2021 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 3

THE Northern Stars will be hoping to retain their unbeaten form heading into Round 3 of the 2021 ANZ Premiership season, while the Mainland Tactix are still on the hunt for their first win of the year. We preview the entire round of action.

Southern Steel vs. Central Pulse
Sunday, May 2 @4:15pm

Sitting on one win apiece, the contest between Southern Steel and Central Pulse is going to be an interesting one as they look to find a level of consistency. Both sides boast very different looking outfits compared to their 2020 squads and are still solidifying their connections across the court, meaning whichever team settles first is likely to gain the upper hand.

The battle between English juggernaut George Fisher and newcomer Kelera Nawai is set to be an intriguing one. Fisher has been in scintillating form coming off a 100 per cent shooting performance last round while Nawai really found her groove in Round 2. However, in order to stop Fisher under the post Nawai will need support from the long-limbed Kelly Jury who is relishing her time out in goal defence alongside speedster Maddy Gordon in wing defence. The new-look defensive unit for the Pulse is starting to come together and will need to put in the hard yards if they are to nullify playmaker and former teammate Tiana Metuarau out in goal attack along with experienced campaigner Shannon Saunders.

Looking down the other end, and the battle continues with Aliyah Dunn stepping up to the plate in the absence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio. Her ability to command the ball and shoot truly is what got them the win last week and she will need to be on her A-game again this round up against a highly physical opponent in Taneisha Fifita. Te Amo Amaru-Tibble started to come out of her shell last week and if she can continue to play with that level of confidence and freedom she could really cause headaches for the Steel defence. Whitney Souness’ versatility could also come in handy with the typical wing attack able to drift into goal attack when needed, allowing Gordon to revert to the front-end position and provide that signature drive and flair to the attack.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic vs. Northern Stars
Sunday, May 2 @6:15pm

The Northern Stars will be looking to make it three on the trot with a win against a reinvigorated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic side. The Stars are humming along nicely with their strong connections across the court causing all sorts of havoc for opposition teams while the Magic are still searching for that final link. A relatively new side, the Magic boast a wealth of talent but have a tendency to fade in and out of games, something they cannot afford to do against the Stars who will pounce on any slip-up.

It is hard to go past the star that is Maia Wilson under the post. The Stars captain and New Zealand Ferns starter is in fine form with her added movement and improved strength enabling her to dominate under the post. Throw in her accuracy and high volume and the Magic defence in Erena Mikaere, Temalisi Fakahokotau and Georgia Tong will have their hands well and truly full. Without the services of Monica Falkner who is suffering from a knee niggle it will be up to Jamie Hume to draw the attention of the defenders and provide that additional support in order to alleviate the pressure from Wilson and keep the scoreboard ticking over. The acquisition of Gina Crampton has been nothing but beneficial and in her 101st match expect her to have the ball on a string alongside Mila Reuelu-Buchanan in centre. However, the Magic have playmakers of their own with Sam Winders a real leader both in attack and defence.

Boasting the likes of Caitlin Bassett inside the goal circle, the Magic have the capacity to score quickly, if only they ensure they get the ball to her. Bassett is strong on the hold and most importantly accurate to post making her a great target under the ring but will need support from up-and-coming goaler Khiarna Williams who has proven to be a real livewire with her dynamic movement and long range shooting, while Chiara Semple is the other to keep an eye out for with excellent evasive footwork to clean up in attack. But the Stars have great defensive depth with Anna Harrison, Elle Temu and Oceane Maihi all ball winners credit to their aerial awareness and tenacity, meaning the Magic will have to be crafty with ball in hand.

Northern Mystics vs. Mainland Tactix
Monday, May 3 @7:15pm

The final game of the round sees Northern Mystics play host to the Mainland Tactix who have had a less than desirable start to their 2021 campaign. After reaching the heights of a grand final appearance last year the Tactix have fallen flat on their face, yet to get a win and really feeling the pain of not having Te Paea Selby-Rickit who is on the sidelines with injury. On the other hand, the Mystics are generating some good momentum with all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place in Round 2 and will be eager to keep that going.

The Tactix defence had a shakeup over the off-season with Fakahokotau departing, seeing the side pick up Karin Burger to fill void. Burger has slotted in nicely alongside captain and seasoned campaigner Jane Watson with the dynamic duo reeling in a wealth of ball but will need full court defensive pressure if they are to upset the Mystics’ frontline which has Grace Nweke at the helm. The shooting prodigy is incredibly strong in the air and leads the competition for goals credit to her high output. She is not the only weapon in the front-end with Bailey Mes, Filda Vui and Saviour Tui all viable threats meaning efforts from Kimiora Poi and Charlotte Elley will have to be high through the midcourt to slow down the attacking plays. The other main concern for the Tactix lies with Peta Toeava, with the wing attack able to slice the game wide open with her bullet-like passes and pinpoint accuracy.

Ellie Bird looks a bit out of sorts and will once again have to shoulder the load in attack for the Tactix given the inexperience of both Jess Prosser and Hannah Glen. The lack of connection will allow Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kate Burley to really pounce down back and shut down any easy avenue to goal while Ama Agbeze is another defensive cog at the Mystics’ disposal. All three defenders are quite aerial which is Bird’s bread and butter, meaning the Tactix might be forced to play the ball around in order to find alternative avenues to goal.

Photo credit: Photosport

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