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ANZ Premiership Round 8 preview

ANZ Premiership Round 8 preview

Thursday, 30 July
Tactix v Stars, 7pm at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch

The ANZ Premiership packs its bags and hits the road for a welcomed return to venues around the country. Nobody more than The Good Oil Tactix will be looking forward to this round as they return to Christchurch for their only home match of what has been a testing season.

Captain Jane Watson was all smiles after an important win over the Robinhood Stars last week and can’t wait to back it up against the same opponent but this time in front of their own fans.

“It’s going to be fantastic and we just can’t wait to play in front of our home crowd,” she said.

The Tactix have steadily improved in all areas, none more so obvious than in the shooting circle against the Stars where shooter Ellie Bird landed all of her 37 attempts at goal – just the 10th time in the ANZ Premiership history.

The job is not done for the Tactix however who continue to push hard for a finals berth with the Stars breathing down their necks. Stars captain Grace Kara lamented their “ebb and flow” against the Tactix in Round 7 and called on consistency to get them over the line.

They had more attempts at goal against the southerners last week and must find their radar against what will be a hungry Tactix side playing in front of a loyal fan base

Saturday, 1 August
Stars v Steel, 5pm at Auckland Netball Centre

The Robinhood Stars know that every game from here on in is a must win if they are to stay in the hunt for an ANZ Premiership Finals Series, and after last week they will also know the lowly-placed Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel are not to be taken lightly.

The Stars are back home to the Auckland Netball Centre after travelling to Christchurch earlier this week and captain Grace Kara wants to see her team build on any lead it gets.

“Being able to put our foot down and surge forward,” she pinpointed as key to earning maximum points and pushing for a finals berth.

The Steel, who sit in fifth place, showed their true southern grit last week when upsetting the Mystics despite their shooting circle taking yet another blow. The curse of the shooting circle struck again when import Kalifa McCollin became the third shooter to limp out of the game.

They will be keen to get the athletic attacker back in action but coach Reinga Bloxham must be delighted with the Steel’s resilience shining through. The class of Silver Fern midcourters Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders cannot be underestimated as their workload has increased this season with new shooting combinations – almost on a weekly basis – to connect with.

Sunday, 2 August
Magic v Tactix, 5pm at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton

The Splice Construction Magic return home for the first time this season and captain Sam Winders believes the crowd – their “eighth player” – could push them across the line in their search for an elusive second win.

Again the Magic was in the hunt for much of their match against the Mystics last week but will need to erase the errors at crucial times if they are beat an in-form The Good Oil Tactix. Winders said she couldn’t wait to play at home but called the Magic to take their chances when they got back on their court.

“We just need people to own every position every opportunity they get on court,” she said.

Coach Amigene Metcalfe made a number of changes up front last week with Khiarna Williams tossed the starting shooter’s bib while Harley Smith also made an appearance for six minutes in the loss to the Mystics. Defender Erena Mikaere stood out in Round 7 with her deflections and gains and will be a key cog in shutting down a Tactix shooting circle growing in confidence.

The Magic haven’t won since the opening round but will take some encouragement in drawing with the Tactix when they met in Round 5. Winders said morale was still high in camp but they needed to rediscover the Magic’s “winning habit”.

Pulse v Mystics, 7pm at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua

Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse captain Katrina Rore can’t wait to play in front of their fans as the defending champions bring their hot form home. The return to Porirua gives Pulse fans the chance to pass their thanks to coach Yvette McCausland-Durie who has announced she is to step down from her role at the end of the ANZ Premiership.

But with a job still to be done, the Pulse focus will be firmly on the key one versus two match-up against the Northern Mystics. The match was all but over by halftime when these two teams met just over two weeks ago when the Pulse kept their opponent to single figures in the first and second quarters.

Plenty of interest lies in the goal attack role for the Mystics with coach Helene Wilson continuing to experiment with her combination up front. Filda Vui is the latest to pick up the bib and her experience with both Grace Nweke and midcourter Tayla Earle – the trio having played together in the Beko Netball League – looks to hold her in good stead.

Vui is confident with her movement and is not afraid to turn to the post. Just who will team up with Nweke as the Premiership nears the business end remains a guess.

Monday, 3 August
Magic v Steel, 7pm at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton

Just the one goal separated the two teams when they met in Round 6 and another nail-biter is expected when the Splice Construction Magic host the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.

Home support may prove the difference this time but the Magic will be wary of a Steel team which, despite its horrid run of injuries in its shooting circle, netted an impressive win over the second-placed Mystics last week.

Steel co-captain Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was “stoked” for her team which has rallied each week to produce some gritty netball. The defender said they had been searching for that ideal mix of playing with patience but knowing when to accelerate on attack as well.

The drive of playing their last game on the road could also be a motivating factor for the two-time ANZ Premiership champions.

“We know we’re getting closer to our home game which is what we want and I’m really excited for it,” Selby-Rickit said.
The midcourt match-ups offer plenty with Kate Heffernan out to shut-down Magic playmaker Whitney Souness who has been in commanding form for her new side. The wing attack role is currently well catered for in New Zealand and Souness is one of those leading the charge to impress Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua with just three rounds of the regular season remaining.