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2023 ANZ Premiership Round 9 Preview

2023 ANZ Premiership Round 9 Preview

Take a look at what’s coming up in Round 9 of the ANZ Premiership.

Saturday, 29 April

Steel v Pulse, 7.15pm at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill

Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse looked to have timed their run towards the Finals Series perfectly – wins over the Mystics and Stars in recent weeks pushing them into the top three. They face their last double-header weekend, and it will be a big one, starting with a must win against the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel. 

Even though the southerners are still searching for their first win of the season, the Steel showed against the Tactix last week that they have the ability to upset teams and could yet play an influential role on the ANZ Premiership points table. Steel captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit was pleased with her team’s defensive efforts against the Tactix – starting from the attacking end where they picked up plenty of ball – but are still struggling to convert the turnover ball. 

“We’re just not able to finish it off,” she said. 

Selby-Rickit said they were expecting another tough encounter against the Pulse after the two teams met in Round 7 in what was a torrid match. 

“We’ve got to be prepared, meet the body, and drive off,” she said. 

They will have the Invercargill faithful behind them for just the third time this season and will need them to help deliver another strong defensive effort with Pulse shooter Amelia Walmsley a constant threat in the circle and is third on the ladder for most goals netted this season.

Sunday, 30 April

Tactix v Mystics, 2.10pm at Christchurch Arena in Christchurch

The Trident Homes Tactix know the importance of a key double-header weekend, which starts with a top-of-the-table clash the MG Mystics. They have home advantage but have plenty to address after a slow start against the Steel last week, something they can’t afford to do against the competition leaders. 

Coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek said the Tactix weren’t “polished” against the Steel in what she described as an “ugly” win, but she wasn’t hitting the panic button. 

“You can’t win them all smoothly, but as long as you are learning from each game and taking it forward then it’ll be good,” she said. 

It has been a tough few weeks for the Mystics, missing three key players in a double extra time loss to the Stars last week and an emotional stand-in captain Phoenix Karaka said she had been proud of the players who have stepped up in recent weeks to fill the absences. 

“It has been hard but I’m really proud of the girls to dig deep.” 

They welcomed back midcourter Tayla Earle for a quarter last week, returning from a foot injury and will no doubt be counting down the days before they can get their skipper, Sulu Fitzpatrick back in the action along with Monica Falkner and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson. Expect the visitors to fight hard to maintain their place on the ladder in what is going to be a tight finish heading to Finals Series.

Stars v Magic, 4.10pm at Pulman Arena in Papakura

The Robinhood Stars remain in the hunt for a berth in the Finals Series after a gripping extended extra time win over the Mystics last week. But they can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal against the Avis Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on a ladder where only four points separates the top four teams. 

It was a “very happy captain” Maia Wilson who praised her side for holding their composure in the Premiership’s first ever extended extra time match. 

“That’s the biggest challenge we’ve had so far this season,” she said. 

But they wouldn’t be celebrating for too long with the business end of the league set to be one of the closest in history. 

“We know that we have to win pretty much every single game because we don’t want to be dependent on other teams losing,” Wilson said. 

“That (win) puts a lot of confidence in our camp but it’s back to the drawing board with Magic ahead.” 

The Magic are in fifth spot on the points table but still within reach of the top three and will go into the match knowing they can beat the Stars, getting the better of them by 14 goals when they met in Round 6. They were however disappointed with an 11-goal loss to the Mystics last week and will need to address a slow start if they are to subdue a red-hot Stars.

Monday, 1 May

Tactix v Pulse, 7.35pm at Christchurch Arena in Christchurch

The big match-ups just keep coming with the Trident Homes Tactix and Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse jostling for the box seat in the top three. Both sides have the double-header weekend, and the last game of the Round is set to deliver with just one goal separating the two when they last met in Round 4. 

Tactix captain Kimiora Poi was pleased they could finish strongly against the Steel last week but would need to address their slow start ahead of the double-header. 

“We need to be a bit smarter with the ball. Definitely on attack we need to treasure the ball.” 

They are also facing a Pulse unit which celebrated a key win over the Stars last week with captain Kelly Jury delighted with their ball retention while under pressure. 

“The way we managed to hold onto ball throughout the whole match was incredible. You couldn’t pay our attackers to throw away a ball. I’m really proud of how they’ve progressed throughout the season.” 

Jury said they would also take plenty of confidence in being able to put out a “full 60-minute grind”. 

“We’re slowly bouncing up the table,” she said. 

Young Pulse shooter Amelia Walmsley stood her ground in a tough test against Jane Watson and Karin Burger when they met in Rangiora, and she will fall into the spotlight again in what remains a must-win for both teams.