Manawatu Standard

Talking Tactix and other title contenders

The fifth edition of the ANZ Premiershi­p starts tomorrow with the battle for the topthree finals spots set to be fiercely contested. Brendon Egan assesses the teams.

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NORTHERN MYSTICS

Coach: Helenewils­on

Squad:

Shooters: Grace Nweke, Bailey Mes, Saviour Tui, Filda Vui

Midcourt: Peta Toeava, Tayla Earle, Fa’amu Ioane

Defenders: Kate Burley, Sulu Fitzpatric­k, Ama Agbeze (ENG)

In: Burley (Stars) Ioane (Stars) Vui (wider training squad), Agbeze

Out: Courtney Elliott, Dani Gray, Emma Iversen, Phoenix Karaka (new mother), Michael Sokolich-beatson (ruptured Achilles)

Verdict: The Mystics were amixed bag in 2020, playing some outstandin­g netball at times, but also letting themselves down with some sloppy performanc­es.

The return of

Silver Ferns veteran Bailey

Mes, who missed the 2020 season with a patella cartilage injury, is amajor boost in their shooting end. Mes will ease the shooting pressure on teen sensation Grace Nweke. If the Mystics are to qualify for the top three finals they will need to overcome the absence of Silver Ferns defenders Michaela Sokolich-beatson (ruptured Achilles) and Phoenix Karaka (newmother), which weakens them at the back end of the court.

TAB title odds: $10

NORTHERN STARS

Coach: Kiri Wills

Squad:

Shooters: Maiawilson, Monica Falkner, Jamie Hume, Amorangi Malesala

Midcourt: Gina Crampton, Mila Reuelu-buchanan, Lisa Mather

Defenders: Anna Harrison, Elle Temu, Oceane Maihi

In: Falkner (Magic), Malesala, Crampton (Steel), Temu (Pulse), Harrison, Maihi (wider training squad)

Out: Burley (Mystics), Ioane (Mystics), Grace Kara (Magic), Stormpurvi­s (retired), Daystar Swift, Vika Koloto

Verdict: The Stars were aggressive in recruitmen­t after finishing fourth last season and bolstered their squad with some impressive signings. Silver Ferns wing attack Gina Crampton was a fine addition joining from the Steel, where she had played her entire career. Fellow Fern and new Stars skipper Maia Wilson should team up nicely with national team-mate Monica Falkner in the shooting end, who moves from the Magic. Defensivel­y, it is a changing of the guard with Elle Temu and Oceane Maihi getting their chance to shine and former Fern Anna Harrison, who turned 38 on Thursday, stepping out of retirement. The Stars have the squad to feature come finals time.

TAB title odds: $4.50

WAIKATO-BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC

Coach: Amigenemet­calfe

Squad:

Shooters: Caitlin Bassett (AUS), Khiarnawil­liams, Chiara Semple

Midcourt: Grace Kara, Samwinders, Tori Kolose, Georgia Edgecombe

Defenders: Erena Mikaere, Temalisi Fakahokota­u, Georgia Tong

In: Bassett (Australia), Kara (Stars), Edgecombe, Fakahokota­u (Tactix), Kolose, Semple

Out: Ariana Cable-dixon (new mother), Holly Fowler (ACL injury), Abigail Latu-meafou, Kelsey Mcphee, Jenna O’sullivan, Whitney Souness (Pulse)

Verdict: The Magic had amiserable 2020, finishing rock bottom, but should be big improvers. They struck gold landing experience­d Australian goal shoot Caitlin Bassett, who was effectivel­y forced out of Super Netball due to the controvers­ial two point ‘super shot’ rule which limited her effectiven­ess and court-time with the Giants.

Snapping up defender Temalisi Fakahokota­u and veteran wing attack Grace Kara were other shrewd signings. With so many fresh faces it

Stuff netball writers Brendon Egan and Andrew Voerman tackle some of the hot topics ahead of the 2021 competitio­n.

1. Much has been made of Caitlin Bassett’s move to New Zealand. What are you expecting from the Australian shooting veteran?

Brendon Egan: The 32-year-old might not be the dominant force she was several years ago, but Bassett, pictured, should still rack up the goals and be a handful for rival defences. She’ll relish playing under proper netball rules and will be excited to play 60 minutes each game as she looks to regain top form. Bassett needs amemorable campaign to show new Australian coach Stacey Marinkovic­h she belongs in the

Diamonds’ 2022 Commonweal­th Games squad. Andrewvoer­man: Plenty. She may have spent most of the recent Constellat­ion Cup series on the bench, but she gives the Magic a standout shooter, something they’ve lacked since South African Lenize Potgieter left after the 2018 season.

2. Which Silver Ferns national squad member should be under the most scrutiny to perform this season?

BE: Kelly Jury. The absence of Katrina Rore (pregnancy) and Karin Burger (now at the Tactix), means there are question marks about the Pulse defensive end. Jury must deliver the best netball of her career if the Pulse are to be effective defensivel­y and generate regular turnover ball. Being sent home from the Ferns’ training camp in January after not meeting conditioni­ng standards should only create more fire in the belly for Jury.

AV: Te Paea Selby-rickit was a member of the World Cup-winning squad in 2019, but was hampered by injury towards the end of last year. If the Tactix are to realise their potential, she will need to have a strong season alongside Ellie Bird in the shooting circle. Selby-rickit will miss tomorrow’s opener against the Steel with an ankle injury.

3. Which young player are you most excited to watch this season and why?

BE: It’s easy to forget Mystics’ teen shooting sensation Grace Nweke is just 19. Nweke, pictured, has grown up before our very eyes after being elevated from a training partner to fulltime member of the Mystics in 2019. This is just her second full season and her potential remains untapped. Conditioni­ng remains a key work-on for Nweke, who has to continue to put in the toil behind the scenes.

AV: Kimiora Poi was a central figure as the Silver Ferns won the Constellat­ion Cup off Australia for the first time since 2012 and is now set to run things for the Tactix as they begin a season with greater expectatio­ns placed on them than ever before.

4. Outside Bassett, which player on a new team should have the biggest impact?

BE: Karin Burger. Burger joins the Tactix from the champion Pulse and she and Silver Ferns star Jane Watson should forma lethal defensive circle. With Burger at goal defence andwatson back at goal keep, the Tactix should pick up a stack of defensive ball once their partnershi­p grows.

AV: Gina Crampton’s move from one end of the country and the

Southern Steel to the other and the Northern Stars means the incumbent Silver Ferns wing attack and goal shoot (Maiawilson) are playing on the same team (with Ferns squad member Falkner in between them at goal attack for good measure) and they will help each other flourish.

5. Who makes the grand final, who wins it, and why?

BE: It feels like the stars are aligning for the one-time laughing stock of New Zealand sport, the Tactix. They have nine of their 10 players back from last year’s squad, which lost to the Pulse in the grand final. Adding Burger was an excellent off-season acquisitio­n. The Tactix overcome the Stars in the decider.

AV: The Tactix and the Pulse will meet in a rematch of the 2020 decider and the Tactix will win after staying slightly ahead of what looks to be a very competitiv­e pack throughout the season thanks to their superior continuity.

ANZ Premiershi­p round one:

■ Tomorrow 4.15pm: Pulse v Stars at Fly Palmy Arena, Palmerston North

■ Tomorrow 6.15pm: Steel v Tactix at Stadium Southland, Invercargi­ll

■ Monday 7.15pm: Mystics v Magic at Trusts Arena, Auckland

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