ANZ Premiership Round 12 preview: Will Steel or Stars shine brighter?

THREE games take place over the final weekend of action as part of Round 12, with only four rescheduled matches remaining after the weekend. There is plenty at stake for three of the teams in action, with the Northern Stars and Southern Steel both battling it out for a finals spot, as the Stars and Central Pulse can still grab top spot off the out-of-form Northern Mystics who do not play over the weekend.

  • Team
  • Southern Steel
  • Northern Stars

Sunday, May 29 @ 2:10pm
ILT Stadium

Put simply, this game is the biggest of the lot in many way because a win to the Northern Stars would officially knock out the Southern Steel and guarantee the Stars a finals place. The Stars sit six points – two wins – clear of the fourth placed Steel, and are in contention for top spot themselves, so there is plenty of the line. Given the Stars have two games in hand to the Northern Mystics, and one in hand to the Central Pulse, a big next two weeks could be huge for the Stars. For the Steel, a loss and it is game over, but a win and there is still hope. It would move the Steel to within three points of the Stars, and these sides meet again on June 2. If the Steel win both those games – plus their final day clash with Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, then the finals place is effectively theirs.

George Fisher is such a crucial player for the Steel, putting up 484 goals at 93 per cent accuracy this season, while accuracy is something that both Maia Wilson (374 at 84 per cent) and Jamie Hume (190 at 70 per cent) have struggled with for the Stars. Shannon Saunders and Kate Heffernan have been a strong midcourt combination for the steel, while rising talent Kate Burley will cause a few headaches for Wilson. Gina Crampton and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan have been the best one-two midcourt punch in the league, while it will be up to Elle Temu and Anna Harrison to try and contain Fisher.

  • Team
  • Mainland Tactix
  • Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

Sunday, May 29 @ 4:10pm
Christchurch Arena

In a battle of the bottom two sides, no such finals ramifications are on the line in this game, with the teams only playing for pride. The Mainland Tactix could theoretically overtake Southern Steel in the run home with two games left, but cannot catch the top three sides with nine points difference between the Tactix and the finals-bound sides and only eight points to win. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic will settle for last spot unless they win their last three games and hope the Tactix lose their two, which starts with this one. They will take on finals hopefuls Northern Stars and Southern Steel in the last week of action, while the Tactix also face Central Pulse.

Waikato Bay of Magic’s Silver Ferns shooting duo in Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes have seemingly found their rhythm late in the season and could be a threat next season if they remain a combination, The will look to put up more goals than the pair up the other end in Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit, with the latter struggling with accuracy at times shooting at 82 per cent. Tactix defender Karin Burger has backed up her outstanding season last year with another sensational one this season, while Erena Mikaere has been. ashining light for the struggling Magic.

  • Team
  • Mainland Tactix
  • Central Pulse

Monday, May 30 @ 7:15pm
The Trusts Arena

After taking on the Magic the day before, the Mainland Tactix suit up for a second game over the weekend, locking horns with Central Pulse in the Pulse’s penultimate game of the season. The Pulse are now just three points off top of the table Northern Mystics, with the latter dropping their last three games and looking shaky. The Pulse are building some form and a win here would give them greater confidence heading into the last match which will effectively decide top spot between the top two teams. If the Pulse lose but also can beat the Mystics, they can still grab top, whilst Northern Stars could bypass all of them with three wins from three games.

Aside from the trio named above, the Tactix do have a relatively settled lineup across all thirds, with midcourters Samon Nathan and Kimiora Poi providing some consistent feeding into the circle. Kelera Nawai-Caucau has been a strong force in the defensive goal circle for the Tactix too. The Pulse have winners across the board with defensive duo Kelly Jury and Kristiana Manu’a looking to contain Bird and Selby-Rickit, while Whitney Souness is a key link in the chain in forward transition. The shooting pair of Aliyah Dunn – who leads all-comers with 508 goals at 94 per cent efficiency – and Tiana Metuarau is always going to test opposition defences.


Wednesday, June 1:

Northern Stars vs. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

Thursday, June 2:

Northern Stars vs. Southern Steel

Friday, June 3:

Northern Mystics vs. Central Pulse

Saturday, June 4:

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic vs. Southern Steel

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