2021 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 7

THE Northern Stars’ winning streak has ended while Mainland Tactix have found their winning formula with three consecutive wins. ANZ Premiership Round 7 is set to bring some exciting matchups as Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic hunt for their second victory of the season.

Northern Mystics vs. Southern Steel

The contest between the Northern Mystics and Southern Steel is set to be a thriller as both sides boast a prolific goal shooter. The Mystics currently hold onto second spot on the ladder while the Steel have slipped down the ladder and will be eager to work their way back into the mid-table logjam.

With Grace Nweke up one end for the Mystics and George Fisher up the other end for the Steel it will ultimately come down to the output from the goal attacks. The Mystics have a plethora of options such as Bailey Mes, Filda Vui and Saviour Tui. Mes has struggled to find her form as of late while Vui proved to add that element of energy and dynamism in attack and could be an option once again in this clash. For the Steel, Tiana Metuarau has been a handy pickup with the youngster starring thanks to her change of direction, classy feeds into the circle and spatial awareness. Nweke is a pillar of strength at the post while Fisher is incredibly versatile in the sense she is willing to venture further out than directly under the ring. The midcourt battle between Tayla Earle and Peta Toeava and the developing Kate Heffernan and Renee Savai’inaea will be intriguing with Toeava the real mastermind in the Mystics attack end.

Looking at the defensive units and both sides boast plenty of star power. The combination between Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kate Burley is steadily developing as the two look to take advantage of their ball-hunting ability while Ama Agbeze is a handy option off the bench given her class, experience and skillset. The Southern Steel have a mix of youth and experience in their defensive circle in Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita. However one area they will be hoping to address is the number of penalties they rack up week on week as both Fifita and Selby-Rickit have been given warnings in their past two outings with Fifita sent off in Round 5. They will need to be on their A-game if they are to upset the Mystics shooters and most importantly win ball back cleanly to provide the Steel with a chance to capitalise.

Central Pulse vs. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

The Pulse will be riding high after knocking off the undefeated Northern Stars last round while the Magic will be eager to get back on the winners list after a couple of close shaves. It has been a trying season for both sides who have shown glimpses of what they are capable of but have been unable to unlock that full four quarter performance to consistently win games.

Aliyah Dunn was in scintillating form last round with her strong holds, volume and accuracy. She will be hoping to continue that form in this game as will partner in crime Te Amo Amaru-Tibble. The goal attack is a real barometer for the front end with her timing, strong drives along the baseline and playmaking skills able to allow Dunn to come into the game and alleviate pressure from the midcourters in Claire Kersten and Whitney Souness. The Magic have a multitude of defensive options with Temalisi Fakahokotau, Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong all aerial specialists and able to build a wealth of pressure on the Pulse shooting duo. if they are able to get into their heads early and cut off the shooter to shooter interplay it will go a long way in them collecting their second win of the season.

The influence of Grace Kara is instrumental in the Magic attack with the wing attack oozing confidence, class and execution to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Caitlin Bassett. That was evident last week and the Magic will be hoping she brings that high level output this round to bypass speedster Maddy Gordon. The wing defence was in just about everything last round and will be eager to once again impose herself and slow down the entry into the circle. Bassett, Khiarna Williams and Chiara Semple are building a strong connection with Williams growing in confidence every time she steps out on court but potentially up against the long arms of Kelly Jury could have to diversify her game while Kelera Nawai seems to have found her groove for the Pulse.

Northern Stars vs. Mainland Tactix

The final game of the round sees a highly anticipated matchup as the Stars look to bounce back from last week’s loss while the Tactix will be keen to keep their winning form rolling with a fourth straight victory. Last time these two sides met it was the Stars that had the last laugh and exposed the Tactix in all areas of the court, something the Tactix will be hoping to rectify this time round.

Maia Wilson is the lynchpin in the goal circle for the Stars with the goal shooter a clear and commanding target. Her fancy footwork, body positioning and strong holds put her in good stead to take on the defence but she will have to up the ante against the likes of Jane Watson and Karin Burger who know just about every trick of the trade. Burger has really started to settle into the line-up with her closing speed, read of the play and spatial awareness causing all sorts of havoc and if she is able to take her connection with Watson to the next level then it could spell danger signs for the Stars. Goal attack, Jamie Hume has stepped up to the challenge in the absence of Monica Falkner while Amorangi Malesala proved she can be a real impact player thanks to her long bombs and composure. The real difference will come down to whether or not Gina Crampton can get free reign around circle edge to thread the needle into Wilson or if Charlotte Elley will be able to contain her.

Up the other end of the court Ellie Bird has come to life ever since Te Paea Selby-Rickit made her way back from injury. The towering goal shooter has found her rhythm and confidence to demand the ball and most importantly score at a high accuracy and quickly. Meanwhile, Selby-Rickit has alleviated the pressure from Bird under the post and her midcourters in Kimiora Poi and Samon Nathan credit to her playmaking skills. Expect the Stars defenders in Anna Harrison, Elle Temu and Oceane Maihi to look to shut down the drive of Selby-Rickit and wear her like a glove to force the Tactix midcourt to up the ante and shoulder the attacking load.

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