2021 ANZ Premiership – Round 1 Preview
Sunday, 18 April
Pulse v Stars
4.15pm at Fly Palmy Arena in Palmerston North
The ANZ Premiership opener promises plenty with the defending champion Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse hosting one of the league favourites in a new-look Robinhood Stars side. Both teams have a raft of changes heading into the 2021 season and the result of this match-up could come down to which side has bedded in those new combinations the best during a tough pre-season.
Back-to-back champions, Pulse, have the experienced firepower up front with a settled attacking line but it is on defence where all eyes will be with key defenders Katrina Rore (pregnant) and Karin Burger (Tactix) both missing this season. Much rests on the shoulders of Kelly Jury, who has stretched her long limbs as far as the goal defence bib in pre-season, and who new coach Gail Parata will opt for to shut down Stars shooting rock Maia Wilson. Athletic Fiji defender Kelera Nawai may have the edge in the defensive ranks but Parata has some exciting young talent ready to make their mark on the ANZ Premiership.
Watch out for the new Stars links with Silver Fern Gina Crampton joining her international team-mate and new Stars captain Maia Wilson up front, while Anna Harrison makes a welcomed return to Premiership netball.
Steel v Tactix
6.15pm at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill
It’s not often the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel are ranked under-dogs when playing on home turf at the formidable ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill. But they may find themselves in that unfamiliar position against one of the ANZ Premiership favourites, The Good Oil Tactix, in their season opener on Sunday.
The Tactix head south with just one change to the side which reached the Grand Final for the first time last year and expectations are high that the side from the Mainland can go one further this season. The recruitment of Karin Burger poses a real threat on defence as she buddies up with Silver Fern team-mate and Tactix captain Jane Watson.
The Tactix duo faces a bit of an unknown however with the Steel’s English import George Fisher having only just arrived in the country and yet to team up with another new recruit, exciting attacker Tiana Metuarau – the two ready to spearhead the Steel’s shooting circle.
The hosts may also look to target the Tactix’ shooting circle which is likely to be without goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit who injured her ankle at the pre-season in Ōtaki. Young shooter Jess Prosser has made the most of her opportunities during the pre-season however, teaming up well with Ellie Bird in the circle.
Monday, 19 April
Mystics v Magic
7.15pm at The Trusts Arena in Auckland
After a Constellation Cup match-up in March, Australian Diamond Caitlin Bassett and Silver Fern defender Sulu Fitzpatrick are locked on to meet up again when the Northern Mystics host the Splice Construction Magic in Auckland.
Bassett is a key signing for the Magic in 2021 and will anchor the shooting circle while at the other end of the court another new recruit in Temalisi Fakahokotau will be a worthy match for Mystics shooter Grace Nweke. The Magic’s new-look line has coach Amigene Metcalfe excited about their prospects as they deliver firepower across the court in the form of Silver Fern midcourter Sam Winders and former Fern Grace Kara.
There should be plenty of spark in the midcourt to ignite this match with the likes of Kara and Winders joined by the Mystics’ middies Peta Toeava, Tayla Earle and Fa’amu Ioane. Defensively, it will be Fitzpatrick to lead by example and coach Helene Wilson can count on her new captain to set the bar high in the Mystics’ opener. Fitzpatrick was a stand-out during last month’s international series against the Diamonds and will no doubt relish the opportunity to take on one of the toughest in the business in Bassett.