ANZ Premiership Preview – Round 4
Northern Mystics v Splice Construction Magic
Sunday, March 17 in Auckland
The attacking wobbles were an obvious frustration for Splice Construction Magic captain Casey Kopua last week. She described their Round 3 performance against the defending champions as “embarrassing” as they succumbed by 20 goals. Kopua said they failed in execution with ball in hand. “We didn’t take anything that we practiced in training onto court,” she said. “It was quite embarrassing to be honest.” The Magic again picked up enough ball to challenge the ANZ Premiership leaders but struggled to convert as they were forced into high risk options on attack. “It’s a fine balance and we are flirting with either zero or hero at the moment,” Kopua said. “We just need to step it back, pass, catch and pass to our team.” They take on a winless Northern Mystics side but that will be of little comfort to the Magic attack which will be wary of Mystics captain Phoenix Karaka who has shown great timing while hunting for ball. Karaka was buoyed by her team’s second half performance last week as they came close to pulling back a 12-goal deficit. Coach Helene Wilson faces a decision headache – does she plump for teenage shooter Grace Nweke against the experienced Magic defensive duo?
WHO TO WATCH:
Ariana Cable-Dixon (Magic) – has been a steady player through the middle for the Magic, but she will be looking to cut down her turnovers. An important link between the defence and an inexperienced Magic attack.
Casey Kopua (Magic) versus Jamie Hume (Mystics) – the Magic captain is in scintillating form – four intercepts and seven deflections in her last outing – and will test the mettle of Hume who looks the preferred goal attack for the Mystics.
Grace Nweke (Mystics) – will the schoolgirl get another run after a stunning debut against the Northern Stars last week? Will be a big ask for the 17-year-old who could find herself up against Silver Fern Kelly Jury.
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v The Good Oil Tactix
Sunday, March 17 in Invercargill
An opportunity for The Good Oil Tactix to learn from their first round errors as they prepare to suit up against the ANZ Premiership pace-setters for the second time this season. They were soundly beaten when they met the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel last month and their southern neighbours are only improving every time they take the court. The shock of losing influential mid-courter Erikana Pedersen has softened and new Tactix recruit Samon Nathan is finding her feet up front in the red-and-black colours. And it will be through the middle where the Tactix will need to step up both on defence and attack. They struggled to shut down the speed through court from the Steel which left captain Jane Watson in the unenviable task as the last line of defence. Steel wing Gina Crampton has been the form wing attack of the Premiership to date and dominated against the Tactix last month with 39 feeds and a quick release to reliable shooter Lenize Potgieter. Steel co-captain Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was pleased with their third big win of the season, particularly with their ability to push ahead and build on a lead last week. She also highlighted their desire to treasure ball. “If we have to throw it around 100, 200, 300 times we will do that just to make sure we get it in.”
WHO TO WATCH:
Charlotte Elley (Tactix) – the red-and-blacks need to tighten up on the outside of the Steel’s shooting circle and Elley has the tough ask of marking in-form Steel wing Gina Crampton.
Samon Nathan (Tactix) versus Kate Heffernan (Steel) – the new Tactix wing has gained more court time in recent weeks and is building her links with key shooter Ellie Bird. Up against Heffernan who continues to impress on defence.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Steel) – the Silver Ferns goal attack has lost her shooting mojo and will need to find that spark with national coach Noeline Taurua no doubt watching with interest. Has a high workload but needs to lift her shooting volume and accuracy.
Northern Stars v Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse
Monday, March 18 in Auckland
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse remains the only unbeaten team in the ANZ Premiership after three rounds and come up against a Northern Stars side which has netted three wins and a loss. Stars captain Leana de Bruin had mixed emotions after their latest win and said they would need to take another step up despite beating the Northern Mystics last week. She was disappointed with the way they finished, blowing a 12-goal lead, and the defender said it was something they would address. “We’re better than that and we just got a bit static on attack,” de Bruin said. “I think it’s going back to what we’ve trained and what we’re good at.” The former Silver Fern called on her team to keep their composure when the pressure went on. “At times we get panicky and against the Pulse, they will make us pay.” Two dominant shooters suit up for their respective teams with both Aliyah Dunn (Pulse) and Maia Wilson (Stars) in the top four for shooting volume. Wilson will need her radar on as she is up against one of the league’s strongest rebounders in Sulu Fitzpatrick while the Stars frontline face a defensive wall which picked up seven intercepts and 15 deflections between them in Round 3.
WHO TO WATCH:
Leana de Bruin (Stars) – the defender has slotted back into the Stars team with ease this season and forms a solid combination with Storm Purvis. Faces Silver Fern Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Stars) versus Karin Burger (Pulse) – a match-up between former Central team-mates. The Stars wing has made a strong start in her new colours but the height mismatch against Burger could prove a real challenge.
Sulu Fitzpatrick (Pulse) – was part of a dominant Pulse defence line last week and takes on a confident Stars shooter in Maia Wilson in what will be another key match-up.