ANZ Premiership Preview – Round 12
Splice Construction Magic v Northern Mystics
Sunday, May 12 in Hamilton
The Magic has found some of their best form just in time to defend the Hobbiton Cup which is up for grabs when the Northern Mystics come to town. You can expect the home fans to be out in force to help mark the special celebrations but to also bid farewell to one of the club’s true legends. After 17 seasons in Magic colours and over 180 appearances, captain Casey Kopua will play her last game at Claudelands Arena in what could be an emotional outing for the remarkable defender. The team will no doubt want to send their captain out on a high and should take some confidence into the match after their performance against Pulse on Super Sunday. “We played the netball that we can but just not for long enough,” Kopua said after falling away in the fourth quarter to the league leaders. The Mystics beat the Magic by 10 goals when they met last and Kopua said they would need to be aware of “the crucial moments” and keep moving forward. “We call that the money ball and you have to score that no matter what – find the way and put the ball through the hoop.”
WHO TO WATCH:
Casey Kopua (Magic) – all eyes will be on the club stalwart who will wear the Magic dress at home for the final time. A special occasion for the captain who has led by example this season.
Kelly Jury (Magic) versus Grace Nweke (Mystics) – a battle of the tall timber. Jury is leading the league for intercepts but is also the most penalised defender this season. The Mystics shooter continues to grow with every outing having played her first full 60-minute game.
Phoenix Karaka (Mystics) – the four-week break the Mystics captain needed to overcome concussion could not have come at a worse time, with the defender showing form which would have given the Silver Ferns selectors plenty to think about.
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse v Northern Stars
Monday, May 13 in Wellington
The frustration is starting to tell on the Northern Stars after another loss in the run home to the Finals Series. Returning to the winners’ circle will be important to lift confidence heading into an Elimination Final. “I actually just don’t know what to say,” skipper Leana de Bruin said after suffering a defeat to the Tactix. “If we want to contend the semi-finals we can’t play like that, we don’t deserve it.” It gets no easier for the Stars as they find themselves up against the Pulse reeling from their first loss of the season. The 10-goal defeat a week ago is likely to sting just weeks out from the Finals Series although captain Katrina Rore has found the positives out of defeat. “They say you learn more from a loss than a win,” she said. “This has possibly come at a perfect time for us so we don’t get too complacent.” The defender said they took too long to adjust to a change in tactics last week – something they would address heading into the business end of the season.
WHO TO WATCH:
Temepara Bailey (Stars) – will the veteran midcourter take the court having hobbled off during the loss on Super Sunday or will she be rested ahead of the looming Elimination Final?
Whitney Souness (Pulse) versus Kayla Cullen (Stars) – another chance for the duo to impress National Selectors with time running out before the Silver Ferns team is announced. Both players are quick off the mark and bring something special to their respective teams.
Claire Kersten (Pulse) – the constant cog through the middle for the Pulse. Has rarely put a foot wrong all season and brings composure to the forward line.
The Good Oil Tactix v Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel
Wednesday, May 15 in Christchurch
Confidence is riding high in the Southern Steel camp after doing what no other team has been able to do this season – beat the Pulse. The 10-goal victory is timely as they eye up the Finals Series and co-captain Gina Crampton said it was good to know that they had the goods to beat the Pulse. “It’s massive,” she said. “It’s not sort of a hoodoo of ‘can we do it’ because we have now. We’re really stoked with that going forward.” Meanwhile, the Tactix’ slim hopes of reaching the Finals Series were snuffed out with the loss to the Northern Mystics. Captain Jane Watson said too many errors had proved costly but she was pleased with many aspects of their game. She said their connections on attack were working well and placement of the ball into shooter Ellie Bird had also been good. But the Tactix would need to get more ball for their attack against the Steel if they want to reward their home fans in what is their penultimate game of the season. Plenty of interest over the possible return of dynamic defender Temalisi Fakahokotau who has been back on the training court as she recovers from a knee injury.
WHO TO WATCH:
Abby Erwood (Steel) – certainly not one of the taller defenders in the game but showed so much hunger and desire on defence last week and picked up some crucial turnovers for her side.
Samon Nathan (Tactix) versus Kate Heffernan (Steel) – the Tactix wing has delivered some quality ball to her shooting circle in recent weeks but comes up against Heffernan who has been a key cog in the Steel’s unit defence.
Sophia Fenwick (Tactix) – stands at 181cm (the same as Erwood) but has stood out on defence in recent weeks with her determination. Another tall test against Te Paea Selby-Rickit who is seven centimetres taller.