Classic derby key in ANZ Premiership Finals Series race
The jostling for prime position on the ANZ Premiership ladder intensifies this weekend with a classic north versus south derby set to prove pivotal.
The revamped ANZ Premiership culminates in a triple-header Finals Series in Invercargill on 23 August when the top two ranked teams will meet in the Grand Final.
The defending champion Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse are in control at the top of the table and it will take a seismic shift in form for departing coach Yvette McCausland-Durie not to be farewelled with another crack at the title.
But all eyes are on the race for second place where The Good Oil Tactix (32 points) and the Northern Mystics (29) have just three points between them, the latter in third place but in a favourable position with a game in hand.
Their clash at The Trusts Arena in Auckland on Sunday will go some way to determining which side will meet the Pulse in the Grand Final.
And with only a one goal difference the last time they met, the Mystics pipped by the buzzer, expect the intensity to reach new heights in a must win match.
The northerners did their Finals Series hopes no harm by ending the winning streak of the Pulse last week and a clean sheet in Round 9 will all but smooth their path into the Grand Final.
They must head to the Deep South on Friday to take on an Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel side united by a challenging season and backed by noisy and supportive ILT Stadium Southland.
The Steel also got the better of the Mystics the last time they met so expect the Phoenix Karaka-led team to be on their guard when they hit the road.
It’s a tall ask for the Tactix as they are on the road for both games this weekend but the team is determined to write the fairytale finish to a season like no other.
Adversity is well entrenched in the handbook of coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek and expectations that the red-and-blacks can rewrite history with a top two-finish, remains the dream.
Reality means they need to get up over both the Mystics and the Pulse on Monday night in what is a physically demanding weekend – failure in either match could mean a nervous wait to see if other results go their way.
Bonus points could also prove critical on the congested ANZ Premiership ladder and with little separating the Mystics, Tactix and Pulse whenever they meet on court, it will be imperative to finish within five goals if victory is out of reach.
The Robinhood Stars remain a mathematical chance to make the Grand Final but must win their remaining matches and hope both the Tactix and Mystics garner no points in the remaining two rounds.