2021 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 2

ROUND 2 of the ANZ Premiership is set to bring plenty of excitement and unpredictability after a blockbuster opening round of action. Central Pulse are looking for their first win of the season as are the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix, making for an enthralling round of action.

Northern Mystics vs. Southern Steel
Saturday, April 24 @5:15pm

The Southern Steel blew Mainland Tactix out of the water last round and will be eager to bring that level of intensity and hunger in this clash against Northern Mystics. With fresh faces across the court and a number of young, inexperienced players the Steel will be hoping to use their speed and dynamism to catch the Mystics off guard. On the flip side, the Mystics will be hoping to bounce back after a loss and really solidify their connections across the court.

It will be a battle of the goal shooters with both George Fisher and Grace Nweke bookends for their respective sides. Fisher made her intentions clear last round with her strong holds and accuracy to post but will have her work cut out for her up against the tenacious Sulu Fitzpatrick. The goal keeper is a real barometer for her side able to snap up intercepts and pile on the pressure but will need assistance from partner in crime, Kate Burley to quell the influence of Fisher under the post. Up the other end, Nweke is a force to be reckoned with thanks to her aerial strength and overall netball nous. However if the Steel defenders in Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita can pile on the physical pressure and push her up high it could spell danger for the Mystics. While the goal shooters are both staples they have plenty of support in the form of their respective goal attacks with the Mystics boasting the services of Silver Fern Bailey Mes, under 21s star Saviour Tui and the unassuming Filda Vui. Tiana Metuarau is a real livewire for the Steel, able to float into the circle and draw the attention of her defender and is not afraid to do the hard yards out the front making for an enthralling contest.

The midcourt battle will be another element of contention as the Steel have the capacity to rotate a number of players through the centre third with Kate Heffernan relishing the extra court space in centre to reel in those intercepts. If the partnership between Heffernan, Shannon Saunders and Renee Savai’inaea is able to continue as it did last week, it could cause headaches for the Mystics who struggled to penetrate through the defence and hit circle edge last round. In saying that, Peta Toeava is a real game changer in wing attack for the Mystics with her silky ball movement, change of pace and evasiveness.

Northern Stars vs. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, April 25 @4:15pm

The Northern Stars showed that they are a real force to be reckoned with this season but will have to back up their performance against a tough opponent in the Mainland Tactix who lacked a bit of oomph last round. The Stars showcased their defensive and offensive depth while the Tactix struggled to stem the bleeding as the absence of Te Paea Selby-Rickit was felt across the court, something they will be hoping to rectify this round.

Maia Wilson is in ripping form at the moment but will have to maintain that high level output against a quality defensive unit in Jane Watson and Karin Burger. The two defenders are still developing their craft and while they showed glimpses of brilliance will need to up the ante for a full 60 minutes in this clash if they are a chance to nullify Wilson and both Monica Falkner and Jamie Hume out the front who are excellent playmakers. Continuing on the theme of defensive pressure, and wing defence Charlotte Elley will need to put out a solid performance to combat the class and experience of Gina Crampton. The new recruit ran rampant last round, taking advantage of the extra space she was afforded and cannot be gifted the same luxury this round if the Tactix want to get their first win on the board.

Without Selby-Rickit it will be up to Kimiora Poi, Samon Nathan and Erikana Pedersen to do the heavy lifting in attack to feed the ball into Ellie Bird in the goal circle. Bird has proven she is a rock under the post but needs silver service to be able to really generate scoring prowess for the Tactix. It will not be easy though given the form Anna Harrison and Oceane Maihi, plus Elle Temu if she has recovered from an ankle niggle sustained last round. All three defenders are aerial specialists meaning the Tactix will have to get crafty with ball in hand to ensure they are not predictable in attack.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic vs. Central Pulse
Sunday, April 25 @6:15

The final game of the round sees the Magic take on the reigning premiers as the Pulse search for their first win. It is unprecedented territory for the Pulse who for the past two seasons have gone through almost undefeated and certainly secured that opening round win, meaning they will come out with a real sense of urgency in this clash. That being said, the Magic will be riding high given the impressing showing of versatility and belief to grind out their opening round win.

The attacking unit for the Magic is humming along nicely and with further court time could prove a handful with Grace Kara perfecting those feeds into the circle. Caitlin Bassett will be the one to stop in this clash given her proficiency and overall nous, while both Chiara Semple and Khiarna Williams are no slouches. The shooting duo are more than capable of holding down the fort themselves meaning the Pulse defence cannot afford to focus solely on Bassett. The Pulse will need to combat the Magic’s attacking prowess early and have the calibre of players to do so with Kelly Jury, Kelera Nawai and Parris Mason all capable hands. If Jury gets the nod in her traditional position of goal keeper it will go a long way in setting up a Pulse victory.

Maddy Gordon is still finding her feet in wing defence this season so will have her work cut out for her against the experienced Kara, and will need support from the likes of Claire Kersten out in centre to nullify her output. The absence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio will continue to linger however, although the Pulse have proven that Te Amo Amaru-Tibble is more than willing to stand on her own two feet and slot the goals. Her connection with Aliyah Dunn is still developing, an area the Magic defence spearheaded by Temalisi Fakahokotau will be hoping to exploit. The versatility down back for the Magic is going to be key with Fakahokotau, Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong all serious ball winners and like to cut off the supply heading into the circle, meaning the Pulse will have to be cautious with ball in hand.

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