2021 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 8

ANOTHER round of ANZ Premiership action rolls around with Round 8 set to be an exciting one with the Northern Stars looking to maintain their spot on top of the ladder and Central Pulse hoping to extend their winning streak to three games.

Mainland Tactix vs. Central Pulse

The Tactix will be ruing their missed opportunities from last round and will be hoping to come out with a real pep in their step when they take on the reigning premiers who are just starting to find their groove having strung together consecutive wins. The Pulse have leapfrogged the Tactix on the ladder and will be eager to maintain that position with a potential third straight win here.

The combination between Karin Burger and Jane Watson is finally starting to gel and the duo are becoming incredibly damaging with their ability to go out and hunt the cross court ball and apply hands over pressure on the shot meaning Aliyah Dunn and Te Amo Amaru-Tibble will have to be weary. The Pulse are at their best when Amaru-Tibble is able to find the post and use her quick hands to create plays in attack while Dunn is most damaging when able to hold strong under the post. Whitney Souness has been in hot form with her speed and pinpoint passes into the circle while Claire Kersten has also been a driving force for the Pulse meaning Charlotte Elley will have to up the ante if she is to keep Souness busy and reduce her impact.

Kelera Nawai has well and truly found her feet in goal keeper using her long arms and read of the play to force turnovers aplenty. Nawai will have to use all of her aerial skill against Ellie Bird with the Mainland Tactix goal shooter using her height to full advantage to command the ball and put up a high volume of shots. Her confidence has grown since Te Paea Selby-Rickit came back into the fold with the goal attack not only shouldering the load in the goal circle but so too in attack. Selby-Rickit brings both Samon Nathan and Kimiora Poi into the game something the Pulse and in particular Kelly Jury will need to be aware of if they are any chance to secure the win. Expect Jury to implement some strong hands over pressure and fancy footwork to keep Selby-Rickit from finding Bird under the post while Maddy Gordon will be hoping to use her closing speed to shut down Nathan.

Southern Steel vs. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

The Southern Steel have been in damaging form throughout 2021 and while they have lacked consistency at times to win back-to-back games they definitely have the calibre to do so. Conversely the Magic have only registered the one win this season and will be hoping to put out a dominant performance and really ruffle some feathers.

Many fans were left confused when Grace Kara got the nod in at goal attack as opposed to shooting dynamo Khiarna Williams or Chiara Semple last round. Although Kara is a great playmaker it is fair to say that the accuracy and volume needed to put up a competitive total was lacking thus it will be interesting to see whether or not the Magic opt for this same dynamic against the Steel who are renowned for their physical and ball winning defence. Speaking of the Steel defence, goal keeper Taneisha Fifita has been in ripping form but will have work cut out for against the highly-experienced and classy Caitlin Bassett who had her best game to date last round. Fifita will need support from Te Huinga Selby-Rickit while Sarahpheinna Woulf has also proven to be an explosive option in defence for the Steel with her tenacity and  hunt for the ball key.

The Magic welcomed back defensive midcourter Holly Fowler adding another string to their bow through the centre third to compliment the likes of Sam Winders, Erena Mikaere, Georgia Tong and Temalisi Fakahokotua. In fact, Waikato Bay of Plenty are brimming with defensive talent and will be hoping that their aerial ability and pressure is enough to offset the fast growing connection between George Fisher and Tiana Metuarau. The Steel shooting duo are slick, able to rotate the circle with ease and are not afraid to back themselves range making them a handful for the Magic defence. The other interesting contest will be through the midcourt with Kate Heffernan showcasing her versatility to effectively ply her trade in centre or wing defence much like Winders while Shannon Saunders is a real driving force in attack and someone the Magic will need to shut down if they are to secure their second win of the season.

Northern Mystics vs. Northern Stars

A top two battle is set to round out the action as the Northern Mystics host the Northern Stars. The Stars have been unstoppable despite their blip against the Pulse while the Mystics have also strung together some convincing performances and will be hoping to put out a strong performance in this clash.

It will be a battle of the dominant goal shooters with Grace Nweke up one end and Maia Wilson down the other end. Nweke is a lynchpin for the Mystics and has proven time and time again to be an aerial threat but will have to take the ball strongly up against Elle Temu and Anna Harrison. The Stars defensive duo have developed at a rate of knots able to seamlessly switch between goal keeper and goal defence with their ball winning capabilities and read of the play second to none to swat ball away. Nweke will need the likes of Bailey Mes, Filda Vui and even Savior Tui who has seen little court time so far in season 2021 to draw some attention off her if the Mystics are to put up a competitive score. Jamie Hume has really come into her own for the Stars, partnering with Wilson to drain the long bombs and use her silky movement to keep defenders busy and will have to be on her a-game against Kate Burley and Sulu Fitzpatrick with the latter a great physical matchup for Wilson.

Missing Tayla Earle last week the Mystics will be hoping to have the dynamic midcourter back to allow Peta Toeava to get down to business around circle edge. But the Stars have key cogs of their own through the midcourt with Lisa Mather able to grind out the game in wing defence and a real unsung hero for the defensive unit while Mila Reuelu-Buchanan is a livewire through the midcourt with her run and gun style. Speaking of midcourters all eyes will turn to the influence in which Gina Crampton can have for the stars with her connection between Wilson steadily growing. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Stars are able to weave their magic against a slick defensive combination.

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