2021 ANZ Premiership: Young guns – Round 12

ROUND 12 of the ANZ Premiership is done and dusted and with that came some scintillating performances from the next generation of players. This series will cast an eye over a host of under 21s players that made their way out on court and the impact they had for their respective sides.

Northern Mystics:

Grace Nweke
Down on her accuracy in this performance, Nweke still managed to keep the scores ticking along. Shaky under the post to start the game the goal shooter worked her way into form and once again proved to be unstoppable once she got going. She was unfazed by the changing players around her with Bailey Mes and Filda Vui both offering different styles of play out the front. Nweke impressed with her aerial ability once again and even brought out the party trick at times to pull in balls that were sailing over the goal-line, such was her strength. Up against the likes of Anna Harrison and Elle Temu, Nweke held strong and used her footwork to hold close to the baseline and protect the back space to pop back into it. She was a constant threat and was not afraid to put her body on the line to contest in the air time and time again. Her shooting volume was also another standout factor as she led the charge with a whopping 54 goals.

Tayla Earle
The centre was a real nuisance in defence combining her speed and hands over pressure to win ball back. She was a consistent figure across all thirds of the court and used her timing around circle edge to get hands in. Earle did not skip a beat and really upped the ante in attack to feed into the likes of Nweke, Mes and Vui whether it be from circle edge or further away. Her versatility on the pass kept the opposition on their toes as she flicked the ball around the court with great ease and most importantly backed herself in. Earle treasured possession with each and every pass finding its target, as her composure and willingness to reset play came to the fore throughout the contest.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:

Khiarna Williams
It was a standout performance by the young goal attack who used her timing and silky hands to dish off passes into Caitlin Bassett. Williams was not afraid to back herself from range with her innate timing and smarts to work into the space a commanding characteristic in her game play. The crafty goal attack showcased her netball smarts and awareness to plough away and add to the scoreboard at every opportunity she could. Her movement along the baseline was second to none while her confidence to release the ball from distance into Bassett grew by the minute. Her aerial ability was also on display able to leap right up and reel in the ball while her balance was also on show, using her tippy-toes along the baseline to stay in play.

Central Pulse:

Maddy Gordon
The fancy-footed midcourter continues to work in overdrive in wing defence for the Pulse. She took advantage of her speed to close down the space and contested hard for each and every pass that came her way. Gordon was never content with just letting the play happen, constantly niggling away at her opponent. Her ability to use the outside arm and cleanly attack the ball and win it back for the Pulse was paramount, while another key component of her game play was her transitional work, able to drive the ball down the court in a heartbeat. She forced changes in the Tactix attack end with her smothering style of play not allowing any fluidity for Samon Nathan or Erikana Pedersen. Gordon was a real workhorse who plied her trade around circle edge to create deflections aplenty and when switched into centre showcased her smarts to feed into the goalers with ease.

Paris Lokotui
Lokotui enjoyed the extra time out on court in this match with the goal defence using her footwork and body to try and nullify Te Paea Selby-Rickit. Her big wingspan allowed her to block the vision of Selby-Rickit and created some pressure on the shot credit to her nice lean. She helped out on transition, getting up nice and high on the transverse line to provide an outlet pass when the Pulse got stuck. Lokotui showed great nous to just appear in the right space at the right time and utilised her smarts to keep the ball moving forward. She was also relatively clean which enabled her to mount pressure down back and keep the feeders on their toes with her constant movement and long arms.

Southern Steel:

Tiana Metuarau
As one of the more experienced heads in the circle, Metuarau showcased her class and fancy footwork to dominate. She was involved in just about every passage of play and often fought hard to secure front position when entering the goal circle. The goal attack took advantage of her strong hands and silky movement to slice through the Magic defence and impose herself on the contest. Despite being the shortest player in the goal circle, Metuarau contested hard for everything that came her way, using her aerial ability to reel in the rebounds. She just continued to glide into the goal circle relatively unmarked and weaved her magic to create space for herself and Grace Namana.

Taneisha Fifita
The goal keeper signalled her intent nice and early using her footwork to take front space against Bassett and swat ball away. Fifita’s constant movement and repositioning was impressive as she confused the space inside the circle. As time went on she did tire though as the experience of Bassett started to take a toll but she did continue to plug away. Fifita was light on her feet and showcased her willingness to contest the ball and create doubt in the feeders mind with her ability to hedge bets and go out hunting.

Kate Heffernan
Heffernan was never far from the action with her height and speed coming to the fore throughout the contest. Her defensive marking allowed her to mount pressure and block the vision of her opponent. The centre gave constant niggle around circle edge and was forced to pay a wealth of attention to Sam Winders. Heffernan was not afraid to go back to the transverse line and reset the play if she was unhappy with what was in front of her while she also put in the hard yards to manoeuvre her way around the court. The centre impressed with her ability to keep Winders away from circle edge with her ability to dance around the perimeter and block any quick transitional play a clear focus.

Renee Savai’inaea
There is no denying that Savai’inaea plays more of a space-marking role and in turn does not receive a wealth of accolades for her work. She is renowned for her dogged style of defence and that was on show throughout her 60 minutes on court as she plugged away at her opposition by shutting down the space. She constantly niggled and blocked the vision of Grace Kara, Katie Te Ao and Tori Kolose forcing copious amount of changes. It was Savai’inaea’s ability to create doubt that saw her impress as she often goes along as the unsung hero in the Steel’s defensive unit.

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