THERE will be a lot of ‘what ifs?’ about the 2022 ANZ Premiership season for the Northern Mystics. The reigning premiers stormed out of the blocks to be the clear benchmark team early, and even with some COVID-19 interruptions and postponements, the Mystics took a lead that, until the last few games looked unassailable. Then an injury to star shooter Grace Nweke saw the Mystics season slowly slip away, and though she returned for the elimination final, could not get them over the line and the Mystics had to settle for third.
Goals For: 858 (1st)
Goals Against: 807 (4th)
Goal Difference: 51 (3rd)
WHAT WENT RIGHT?
A lot for two thirds of the season. The Mystics lost their first game in what looks odd now being the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, then started racking up the wins. At one point, they were 9-2 and were about a win away from the minor premiership. The defensive trio of Phoenix Karaka, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and Sulu Fitzpatrick was a strong one, and though they only ranked fourth defensively, it was just needing to have more experience through the midcourt.
Tayla Earle is a rising star, and Elisapeta Toeava had some big games, but it was about consistency for the talent in the Mystics, with Claire O’Brien coming in from the Suncorp Super Netball, but not getting as much court time as first thought. Though both Monica Falkner and Filda Vui played support for Nweke well, once they had to step up against the more experienced defenders, the Mystics struggled. The debut season of Carys Stythe was a good one and is one to watch in the future.
The injury to Nweke triggered a four-game losing streak to finish the regular season, and it hurt the Mystics given the focal point and presence the young Silver Fern has in the shooting circle. She was near-unstoppable under the post for most of the season, and with the Mystics able to feed her the ball the way she wanted it, there was very little the opposition could do. When she went out, the Mystics had to go to Plan B, even getting Karaka to play goal shooter for a time, because the goal circle was nowhere near as potent. It showed the importance of Nweke, but also the importance to have depth in the shooting position and to plan around smaller shooters.
Northern Mystics have already announced their 2023 squad, and have not made any chances to the 10 named. Given that with Nweke the Mystics could have gone at least to the grand final just purely through the lead they had on the competition, there is not too much to tweak in the lineup. If the 2021 premiers can have a fully fit lineup in 2023, then watch out.