2023 ANZ Premiership Preview: Grand Final
THIS is it. The big one. It is time for the 2023 ANZ Premiership Grand Final.
Tomorrow will see a new champion of New Zealand, with either the Northern Mystics or Northern Stars just 24 hours away from lifting the trophy.
If the Mystics win, it will be trophy number two for the minor premiers after they took the title two years ago. If the Stars win though, it would be an inaugural title for them. Regardless, the trophy is still heading north to Auckland.
THE PATH TO THE FINAL
The Mystics finished the regular season on top as the minor premiers, which is where they had spent much of the year. They only lost four times across the year, to the Magic and Stars once and the Pulse twice. This earned them a pass straight into tomorrow’s decider, bypassing the Elimination Final.
The Stars on the other hand had a slightly longer path to the decider. Finishing two wins behind their Grand Final opponents, they had to go through the Elimination Final route, which saw them beat last year’s title winners the Central Pulse to make it through to tomorrow’s decider.
THE LAST TIME THESE TWO SIDES MET
These two have met three times in 2023.
First time around was in Round 4, and after a strong start from the Mystics the Stars came right back in the second half but still lost by three goals. Tayla Earle and Phoenix Karaka both starred for the Mystics that day, while Gina Crampton and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan both had 46 feeds for the Stars that day.
Second time around it went to extra time, but it was the Stars who prevailed to the tune of two goals. This time around Crampton and Reuelu-Buchanan both had over 50 feeds for the victors, while Elisapeta Toeava had over 40 feeds for the Mystics and Carys Stythe had five gains.
Third time around, it was a give goal win to the Mystics after a solid first quarter. Grace Nweke scored over 50 goals that day, while it was also one of Reuelu-Buchanan’s 60-plus feed games. Amorangi Malesala also had one of her best games for the season that day and her versatility in her contributions also saw her make Team of the Week.
THE KEY PLAYERS
Both teams certainly have their areas of strength that their opponent will need to be mindful of in order to get the win.
For the Mystics, it is Nweke, who has scored over 100 more goals this season than her nearest rival, which funnily enough is Maia Wilson who will be her opposite number tomorrow. Elle Temu and the rest of the Stars defence will certainly have a lot on their plate this weekend to not only thwart Nweke, but to disrupt the partnership between her and Toeava feeding into the circle.
For the Stars, it is their midcourt duo of Crampton and Reuelu-Buchanan. The pair regularly get 40-plus feeds and 20-plus assists in a game, sometimes northwards of 60 feeds a game in Reuelu-Buchanan’s case, so Earle and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and the rest of the Mystics’ midcourt will have to find a way to disrupt how much ball the pair are getting.