2021 ANZ Premiership: Round 5 preview

NORTHERN Stars will be on the prowl for their fifth straight win for the ANZ Premiership season while Central Pulse will be eager to bounce back after a slow start to their title defence in this week’s action.

Central Pulse vs. Southern Steel
Sunday, May 16 @ 4:15pm

There is no shortage of youth and talent in both sides with the Steel boasting five players under the age of 21 and the Pulse with three. That being said, the Steel are in better shape heading into the clash having won two of their four games and most importantly their Round 3 clash against the Pulse. The reigning premiers will be hoping to get one back here and restore their season after a disappointing campaign so far.

Crossing to the Steel in 2021, Tiana Metuarau knows the game plan of the Central Pulse like the back of her hand. She is a crafty player that can turn the game upside down with her quick feeds into the circle and confidence to go herself. Her ever-evolving partnership with George Fisher will be something to watch with Fisher a commanding force inside the goal circle. Plenty of intrigue will circulate around whether or not Kelly Jury gets the start in goal keeper in hope to nullify the influence of Fisher under the post with the two standing at similar heights and Jury more than capable of competing in the air. If she does not get start expect Kelera Nawai to ply her trade and use her physicality to offset Fisher early. Another niggle to Maddy Gordon will influence how the midcourt shapes up with Paris Lokotui a potential to slot into wing defence with her hands over pressure and closing speed. Either Lokotui or Gordon will have their work cut out for them against experienced campaigner Shannon Saunders who is a real calming presence in an otherwise frenetic Southern Steel attack.

Missing Ameliaranne Ekenasio, the Pulse have been strapped for scoring options especially when Aliyah Dunn is well held meaning Te Amo Amaru-Tibble will have to be on her A-game against the likes of Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita. Do not be surprised if Whitney Souness is also thrown into the goal circle to provide a bit of punch with her cuts and drives for the Pulse. The Steel have plenty of ball winners with Fifita headlining the defensive unit alongside Renee Savai’inaea and fancy-footed midcourter Kate Heffernan.

Mainland Tactix vs. Northern Mystics
Monday, May 17 @6:15pm

The Tactix and the Mystics will face off again with the Tactix hoping to flip the script and score a win this time round. Playing in front of a home crowd expect the Tactix to thrive off the energy and build off their win last week while the Mystics are shaping up as real finals contenders. Last time they met only one goal separated the two and if that is any indication of how this match will go it is sure to be a cracker contest once again.

It will be a battle of the goal shooters with Grace Nweke down one end of the court and Ellie Bird up the other. Both play that typical strong holding goal shooter role, able to pile on the scoreboard pressure and do so at a fast rate meaning their respective defenders will need support from their midcourt to shut down the ball movement. Nweke has no problem adapting to whoever she plays with whether it be Bailey Mes, Filda Vui or Saviour Tui such is her class. The real issue lies with stopping Peta Toeava with the wing attack a magician with ball in hand. She is constantly able to make something out of nothing with her play-on style of netball enabling her to bypass the defenders. The decision then falls to the Tactix on whether to play Charlotte Elley or get creative and push Karin Burger back out to wing defence despite her combination with Jane Watson developing at a rate of knots. The pair are able to read each other and the play to cherry-pick intercepts and create havoc down back, gifting the Tactix with a wealth of additional scoring chances.

Bird had a game to remember last round, and looks much more comfortable and confident with Te Paea Selby-Rickit out the front. The Silver Ferns goal attack is a real playmaker and was the catalyst in her side’s resurgence in Round 3 so except Kate Burley and Sulu Fitzpatrick to pay her plenty of attention. The teammates around her also thrive off her experience and smarts with Kimiora Poi, Erikana Pedersen and Samon Nathan all crafty with ball in hand and capable of threading the needle into the goal circle.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic vs. Northern Stars
Monday, May 17 @8:15pm

The final game of the round sees Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic take on Northern Stars. The Stars are looking to keep their unblemished record intact with a win here while the Magic are hoping to secure their next win after getting close in patches but falling away in the dying stages. Playing a similar game style given the inclusion of prominent goal shooters, it will come down to the defensive efforts from both sides to see which way the game goes.

Maia Wilson has been in scintillating form under the post for the Stars with her versatility and range causing all sorts of headaches for opposition defenders. However, the Magic are brimming with talent in that back-end department with the likes of Temalisi Fakahokotau, Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong all viable options in the circle. The trio are renowned for their aerial presence meaning the likes of Jamie Hume and Gina Crampton will have to get crafty with ball in hand to deliver to Wilson. Hume has really upped the ante in 2021 not only dictating play out the front but getting busy on the scoring front, while it is still unknown when Monica Falkner will return to the mix.

Mila Reuelu-Buchanan somewhat flies under the radar for the Stars but the battle between her and Magic captain Sam Winders is sure to be an eye catcher. Neither player are willing to take a backwards step and are real barometers for their respective sides with their closing speed and hard drives a couple of key attributes. It is hard to go past lynchpin goal shooter, Caitlin Bassett with the Australian more than capable of scoring quickly and accurately. Her combination with Khiarna Williams is constantly evolving with Williams bringing a sense of pizzazz to the attacking unit. Chiara Semple is also another option, able to shoot from distance and position herself well inside the circle to benefit both her own game and her goal shooter’s. But it will be a challenging contest inside the circle with the long arms of Anna Harrison and the in-form Elle Temu making the duo game changers; throw Oceane Maihi in the mix and the Stars have no shortage ball winners.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments