2021 ANZ Premiership Preview – Round 4
Sunday 9 May
Stars v Steel, 4.15pm at Pulman Arena in Auckland
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel will be hoping to package up the form they produce at home and take it with them on a tough road trip to Auckland to play the table-topping Robinhood Stars.
The Steel again impressed in front of their home crowd and showed they could hold their nerve when the screws were tightened. Captain Shannon Saunders said it was good to get so much of the squad on court early in the season.
“Everyone’s stepping up, getting their opportunities and really putting their hand up and that’s creating a good headache for (coach) Reinga (Bloxham),” she said.
The match will be a significant one for Saunders who, for the first time in over a decade, will oppose good mate Gina Crampton. The two midcourters have together worn the Steel strip since 2013 before Crampton, who celebrated her 100th national league game last month, made the move to the Stars this season.
The Stars were given their first real fright against the Magic last week but still achieved a club first in stretching their winning run to three straight games. Captain Maia Wilson was pleased to get the win but said there was still some “rough patches” when they needed to consolidate on their advantage.
Tactix v Magic, 6.15pm at Christchurch Arena in Christchurch
It’s been a long wait for The Good Oil Tactix to get back in front of their home crowd and now that they return to Christchurch Arena, they must produce the goods.
They showed glimpses of the form that had many touting them as title favourites with their performance against the Mystics. The return of goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit was immense for the Tactix and coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek will have her fingers crossed she has her for more minutes this week. Selby-Rickit’s presence gives confidence to those around her and there were good signs for the Tactix attack line.
Out to ruin their return home will be a Splice Construction Magic side which will have taken their own confidence booster from a narrow loss to the Stars last week. Both captains have however been lamenting their teams slow starts and Magic’s Sam Winders said it was an area they needed to sort out.
“That first five minutes we’re right in the game but it’s towards the end of that first quarter and that’s when the fight really begins.”
Watch out for a key match-up between Tactix shooter Ellie Bird and her former team-mate Temalisi Fakahokotau who now dons the Magic strip.
Monday, 10 May
Pulse v Mystics, 7.15pm at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington
It will perhaps be the match-up of the round when firecracker midcourters Maddy Gordon (Pulse) and Peta Toeava (Mystics) meet for the first time in the 2021 ANZ Premiership.
Toeava was in devastating form in helping her Northern Mystics side snatch a one-goal win over the Tactix last week – her connection with Grace Nweke only going from strength to strength as the league continues. But she is likely to be up against Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse’s Gordon who has been dogged on defence since switching positions at the start of the season.
The only cloud hanging over this mouth-watering match-up will be Gordon’s fitness after the Silver Fern was forced from the court with an ankle injury during last week’s loss to the Steel. She returned to the court, albeit briefly, but did not see out the match.
Coach Gail Parata has other defensive questions to ponder ahead of the game in debating the best match-up for Mystics towering shooter Grace Nweke – will she opt for Kelly Jury to resume the keeping duties or continue with Kelera Nawai who gives up 6cm to the teenaged goal scorer.
The Pulse defenders must also be wary of the amount of whistle they have attracted after three rounds, being the most penalised players in the Premiership to date.