Mystical dominance sees minor premiers take title

THE Northern Mystics are the queens of New Zealand, after they defeated the Northern Stars 74-56 to win the 2023 ANZ Premiership title. It was a farewell match to remember for Mystics’ captain Sulu Fitzpatrick, with her team dominating much of the game to easily take home the title.

The Mystics stamped their authority on the game early, racing ahead to a three goal lead before the Stars even had their first goal on the board. There was a sense of calm and composure to the way the Mystics were playing in the opening half of the first quarter, while the Stars as such had not quite settled.

As a result the Mystics continued to dominate on the scoreboard, and for much of the quarter their score was double that of the Stars. The Stars did manage to eat a little bit away at the deficit after making the most of a turnover, and briefly got back within four goals.

The Mystics then rallied in the final moments of the quarter, before the Stars pegged a couple back late. In what turned out to be the highest scoring first term in an ANZ Premiership Grand Final ever, the Mystics took a four-goal lead into the first change.

After the second quarter was initially a goal for goal affair, the Stars really started to gain some ascendancy and as such halved the quarter time margin. But just as it looked like the Stars might take the lead, the Mystics rallied and in the blink of an eye the margin back out to six goals.

In a complete flip of momentum from earlier in the quarter, the Mystics’ lead kept growing, and suddenly it was on the verge of double digits. They ultimately took a nine-goal lead into the main break and were looking in a good place to win their second title in three years.

Despite the large margin, the Mystics only lead the time in possession at half time by four percent. However, the contact penalty count was a lot more lopsided, with the Stars giving away 14 more contact penalties than the Mystics. The goal percentage was also high in the first half, with the Mystics only missing three shots and the Stars only two.

A chaotic start to the second half eventually resulted in a stronger start from the Stars. However like earlier in the match the Stars resurgence did not last forever, and from the mid point of the quarter onwards the Mystics retook control and put their foot down.

The Stars made a few changes in the final couple of minutes of the quarter, trying to see if they could find the missing key they needed to get back into the game. In the end the Mystics took a nine goal lead into the final change, and were looking pretty set to add to their trophy cabinet.

The deficit proved too much for the Stars to overcome in the last quarter, as the Mystics did not take the foot off the gas and made life more miserable for the Stars.

Grace Nweke dominated up front for the Mystics and earned Player of the Match honours, finishing with 70 goals to her name.

Tayla Earle (37 feeds, 22 assists, two deflections, one gain, one intercept), Elisapeta Toeava (29 feeds, 25 assists, one deflection), Phoenix Karaka (three gains, two deflections, two rebounds, one intercept) and Fitzpatrick (four gains, three rebounds, two deflections, one intercept) also all starred for the Mystics in the win.

Meanwhile for the Stars they were lead from the mid by usual suspects Gina Crampton (45 feeds, 27 assists, one deflection) and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (51 feeds, 18 assists, two deflections).

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