ANZ Premiership Preview: Round 9

ROUND 9 brings some big contests between the sides and with the finals only a couple of games away all eyes will turn to those just sitting outside of the top three as they make a charge to the end of the season.

Central Pulse v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

The Pulse are going from strength to strength with their connections down the court increasing each round. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic have had a relatively up and down season struggling to find consistency but will want to put their best foot forward to show that they can compete with the best in the league.

There will be some key match-ups across the court with the likes of Aliyah Dunn set to come up against Magic goal keeper Kelly Jury. Dunn is one of the most prolific and accurate shooters in the competition, while her connection with shooting partner Ameliaranne Ekenasio is second to none making them a dominant force in the goal circle. Given their ability to break open a game, Jury and experienced defender Casey Kopua will have their work cut out for them. Kopua is known for her aggressive hunt for the ball and antagonising type of play making her a key cog in disrupting the flow of Pulse’s front end.

With a relatively inexperienced goal circle the Magic will hope that their youth drives them to overcome the expected defensive pressure of the Pulse. Magic shooters Monica Falkner, Abigail Latu-Meafou and Kelsey McPhee will have to withstand the physicality and impressive three foot marking from Pulse defenders, Katrina Rore, Sulu Fitzpatrick and Karin Burger. All three are renowned for their hunt of the ball, aerial ability and smothering defence making for an intriguing contest.

Mainland Tactix v. Northern Stars

After a disappointing couple of weeks the Northern Stars will be hoping to come out with a vengeance and get themselves back onto the winners list. Meanwhile the Tactix will want to find some form coming into the latter end of the season and finish the year on a high.

Both the Tactix and Stars have prolific shooters with Ellie Bird standing tall in the goal circle for the Tactix. Her accuracy and high volume has made her an invaluable member to the squad while up the other end for the Stars, Maia Wilson often has the ball on a string. Her excellent control, clever movement in the circle and general netball smarts makes her unstoppable. With such strong goal shooters it will come down to the workload of the goal attack to help post a competitive total. The Stars will be looking to Ellen Halpenny and Charlee Hodges who both offer great composure and shooting ability to help carry the load in attack. For the Tactix goal attack Kate Beveridge and Brooke Leaver will have to stand up if they are a chance against the Stars.

The goal keeper position will also be one to watch with Leana De Bruin or Storm Purvis more than likely to don the bib for the Stars and use their experience to wear down her opponent. Both defenders are aerially talented and have the ability to read the flight of the ball well and quell the influence of their attacking counterparts. Meanwhile Tactix defender Jane Watson will be hoping her impressive lean and athleticism will be enough to stop her opposition.

Southern Steel v. Northern Mystics

The Northern Mystics have a real spring in their step after claiming some big upset wins but were served a reality check last round against the Pulse who overran them in the end after a hot start. On the other hand, the Southern Steel won a nail biter and will be hoping to put out a four quarter performance against the Mystics to assert their dominance on the competition and secure a spot in the top two permanently.

Grace Nweke has proved to be a revelation in the goal circle with her cool composed nature a real feature of her game, paired with her accuracy she has fast become their go to girl. With the rotation between Jamie Hume and Bailey Mes constant they must ensure that their connection into Nweke is strong if they are to pose a threat to the Steel. Meanwhile, Steel have plenty of shooting firepower with Lenize Potgieter proving to be a dominant force in the goal circle. Teammate, Te Paea Selby-Rickit works nicely in tandem with Potgieter while also making her presence felt on the scoreboard.

The midcourt battle will bring plenty of excitement with the Steel oozing class with the likes of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton classy with ball in hand. Both players use the ball well, are effortless in their movement, provide strong drives and have good vision making them hard to stop. For the Mystics, the connection between Tayla Earle and Emma Iversen is constantly growing and their work across the court is increasing making them a real threat. If both are on song with their strong drives and quick hands it could go a long way in helping to post a handy total.

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