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2023 ANZ Premiership Round 8 Preview

2023 ANZ Premiership Round 8 Preview

Take a look at the match-ups coming up in Round 8 of the ANZ Premiership.

Saturday, 22 April

ulse v Stars, 7.15pm at TSB Arena in Wellington

It has been a slow start to the ANZ Premiership for the defending champion Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse, but they are coming in hot for the second half of their campaign and are now second place on the points ladder.

The big win over the Steel on Monday could be important in the final wash up on a congested table, with goal differential possibly coming into play, and they will know the importance of backing up in a key match-up with the Robinhood Stars – the ledger sitting one apiece this season between the two teams.

Co-captain Kelly Jury said she had been happy with her team’s composure in some tough tussles recently and that they could remain disciplined with ball in hand as the intensity in the league started to lift. 

“We know from now on in we’ve got to get those three points on the board. Losses just aren’t going to cut it because those top three spots are tight.” 

These two teams last met in Round 6 when the Pulse blew the Stars off the court in the second quarter, eventually winning by 14 goals. Jury was immense, with five gains, and her match-up with Stars captain Maia Wilson promises plenty.

Whitney Souness and Maddy Gordon’s footwork up front was a standout for the Pulse in their win over the Steel and their ball speed also impressed. Both teams are however coming off a heavy workload and recovery this week will be key.

Sunday, 23 April

Steel v Tactix, 2.10pm at The Edgar Centre in Dunedin

It’s the third and final instalment of the southern derby, with the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel hosting the Trident Homes Tactix in Dunedin. They are at opposite ends of the Premiership points table, but the Steel showed last week against the Stars, they are here to play.

Captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit believes her team has had its moments but now needed to string those strong plays together. 

“We’re still gutted, we still want that win. For us it’s not good enough just to be there – we want to win,” she said after the narrow loss to the Stars. 

Selby-Rickit was pleased with how her attackers have come on this season, and they will hopefully have Saviour Tui back in the playing side after she missed the last encounter with the Tactix. Tui was key in the narrow loss to the Stars but was again on limited court time in the defeat to the Pulse on Monday. The Steel front line got the better of the Tactix in the fourth quarter when they last met in a 13-goal loss and Selby-Rickit said the “belief” within the side was still there. 

The Tactix however will have taken plenty of confidence after coming from behind for a crucial win over the Magic last week. Coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek said her team continued to “head in the right direction” after eight games. 

“We still want to build on that performance – teams are changing all the time, so we just need to keep adapting.”

Mystics v Magic, 4.10pm at The Trusts Arena in Henderson

Expect another thriller when these two teams meet for the third time this season – one game apiece and just one goal separating the sides whenever they step on court. All eyes will be on the MG Mystics defensive end to see if captain Sulu Fitzpatrick is back on court, the defender last seen in action in Round 4 where she sustained a knee injury. They will also be hoping to have midcourt dynamo Tayla Earle back in the mix after she too missed last week’s loss to the Pulse. 

This game is the start of a tough double-header when they play Avis Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and tomorrow’s clash with the Stars – their depth on the bench to be truly tested amongst the injuries.  The Magic may be sitting fifth on the points ladder but have made all the moves during the middle stages of the ANZ Premiership and are a team to watch. 

Captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio will play a milestone match, notching up 100 national league games, and said her team continued to “move in the right direction”.

Ekenasio has also been pleased with how the defensive end is working, needing another big effort against Grace Nweke. Georgia Takarangi and Erena Mikaere feature in the top three in deflections and rebounds respectively, but it is the Magic’s unit work on defence which is causing opponents problems.

Monday, 24 April

Mystics v Stars, 7.35pm at The Trusts Arena in Henderson

Another big weekend for the Robinhood Stars with their final double-header weekend of the ANZ Premiership as they look to address injuries and some mid-season wobbles. But it doesn’t get any easier as they take on the table-topping MG Mystics where they will aim to keep the Northern Challenge alive and level the ledger. 

Their Auckland neighbours got the better of them in the opening encounter in Round 4 by just three goals. But it has been a mixed bag for both teams recently with the Mystics going down to Pulse and coming from behind for a one-goal win over the Magic, while the Stars have lost two and netted a two-goal win over the Steel. 

Stars captain Maia Wilson said they were happy to take the narrow win over the Steel last week in what was a “scrappy” affair for the win. 

“We’ll definitely take the positives out of it but know that there needs to be a step up,” she said. 

Centre Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was in top form when they last met the Mystics and along with her midcourter buddy, Gina Crampton, are leading the league feeds into the circle, followed closely by Mystics maestro Peta Toeava. 

It will also be a battle of the league’s two most accurate shooters – Mystics’ shooter Grace Nweke landing 361 of her 384 attempts at goal while Wilson has netted just over 93 per cent of her 371 attempts at goal.