2021 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 6

NORTHERN Stars will be looking to make it six wins straight heading into Round 6 of the 2021 ANZ Premiership season while the Mainland Tactix will be hoping to increase their winning streak.

Northern Stars vs. Central Pulse

Coming in hot the Northern Stars will be looking to inflict more pain on Central Pulse with a win here. It has been a disappointing start to the season for the reigning premiers who have only managed one win from five appearances and will have their work cut out for them against a roaring Stars unit which is yet to drop a game. Both sides boast dominant goal shooters meaning it will really come down to which midcourt can deliver.

Speaking of dominant goal shooters it is hard to go past Stars captain, Maia Wilson who has been rock solid inside the ring. Wilson has added more strings to her bow throughout her 2021 campaign with her movement and long range shooting a focal point. While Wilson has been a lynchpin there is no denying that Jamie Hume has elevated her game further, doubling not only as a playmaker but a damaging shooting option. It will be interesting to see how the Pulse match up and whether or not Kelly Jury gets the start in at goal keeper to immediately shut down Wilson or if they will opt with their more favoured option of Kelera Nawai in keeper and Jury in goal defence.

The midcourt battle will be one to watch with speedster Maddy Gordon up against seasoned campaigner Gina Crampton. Although Gordon will have Crampton for speed, the Stars wing attack boasts wisdom and a damaging connection with Wilson – one the Pulse will need to shut down. Throw in the form of Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and the Pulse will have to be on their A-game through transition. With Aliyah Dunn securing the goal shooter position and Te Amo Amaru-Tibble in goal attack, the Pulse have scoring options that have proven to be damaging when they can get going but will be up against it given the calibre of players down back. The return of Anna Harrison from retirement has been monumental, while Elle Temu knows the game of the Pulse inside out after defecting this season, not to mention the aerial presence of Oceane Maihi – meaning the Stars are rolling in defensive talent to combat whatever the Pulse throw at them. The Stars will go into this game favourites and deservedly so given their current form and the Pulse’s poor start.

Southern Steel vs. Mainland Tactix

After a slow start to the season the Tactix have found their groove, winning their past two encounters. That is mainly due to the return of Te Paea Selby-Rickit. The goal attack has made a world of difference both through the midcourt and in attack providing her side with nothing but confidence. Having gone down to the Steel by a goal in her return game this match-up will be an enthralling one as the Tactix will be hoping to overturn the result. On the other hand the Steel are coming off a strong win and will be riding a wave of confidence.

Having already touched on Selby-Rickit it is only fair to bring up partner in crime, Ellie Bird. The towering goal shooter looks at ease with Selby-Rickit and benefits off her pinpoint precision passes and ability to draw the attention of the defender. Bird is prolific to post meaning Taneisha Fifita and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit will need to shut her down, although Fifita will need to adjust her attack on the ball if the Steel are to secure a win after getting sent off for the final two minutes of last week’s game.

The Steel are not without a power shooter of their own in George Fisher. The England international has been a revelation since crossing over to the ANZ Premiership, with her fancy footwork, range and versatility a couple of key attributes. Her combination with Tiana Metuarau has developed at a rate of knots while Shannon Saunders and Kate Heffernan have become a power duo through the centre with their silky movement and spatial awareness. But the Tactix have game winners of their own especially in the defence end to combat Fisher with Jane Watson and Karin Burger steadily building. Yet to fully hit their stride, the defensive duo will be eager to pick up a wealth of ball and cause chaos down back with support from the likes of Charlotte Elley and Kimiora Poi.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic vs. Northern Mystics

The final game of the round sees the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic host the Northern Mystics in what is sure to be an exciting battle. The Magic have been a step off the pace while the Mystics will be ruing missed opportunities coming off a one-goal loss in overtime. After securing their first win way back in Round 1 the Magic have shown glimpses of brilliance but are yet to unlock that full four quarter effort. As for the Mystics they have depth aplenty and will be keen to get back on the winners list.

Caitlin Bassett played less than a half of netball in Round 5 and will be keen to make amends for her poor showing, putting up an accurate performance but struggling to find the volume. But the Magic will take great confidence in knowing that Khiarna Williams and Chiara Semple are both more than capable of holding their own in the circle, despite really thriving with Bassett under the post. The Mystics have a number of seasoned campaigners in Sulu Fitzpatrick and Ama Agbeze amongst the mix but would be remiss not to talk about Kate Burley who has not skipped a beat since crossing over, with the goal defence a real workhorse for the Mystics and providing strong drives through the centre.

With Bassett down one end, the Mystics boast Grace Nweke down the other end. The teenage shooting prodigy gets better and better every time she steps out on court with her strength in the air and body positioning pivotal to the Mystics’ success. Bailey Mes will be out to redeem herself after a poor showing last week, but in saying that the Mystics have options aplenty inside the circle with Filda Vui and Saviour Tui viable options to accompany Nweke. The real gamechanger however is Peta Toeava. The wing attack controls the proceedings in attack for the Mystics, receiving just about every second pass and most importantly could thread the needle into Nweke with her eyes closed. The Magic defenders in Erena Mikaere, Temalisi Fakahokotau and Georgia Tong will need to be on their A-game to shut this down. They will also need the likes of Sam Winders and Georgie Edgecombe to shut down the midcourt if they are any chance to topple the Mystics.

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