ANZ Premiership Preview – Round 8
Northern Stars v Ascot Park Hotel Steel
Sunday, April 14 in Auckland
Northern Stars captain Leana de Bruin was blunt in her assessment of her team’s performance after a disappointing couple of weeks. “We’ve been playing a lot better netball than what we have in the last two weeks, and if we want to be contenders for that final that’s not how we do it.” Heavy losses to Pulse and Magic have threatened to derail their campaign but bouncing back against the Steel will take something special. De Bruin has targeted their starts as an area to be addressed. “We need to go look at ourselves and how we prepare for the game,” she said. They found themselves down by 10 in the first quarter against the Magic and an 11-goal difference against the Pulse at the break. “We just can’t start like that,” lamented de Bruin. The Steel however are reeling themselves after being outplayed in the second half by Pulse, losing the game by 16 goals. Captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit says it’s too early to count the Steel out of a third Premiership title but they will need to “have some really big improvements” if they want to keep the silverware.
WHO TO WATCH:
Temepara Bailey (Stars) – the experienced centre looked increasingly frustrated during last week’s loss and faces another tough match-up against Shannon Saunders.
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Stars) versus Kate Heffernan (Steel) – two of New Zealand’s brightest prospects for the future. Both have been playing well for their respective teams and offer a key clash.
Jen O’Connell (Steel) – how much court time will the young Steel shooter get? Didn’t make it on to court in the last week’s big loss but has barely put a foot wrong when given the nod.
Splice Construction Magic v The Good Oil Tactix
Monday, April 15 in Hamilton
The Magic look to have finally found an answer for their attacking wobbles after producing perhaps their best performance yet this season. A win over the Stars last week was met with relief from captain Casey Kopua as they delivered for 60 minutes to net just their third win of the ANZ Premiership. They must be favoured to add to that tally against the Tactix despite the latter gaining a six-goal win when the two teams met way back in the first round. Coach Amigene Metcalfe looks to have settled on her front line with Kasey McPhee and Monica Falkner preferred in the Magic shooting circle and Ariana Cable-Dixon producing a solid performance in the wing attack bib. Her presence up front added a calming influence and her combination with Sam Sinclair added something extra for the Magic. Kopua says the honest conversations they’d had in recent weeks meant everyone was now ‘doing their job’. “It goes to show the potential we do have,” she said. Tactix captain Jane Watson says her side must focus on basics if they are to net another win over the Magic. She was pleased how they “controlled the tempo” in the first half against the Mystics but lost their way with ball placement on attack.
WHO TO WATCH:
Kate Beveridge/Brooke Leaver (Tactix) – the Tactix have struggled for consistency from whomever picks up the goal attack bib, and it doesn’t get any easier with a match-up against Casey Kopua.
Kelly Jury (Magic) versus Ellie Bird – the Magic defender was in outstanding form last week and must surely be on the radar of Silver Fern coach Noeline Taurua. A key battle with the Tactix’ shooting rock.
Ariana Cable-Dixon (Magic) – looked at home at wing attack with her availability and drive to the circle edge. Should have done enough for another start on the wing.
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse v Northern Mystics
Wednesday, April 17 in Porirua
Northern Mystics coach Helene Wilson found herself under the blowtorch after a string of losses but how quickly fortunes can change. Two successive wins and the performance of two of the franchise’s most promising rookies – in Tayla Earle and Grace Nweke – have given supporters hope. But with the success comes new problems for Wilson to ponder, particularly on defence, with the emergence of Nanise Waqaira who made a strong ANZ Premiership debut last week. Stand-in captain Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was also a stand-out in the goal defence bib in the absence of Phoenix Karaka. Just who Wilson plumps for against the competition leaders, the Pulse, will be of interest. Sokolich-Beatson was pleased most with her team’s fight in their second win of the season and insisted that Mystics bring it again if they are to upset the Pulse. “We start slow and we claw it back which we can’t afford to do that against the Pulse,” she said. “Our fight from the first whistle will be what gets us through.” They will need it against a Pulse side which continues to stamp its authority on this competition. They again showed their ability to absorb the pressure and then build a lead with a big win over the Steel. Who is going to be the team to stop this juggernaut?
WHO TO WATCH:
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson (Mystics) – where will the talented defender be best suited for this match. She had six gains for her side in the goal defence bib and looked to relish her time as captain.
Earle (Mystics) versus Claire Kersten (Pulse) – the young Mystics attacker has been a stand-out in her rookie season and shown a strong link with shooting star Grace Nweke. Kersten continues to be the rock through the middle for the Pulse.
Aliyah Dunn (Pulse) – looked to be playing second fiddle to Ameliaranne Ekenasio over the first half of the season but stepped into the spotlight last week with a faultless performance with both her accuracy and circle movement.