Commentator’s Call – ANZ Premiership to start with a bang!
If ever New Zealand netball had a mountain to climb, it’s now.
Just weeks after a calamitous showing by the national side at the Commonwealth Games, the country’s ANZ Premiership begins its second season.
With the Netball World Cup in Liverpool a little over 12 months away, confidence needs to be restored in both the players – and the netball-loving public.
It was clear from the country’s out-pouring over the Silver Ferns’ performance, how much the game means. A strong ANZ Premiership could be the beginning of the rehabilitation.
It starts with a bang this weekend in Palmerston North. It’s the first of three Super Sundays, with three games back to back; Mystics v Steel, Pulse v Magic and Stars v Tactix. The rounds continue on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays, culminating in a grand final on July 12.
It’s difficult to know how much to read into the results of the pre-season tournament at Otaki, where the Tactix and Pulse went through unbeaten. All Silver Ferns were on a compulsory stand down, and coaches were testing all sorts of combinations.
With the departure of Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, the Steel – and indeed the premiership – has lost its most dominant figure. This could be a good thing, albeit a challenging one for the defending champions. They’re also having to scour the country for a defender after Jamaican Malysha Kelly ruptured the ACL in her left knee, pre-season.
As far as import players are concerned, Commonwealth Games gold medal winning captain Ama Agbeze is a great pick up for the Northern Stars, while the Tactix have the intriguing proposition of former Australian Diamond shooter Kate Beveridge. Both women command plenty of respect, while South African Lenize Potgeiter returns to the Magic after a stellar season last year.
There's only one change on the sidelines with Netball World Youth Cup-winning New Zealand Under-21 coach Kiri Wills picking up the reins at the Northern Stars. Marianne Delaney-Hoshek continues in the lead role at the Tactix, which she took over mid-season last year.
Interesting to note the Mystics, Pulse and Steel have chosen local talent ahead of internationals, with the Steel replacing injured import Kelly with young home grown defender Courtney Elliott this week.
There’s plenty to like about the look of the 2018 ANZ Premiership – but there’s no doubt the pressure is on for it to deliver.