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VIEWPOINT: The ANZ Premiership returned after a three month Covid-19 break last weekend with the Central Pulse not skipping a beat. BRENDON EGAN takes a look at netball’s big talking points from the last week.
Credit where credit’s due
Netball New Zealand were the butt of many jokes in 2016 following the dissolution of the former trans-Tasman netball league. It was extensively feared a watered down domestic competition would only intensify the space in between the Silver Ferns and Australia, however the ANZ Premiership has mostly shown a success. Australia’s glitzy Super Netball copped plenty of flak today, introducing a two-goal shot for the final 5 minutes of every quarter – a relocation plainly introduced to bring in more eyeballs on television, which blind-sided players and coaches on the hop. Super Netball has been its own worst opponent with the unrestricted import rule harming the Diamonds internationally. This was another ugly move from the Super Netball Commission, which has exasperated players, coaches, and fans. To their credit, NNZ’s domestic competitors has assisted, not prevented the Ferns. They have actually also stuck to netball’s standard guidelines, a sensible call, which must benefit them internationally in the long run.
Get the apple crumble all set and clear your schedule on Monday night for the clash of the ANZ Premiership’s lone 2 unbeaten groups, the safeguarding champion Pulse, and the Mystics. Neutral observers would love nothing much better than a Mystics’ victory to set the competitors alight. The Pulse looked like a well-drilled device in their 63-39 pummelling of the Stars on Sunday. If the Mystics are to cause an upset, making sure possession gets securely through to the hands of teenage shooting sensation Grace Nweke will be vital. To beat the Pulse, you need to agitate their attack in the midcourt and capitalise by scoring off any unusual turnovers.
The Southern Steel find themselves in unchartered area, sitting 0-2 and bottom of the table through two rounds. Having been awarded the premiership finals on August 23 at Invercargill’s Stadium Southland, the perennial title competitors face the possibility of betting the minor spots that day, instead of the one versus 2 straight final, unless they start winning quickly. Drop both video games to the Mystics and Stars this weekend and the Steel can forget about the last. The Steel haven’t been horrible in their first two video games, but if they’re to turn things around they require more from objective shoot Jennifer O’Connell, who was peaceful against the Tactix, and the experienced Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit to blaze a trail defensively, together with appealing youngster Taneisha Fifita.
Pulse wing attack Maddy Gordon may have been the round two MVP. The 20- year-old did it all in her side’s uneven win over the Stars, sending great ball through to her shooters, and showing why she’s one of the nation’s most amazing young netball talents. Gordon is just in her second full season in the premiership and need to establish her week-to-week consistency, but the future looks exceptionally intense. The Pulse lost Silver Ferns wing attack Whitney Souness to the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic over the offseason, but in Gordon they had a ready-made replacement. The Silver Ferns have no lack of depth at wing attack, however it wouldn’t be a shock if Gordon was New Zealand’s starting WA come the 2023 World Cup in Cape Town.
Pulse’s title to lose?
Viewing the Pulse take apart the Stars by 24 goals it was hard not to believe whether anyone can realistically prevent them from making it back-to-back titles. The Pulse racked up the goals at will, putting 63 on destiny in 48 minutes of netball. In the 2nd and 3rd quarters alone, they torched their challenger 38-16 The Pulse showed last season they can be beaten, dropping two round games, but with a healthy Kelly Jury bolstering the defensive circle, having actually signed up with from the Magic, they look even more powerful this year. There’s a real possibility the Pulse might replicate what their cross-code siblings, the Wellington Saints, did last year in the National Basketball League, and have a best season.
AT A GLANCE:
Round 3 (All at Auckland Netball Centre):
Friday 7pm: Magic v Tactix
Saturday 5pm: Mystics v Steel
Sunday 5pm: Steel v Stars
Monday 7pm: Pulse v Mystics
Points (games played): Pulse 8 (2 ), Mystics 8 (2 ), Stars 5 (3 ), Magic 4 (2 ), Tactix 4 (3 ), Steel 0 (2 )
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