Northern Mystics crowned 2021 premiers

THE Northern Mystics have been crowned 2021 ANZ Premiership champions with a hard-fought two goal win over the Mainland Tactix, 61-59. Sitting at the top of the ladder for the past five rounds, the Mystics capped their season off in style, securing the coveted silverware.

The Mystics hit the scoreboard first off the hands of Grace Nweke before Te Paea Selby-Rickit answered the call up the other end of the court and quickly signalling her intent. Both sides adopted a goal for goal rhythm however it was a bit more laboured in attack for the Tactix as Kate Burley got hands to ball early and cause disruptions forcing consecutive missed shots. An early turnover in attack from the Tactix gifted possession back to the Mystics as they established a handy two goal early. But within the blink of an eye the Tactix managed to level the score with Ellie Bird showcasing her willingness to shoot from range. Nweke was firing on all cylinders under the post, ripping the ball out of the air with great confidence and accuracy while after a bit of shaky start Selby-Rickit found her rhythm inside the goal circle as the goal for goal pattern continued. It was two very contrasting styles of netball with the Tactix proving to be slow and methodical while the Mystics opted for long and fast. Getting the nod at goal attack Filda Vui wasted no time having an impact both inside the ring and outside of it with her willingness to go to post.

A Tactix held ball allowed another opportunity for the Mystics to capitalise and that they did as the one-goal buffer quickly turned into a three-goal lead. The Mystics started to put their foot down as Peta Toeava came to life with her crafty court play and confidence to look directly to post to deliver into Nweke. That three-goal lead increased to four as the Tactix simply had no answers for the Mystics who kicked up another gear. Burley was putting in a mountain-load of work on Selby-Rickit to reduce her impact out the front, as Karin Burger gave Tactix fans something to cheer about with a huge intercept. While it took a while for the goalers to convert they managed to build some momentum and get back within three goals to close out the first term.

Coming out of quarter time the Tactix had a pep in their step with Kimiora Poi dazzling around circle edge to send her side into attack. they strung together three goals to level the score with just three minutes of the quarter played. The combination between Selby-Rickit and Bird started to come into play more while Nweke continued her merry way under the post taking advantage of her sheer athleticism and smarts. A couple of wayward passes from the Tactix cost them possession but once again it was Burger that stood strong picking up yet another intercept. After a clean and clinical start to the game both sides engaged in a bit of scrappy play with passes missing the target and shots ringing out especially for the Tactix. The score blew out to a three-goal differential once again with the Mystics holding the upper hand before Vui went to the bench, replaced by Bailey Mes.

Samon Nathan struggled to find circle edge for the Tactix while it was a different story up the other end of the court as Toeava dictated play for the Mystics. Charlotte Elley worked in overdrive for the Tactix but it was to no avail as the wing attack plied her trade with great ease. The Mystics continued to exploit the height difference between Burger and Nweke while Sulu Fitzpatrick really ground Bird into the ground forcing her to shoot from distance.  After getting so close midway through the term the Mystics put the foot down with a thrilling couple of minutes of netball extend out to a four goal lead. Burger was doing everything in her power to keep her side within striking distance collecting another huge intercept but the Tactix simply could not capitalise on their chances.

With the second half underway it was Fitzpatrick that could taste victory picking off a huge defensive win. Jane Watson was struggling to have her usual output against Nweke with the goal shooter controlling the airways with her long limbs and crafty footwork. The wheels started to fall off for the Tactix even with Erikana Pedersen injected into the game as the Mystics opened up a seven-goal lead. Burger tried just about everything to keep the Tactix in the hunt turning herself inside out to win ball back while the Mystics were able to employ a cautious and composed brand of netball. The momentum continued to shift as the Tactix piled on three goals straight to reduce the deficit to just two. There was no easy pass across the court with every single player contesting the ball and covering the space, and the intensity continued to increase as the clock ticked down with only two goals separating the two sides at three quarter time.

With the premiership trophy on the line the Mystics were forced to look to their bench as Claire O’Brien replaced Toeava who went off with a bit of a leg niggle. It was incredibly difficult for the Tactix to penetrate in attack but defensively Burger was having a field day with the goal defence causing turnovers aplenty. After seeing the Mystics get out to a lead as many as five goals the Tactix had their tails up cutting the margin to just two but it was too little, too late as the Mystics showcased their determination and grit to hold on and secure the premiership.

Bird was strong under the post for the Tactix sinking 38 goals from 44 attempts at 86 per cent. Selby-Rickit also left her mark finishing with 21 goals along with 20 goal assists as Nathan was in fine form around circle edge collecting 13 goal assists. Down back Burger was in dominant form recording two deflections and three intercepts as Watson also chimed in with three gains. For the Mystics it is no surprise that Nweke topped the table with 58 goals from 62 attempts. Toeava was a livewire through the midcourt amassing 33 goal assists while Fitzpatrick also had an impact down back with her three deflections and two intercepts.

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