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Commentator’s Corner: 2020 ANZ Premiership Preview

Commentator’s Corner: 2020 ANZ Premiership Preview

No longer in its infancy, it’s time for the ANZ Premiership to rise to another level.

The fourth incarnation of the competition begins with netball in this country on a high.

What 2019 has done is restore respect in the New Zealand game. This year’s Halberg Awards became something of a netball benefit, courtesy of the Silver Ferns’ Netball World Cup heroics, and the life achievement award for Yvonne Willering was the cherry on top.

Much of the credit has been laid at the feet of Dame Noeline Taurua – and rightly so. But she didn’t do it on her own. It was a collective effort when things went so badly wrong in 2018, and it was a collective effort to get back on track.

Fresh and innovative leadership at Netball New Zealand, the Beko Netball League starting to bear fruit, key players returning to the international game, and yes – an inspirational coach who chose to play an explosive and very ‘New Zealand’ style of netball.

What must happen now is for this year’s ANZ Premiership to move up another gear. There’s consistency in terms of coaching, with no franchise making a change. There are players returning after serious injury; most notably Silver Ferns Temalisi Fakahokotau and Kelly Jury – and one from a maternity break, Grace Kara.

In the past, so much talk has centred around the import players – this year, not so much. In fact, only three teams have them, with two coming from Trinidad & Tobago.

Kalifa McCollin joins the Steel shooting circle and Daystar Swift comes in at GK for the Stars. Australian Georgia Marshall joins the WBOP Magic as a temporary replacement player covering for Monica Falkner. It’s hoped Falkner might be back on court in May after that ACL rupture in last year’s Cadbury Netball Series.

That leaves so much down to the local players and that’s what makes it so exciting.

Stars have emerged in the past 12 months - Ameliaranne Ekenasio among those shining the brightest. Along with her, the likes of Katrina Rore, Karin Burger, Jane Watson, and Maia Wilson. And that’s leaving a lot of names out.

What’s changed is that these Silver Fern players are being pushed. And they’re being pushed by players coming up through the Beko Netball League. The young talent who gave a glimpse of what they’re capable of in 2019 - the likes of Maddy Gordon, Tayla Earle, and the Heffernan twins, are set to cement that promise in 2020.

This is homegrown talent and there’s more to come in the 2020 ANZ Premiership. Saviour Tui wins a full contract with the Mystics, as does Jess Prosser with the Tactix, Georgia Tong with the WBOP Magic, and Taneisha Fifita with Steel.

There’s little doubt the Pulse begin the year as favourites, but there’s enough spark in each of these six teams to think there aren’t going to be any easy beats.