ANZ Premiership Preview – Round 9
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse v Splice Construction Magic
Sunday, April 21 in Wellington
Stringing two wins together for the first time this season might be enough to spur the Magic on as they push to break into the top three. Their attack end looks to have settled but just how much improvement they’ve made will be measured against the best when they face the Pulse. Shooter Kelsey McPhee is repaying the faith showed in her from coach Amigene Metcalfe with some stand-out performances and her litmus test will be against the likes of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Katrina Rore. The 21-year-old says she is growing in confidence with the amount of court time she is receiving. “I’m getting good feedback from the coaches and every week we’re working on something different,” McPhee said. Young wing Sydney Fraser got 30 minutes of netball under her belt last week and showed great speed up front giving Metcalfe a number of options. Captain Casey Kopua said the belief within the side is building as they aim to keep the pressure on those teams in the top three. “We haven’t checked out, we’re here, we’re going, we want to be in those play-offs,” she said. The Pulse however marches on, unbeaten after eight rounds, although there was not much in it when the two teams met in Round 2 in what was a defence orientated match.
WHO TO WATCH:
Kelsey McPhee (Magic) – continues to impress with every minute she gets on court. Showing both a strong hold and ability to move while her accuracy is also a feature.
Karin Burger (Pulse) versus Ariana Cable-Dixon (Magic) – the Pulse defender was in outstanding form last week and poses a real threat to the improved workings of the Magic’s frontline. Cable-Dixon has provided a solid option on attack in recent weeks.
Tiana Metuarau (Pulse) – made the most of her court time last week when replacing her injured team-mate Ameliaranne Ekenasio. Directed play on attack and put in some deft passes to Aliyah Dunn, but will it be enough to get more minutes on court?
The Good Oil Tactix v Northern Stars
Tuesday, April 23 in Christchurch
The bonus point in the two-goal loss last week could prove crucial for the Northern Stars as they look to put a mid-season slump behind them. The Stars will be aiming to consolidate their spot in the top three with the Magic chasing hard in fourth place. Nothing short of victory will do against the Tactix if they are to keep the Magic at bay. Captain Leana de Bruin was pleased with her team’s performance last week, in particular the frontline effort without the services of Temepara Bailey and Ellen Halpenny. “There’s a lot of inexperience in our attack and I’m proud of what they’ve done,” she said. “We can take a lot from that performance without Temepara and Ellen.” Young centre Holly Fowler, who is learning a new craft in the pivot role, looked assured in her court play and growing in confidence with her feeding into the shooting circle. Goal attack Charlee Hodges also made the most of her 60 minutes on court and may have warranted a start against the Tactix. De Bruin said it would be good to get away over the Easter break and then “hit it hard again” in Round 9. “It’s certainly a must win,” she said.
WHO TO WATCH:
Sophia Fenwick (Tactix) – impresses with her drive through court on attack and not afraid to look long for her shooter Ellie Bird. One of the shorter defenders in the league but stands up with her drive and determination.
Jane Watson (Tactix) versus Maia Wilson (Stars) – the Tactix captain remains one of the cleanest in the game but still up there in terms of deflections and intercepts. Struggled to shut down Wilson last time they met however with the young shooter putting up 55 attempts at goal.
Storm Purvis (Stars) – does not stand out on the league’s stats sheet but her combination with Leana de Bruin has been the undoing of a number of shooting circles this season. Another tall ask against Bird.
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Northern Mystics
Wednesday, April 24 in Dunedin
The Northern Mystics have turned up for the second half of the ANZ Premiership and look serious contenders to cause a few upsets in the run home. Stand-in captain Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was pleased with the way her side stood up to the competition leaders Pulse, having had two of the Mystics’ key players sitting on the bench. They lost by 10 goals but had the Pulse under the pump for long stretches of the game. “It was just our connections let us down a bit at times but we’re still learning so onwards and upwards,” Sokolich-Beatson said. It gets no easier against the second-placed Steel in Dunedin and the defender said they would be looking at their through-court attack ahead of the match. “I felt defensively bringing the ball through court, we let our attacking end down a little bit,” she said. But there is no denying the recent performances has lifted confidence within the group. “We have a good culture and even though we were losing we were still connected,” Sokolich-Beatson said. “But getting those wins just puts you on a different pedestal and just changes your mindset a bit.”
WHO TO WATCH:
Grace Kukutai (Mystics) – is more often seen in the centre or attacking role but did the job on defence last week against one of the best.
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit (Steel) versus Grace Nweke (Mystics) – the young Mystics shooter was given a thorough work-out last week and stood strongly. Almost a 10cm difference between the two players so will require a full team effort on defence from the Steel.
Kate Heffernan (Steel) – the young defender has been the preferred starting option on the wing and will need to use all of her 181cm frame to block the view into the Mystics towering target of Nweke.