ROUND 11 of the ANZ Premiership kicks off this weekend with a top of the table clash headlining the round. The clash between Central Pulse and Mainland Tactix has been rescheduled to Tuesday due to the raised COVID-19 Alert Level in Wellington and could be subject to further change depending on government requirements.
Northern Stars vs. Northern Mystics
Sunday, June 27 @6:15pm
A top of the table battle between Northern Stars and Northern Mystics is set to bring plenty of excitement. Both sides are yet to fully unleash but will have to be on song for a full four quarters if they are to claim the upper hand with the Stars hoping to create some ladder separation while the Mystics will be eager to close the gap.
The last time these two sides met the Stars were shown up as the Mystics got the job done by a couple of goals. it will be interesting to see if this time around the Stars opt to shake up their defensive structure like they did in their Round 8 clash with Anna Harrison getting the nod out in wing defence to try and combat Peta Toeava while Oceane Maihi and Elle Temu pulled on the goal keeper and goal defence bib respectively. Harrison showcased her class in goal keeper last round and arguably does some of her best work when able to run freely in the circle, and also matches Grace Nweke better for height. Nweke and Toeava have a damaging combination with the latter able to sight Nweke with great ease under the post however there are plenty of questions around Toeava’s fitness given she came from the court in the dying minutes of the game with a niggle. The Mystics are blessed with depth in the attacking third with the likes of Bailey Mes and Filda Vui able to take on the wing attack role if Toeava is unable to take the court, despite their preferred position being under the post.
Defensively Sulu Fitzpatrick only continues to get better and the goal keeper will have to have her wits about her when she takes on Maia Wilson. The Stars goaler has been down on her lofty standards and will be keen to get back to her damaging ways with a big performance here. Jamie Hume has been a solid contributor out in goal attack while Amorangi Malesala has proven to be an impact player for the ladder leading side with her accuracy to post and crafty court play. With Fitzpatrick down in keeper, Kate Burley has plied her trade in goal defence and has not skipped a beat with her closing speed and dynamism on full display. Fa’amu Ioane returned to the court last round but left prematurely after landing awkwardly so it will be interesting to see if she is out on court on Sunday, as someone will have to try and wrangle Gina Crampton who has been in scintillating form for the Stars with her drive to circle edge.
Southern Steel vs. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, June 28 @7:15pm
Both sides come into this match with injury concerns with the Southern Steel missing English international George Fisher who is out with concussion, while it is uncertain whether or not Caitlin Bassett will get out on court for the Magic after buckling her knee last round. The Steel are currently tied for points on the ladder with the Tactix and are in desperate need of a win to edge ahead.
Without Fisher the load will fall to Tiana Metuarau with the goaler an experienced head despite still being young. She will likely be joined by Kiana Pelasio who got her first run out on court last round when Fisher went down. With Metuarau likely to play back in goal shooter it will be up to the likes of Shannon Saunders and Kate Heffernan to bring the ball down and allow her to post up strongly inside the circle if the Steel are to generate any real scoring momentum. But it will not be easy given the Magic boast a ridiculous amount of defensive talent with the long arms of Erena Mikaere sure to have an impact both over the shot and out on the hunt. Throw in the aerial capacity of Georgia Tong, Holly Fowler’s defensive nous and the potential return of Temalisi Fakahokotau and the Magic could quite easily have the upper hand here.
The Magic were without Grace Kara last week and will be hoping the former Silver Fern will be available for selection this week with her crafty play around circle imperative especially if Bassett is out of action. Tori Kolose has been a consistent figure for the Magic but they might need some extra experience if the shooting load is left to youngster Khiarna Williams and Chiara Semple. Both goalers in Williams and Semple have gotten frequent court time in the past couple of weeks and are able to shoot from distance or directly under the post. Neither of them play a holding role meaning that the Magic could have a different look with a moving circle to keep the likes of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita on their toes.
Central Pulse vs. Mainland Tactix
Tuesday, June 29 @7:15pm
The final game of the round is do or die for both teams. They have already had to jump through a few hoops with the game pushed back to Tuesday which will provide the teams with a little bit longer to recover from their respective Round 10 clashes. It has been a disappointing season for the Pulse while the Tactix are coming off a history making win and will be eager to keep that momentum going in this clash.
Ellie Bird came back with a point to prove after missing Round 9 with concussion and will be hoping to replicate her dominance against some quality defence. Bird is a commanding presence with her strong holds and height to control proceedings while her combination with Te Paea Selby-Rickit is crucial. If Kelera Nawai and Kelly Jury are unable to shut down the shooter to shooter interplay between Selby-Rickit and Bird it could spell real trouble for the reigning premiers. Samon Nathan and Kimiora Poi are also in scintillating form with the pair able to use their speed and change of direction to open up the court. But they will have their work cut out for them up against Claire Kersten and Maddy Gordon with the Pulse midcourters able to lockdown their opponents and Gordon in particular able to use her speed to shut down the space.
In attack, Aliyah Dunn will have to up the ante alongside Te Amo Amaru-Tibble to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The two shooters will have to share the load to ensure that Dunn is not lumped with all the responsibility in the circle given that Jane Watson and Karin Burger are in ripping form. Dunn does her best work when able to hold in the circle which plays into the hands of both Watson and Burger credit to their one-on-one physicality and ability to hunt any cross court ball and use their elevation to create turnovers aplenty. Whitney Souness will have to be crafty in attack for the Pulse to bypass the prying arms of the Tactix with Charlotte Elley another explosive defensive option.