2022 ANZ Premiership Grand Final Preview
Sunday, 12 June
Pulse vs Stars, 4pm at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington
Both Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse and the Robinhood Stars have navigated their way through an ANZ Premiership season challenged by a global pandemic – player-illness and a condensed schedule just two of the hurdles they have cleared to reach this year’s Grand Final.
Sunday’s decider will be an opportunity to celebrate their achievements and either mark a record third title for the Pulse or a maiden crown for the Stars.
They last met in a Grand Final in 2019 when the Pulse defeated the Stars 52-48 to claim their first Premiership spoils, but it is the latter which hold the edge this season having won two of their three encounters.
Five goals separated them when the played in Round 10 when the Stars started a six-game winning streak to round out the regular season.
Their Elimination Final win over the Mystics was a new club record of seven-straight wins and coach Kiri Wills believes her side is in a “better position” for their second crack at an ANZ Premiership crown.
“We hadn’t beaten the Pulse at all that year (2019), but this time we’ve got the upper hand, we’re two from three but we also know that’s not going to count for anything in a final.”
Confidence will be high following their performances over the past month – eight wins from nine outings – with a number of senior members finding form at the business end of the season.
Wing attack Gina Crampton and shooter and captain Maia Wilson have stepped up and will play key roles in the Stars bid for the title.
All eyes will be on the match-up between two of the leaders on court with Pulse co-captain Kelly Jury and Wilson set to go head-to-head.
But the tussle between goal defence Kristiana Manu’a (Pulse) and Jamie Hume (Stars) also promises to dictate just how well the visitors’ frontline functions.
Hume was influential in the Elimination Final win over the Mystics netting 84 per cent of her 25 attempts at goal.
When it comes to shooting accuracy however, it is hard to go passed Pulse shooter Aliyah Dunn who finished the regular season with the best radar – 93 per cent of her 617 attempts finding their mark.
Dunn has also been there and done it before having been a key member in their 2019 and 2020 Premiership wins.
Jury meanwhile is in career-best form and leads the way with deflections and intercepts, while midcourter Maddy Gordon, who returned from injury this year, will celebrate her 50th national league game in the Grand Final.
Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie, who this week signed on to guide the side again next year, said the Stars had been the most consistent team in the “back end of the competition”.
“We’re hugely aware and respectful of what they bring,” she said.
“Finals are finals and what we each bring I hope is a product that’s a really good one to watch and shows good skill and flair. We’re looking forward to it.”