening round win. Defender Anna Harrison has put ANZ Premiership shooters on notice with her return to elite netball with a stand-out performance in week one. Stars captain Maia Wilson praised Harrison’s leadership in a new-look defensive end.

“Not only does she have that physical presence but you can see that invisible thread that goes through the defensive end and that starts from her,” she said.

Will Harrison be let loose to monster the Tactix’ young attacks or will she match-up against shooter Ellie Bird who is anchoring the red-and-black circle in the absence of injured goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit. The front line will be an area of concern for Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek after a disjointed effort last week. Defensively the Tactix won ball – new recruit Karin Burger with seven gains – but the transition onto attack was lacking with an alarmingly high error rate.

Magic v Pulse
6.15pm at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton

It has been almost four years since the Splice Construction Magic last got the better of Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse – a one-goal victory in Round 6 in 2017 – and it is a record they are no doubt out to rectify. And netball fans could well be backing a Magic side which looked the part with a hard-fought win in the opening round of the 2021 ANZ Premiership.

The midcourt will be a key area with the clash between Maddy Gordon (Pulse) and Grace Kara (Magic) set to provide plenty of fireworks. Gordon showed her speed and tenacity against the Stars last week and is up against a no-nonsense Kara who is establishing nice links up front with Australian shooter Caitlin Bassett.

Magic coach Amigene Metcalfe was not afraid to use her bench in a tight game against the Mystics, as she injected young goal attack Khiarna Williams into the game but re-called Chiara Semple for that added experience in a tense fourth quarter. The Magic were also quick out of the gate in their campaign opener – an area Pulse captain Claire Kersten said proved costly in their first up loss.

She focussed on a lack of execution with some of their ball delivery but was pleased to get their first game under the belt.

“No matter how long pre-season is, there’s nothing quite like competition match play so hopefully we can keep building from here.”