ANZ Premiership Round 9 Preview
Friday, 7 August
Steel v Mystics, 7pm at Stadium Southland in Invercargill
A deep belief in what they could produce spurred the Northern Mystics into victory over the previously unbeaten Pulse last week, and now it will be crucial they can back up that stand-out performance against an Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel side playing in front of its home crowd.
ILT Stadium Southland is never an easy place for opponents to get the better of the Steel and the Mystics will be wary of a team which beat them just two weeks ago. Captain Phoenix Karaka however could afford herself a smile after an upset over the defending champions which could prove vital in their race for a Grand Finals berth.
“We knew that we were better than what we’ve been putting out and I think we really played a whole 48 minutes which we can be proud of,” she said.
Consistency has been the catch-cry for a number of teams in the ANZ Premiership and while the Mystics had the odd lull, they were able to produce the goods when it mattered most. The defensive wall of Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick has been tough to penetrate and will be a tall ask for the Steel’s new-look shooting combination.
Ellen Halpenny has barely missed a beat since stepping back into the netball fold and was given her first last week alongside Kalifa McCollin who looks more comfortable in the goal attack bib.
Saturday, 8 August
Steel v Pulse, 5pm at Stadium Southland in Invercargill
The southerners could prove a thorn in the defending champions’ side having come close in their last two meetings. The added benefit of a parochial home crowd could be enough to get the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel across the line this time but they are up against a wounded Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse which suffered their first loss of the season last week.
Captain Katrina Rore was disappointed not to get the result for the fans which turned up in their first home game of the season but believes the defeat could be timely with the Grand Final looming.
“It’s a good wake-up call for us. Ten on the trot is awesome but it’s probably not a bad time for us to really stop and have a look and make sure we don’t get complacent.”
Steel co-captain Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was bitterly disappointed to let their match against the Magic slip from their grasp last week but could not hide her delight in the knowledge they were returning home for the remainder of the season.
“We have been counting the minutes until we get back to Invercargill. We’re really excited and we know that Southland is excited too.”
Sunday, 9 August
Mystics v Tactix, 5pm at The Trusts Arena in Auckland
A blockbuster match-up between the two teams pushing hard to join the Pulse in this month’s Grand Final. The Northern Mystics are at home to The Good Oil Tactix with both teams jostling for prime position on the points table.
It is a big weekend for the Tactix who must travel to Auckland to play the Mystics before heading to Wellington to meet the Pulse. Captain Jane Watson was asking for more consistency from her team in what would be a demanding round for the Tactix.
She was looking forward to a full training week ahead of the clash with the Mystics to iron out the errors which blighted their win over the Magic last week. The Tactix were clinical on attack in the opening quarter and hustled hard on defence, but were guilty of letting their standards slip through the middle stages of the match.
Watson has however been pleased with the form of shooter Ellie Bird who is coming under increased scrutiny from defenders.
“I think people are getting really physical on her so I think she’s standing up to that a lot better,” Watson said of the shooter who celebrated her 50th national league match last week.
Magic v Stars, 7pm at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton
An emotional Splice Construction Magic has the Robinhood Stars in their sights after netting just their second win of the ANZ Premiership season. A tearful captain Sam Winders was delighted with her team’s one-goal thriller over the Steel last week as they nailed the “critical moments” in the dying minutes.
Winders believed her team kept their composure and hoped they would build on it against the Stars as they aimed to finish their season strongly.
“Every game’s a winnable match for us and to finally be able to put it together is so nice, but we can’t dwell on it for too long.”
Schoolgirl Khiarna Williams has been one player to grab her opportunities on court and looks more assured with every minute in the shooting circle. Only two goals separated the two teams when they met in Round 5 and the Magic will need to shut down Stars shooter Maia Wilson who continues to impress.
Wilson must be on the radar of Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua with her stand-out performances including last week’s faultless shooting show of 39 from as many attempts. Captain Grace Kara was also impressed with her charges full-court defensive efforts in recent weeks.
Monday 10 August
Pulse v Tactix, 7pm at TSB Arena in Wellington
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse may have let their guard down in their first game of the season at home, but it’s not likely to happen again. Captain Katrina Rore questioned whether her charges “relaxed a bit” at home when they went down by two goals to the Mystics.
“I think we did some uncharacteristic errors from every single one of us,” she said.
Returning to Wellington to take on The Good Oil Tactix will be a key match with just one goal separating them when they last met. The Tactix have all to play for with their hopes of a Grand Final berth on the line and they will go into the game knowing they can match it with the defending champions – finishing it off will be their goal with only one round remaining.
They were beaten by the buzzer in Round 6 and are keen to make amends. Coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek has been pleased with her team’s ability to change things up on court when needed and they may need to adjust to the tight man-on defence from the Pulse.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about, being able to change things when you’re in the heat of the battle. That’s a new level we’re getting to which is really good.”