ANZ Premiership elimination final preview: Northern Stars vs. Northern Mystics

AFTER a disastrous end to the regular season since shooter Grace Nweke‘s injury, there are question marks as to whether or not the Northern Mystics can in fact stop the run without her. The team that held pole position for most of the year once the season settled down, were one win away from securing the minor premiership for many weeks, but then they fell in a hole and lost the last four games without Nweke. Now they must find a way to keep their dreams of back-to-back flags alive against the Northern Stars tomorrow night.

The Stars on the other hand are coming in off a six-game winning streak, where for a little while it looked like they might miss finals altogether, but straightened up and not only made finals, but earned a home elimination final.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Northern Stars 1 – Northern Mystics 2

The Stars’ last loss came on May 8 against the Mystics, going down by three goals at Pulman Arena, where next Sunday’s grand final will take place. That game the Mystics were at full-strength with Nweke on fire, much like when the Mystics destroyed the Stars by 24 goals back in Round 7. With the tables turned in Round 11, the Stars belted the Mystics by 21 goals in perhaps the most accurate representation of recent form.

LAST TIME: Northern Stars (59) defeated Northern Mystics (38)

The Stars just battered them through the middle two quarters, scoring 34 goals to 16 to blow the difference out of the water on their way to a 59-38 victory. Elle Temu was incredible in defence, picking up five intercepts, three rebounds, 10 gains and nine deflections to shut don the Mystics inexperienced shooting partnership. The Stars should have won by more considering they shot at just 72 per cent, with Maia Wilson (37 goals from 47 attempts), Jamie Hume (18 from 28) and Amorangi Malesala (four from seven) really not finding their range. No one was able to stand up in the Mystics shooting circle with more than 14 goals, with Monica Falkner (14 from 17 and six goal assists) and Filda Vui (14 from 19), forcing defender Phoenix Karaka down there to nail a goal in a temporary relief for the Mystics. Sulu Fitzpatrick was the Mystics best with eight gains, four deflections and six rebounds.


The Northern Stars midcourt of Gina Crampton and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan is crucial because both sides have the talent to at least feed the ball to the shooters, and that pair rank first and third respectively with 641 and 544 feeds each. Elisapeta Toeava and Tayla Earle are also among the top 10 players in that statistical category with 415 and 356 feeds each. The team that gets on top in the midcourt will likely influence the game.

In the Stars’ attacking end, they would dearly love Nweke to get back out on court, but a lot of the work will fall on goal attack Falkner’s shoulders to help steer the ship with Vui and Grace Namana the other key options. The defensive pairing of Temu and veteran Anna Harrison makes life difficult for the younger defence, with both among the more consistent defenders this year.

Up the other end, Fitzpatrick, Karaka and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson is a rock solid defensive third, and it will not be easy for the likes of Wilson and Hume. Inaccuracy has plagued the pair this season, with 86 and 70 per cent shooting accuracies, both among the lowest for their respective positions. If they can find their range, then it is hard to see the Stars losing, but if the strong Mystics defence can do enough to force misses and subsequent turnovers, then anything is possible if their young shooters can get the job done up the other end.


It is hard to go past the Northern Stars on form here, they are firing on all cylinders, while the Northern Mystics have come to a grinding halt. If Nweke makes it back it could be a different ball game, but even then, she will lack that match fitness, making it difficult for the Mystics.

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