By Nicole Mudgway
The ANZ Premiership is set to be decided on Sunday 12th June, when the Central Pulse takes on the Robinhood Stars. Nicole Mudgway predicts players to watch, key match ups, and where the game could be won and lost.
What happened in the Preliminary final?
The Stars and the Mystics produced some top-quality netball in the preliminary final, with high shooting accuracy, low error counts and all round tidy technical play. The Stars held a strong lead after the first quarter and despite the Mystics bringing Grace Nweke on during quarter time, it wasn’t enough to halt the momentum of a determined Stars team.
The Stars will now face the Central Pulse in the grand final, played in Wellington Sunday 12 June at 4pm. The Pulse have now had a week to recover, but the Stars have been on such a roll we are unsure whether it’s likely to stop now.
Players to watch
Elle Temu, Stars: Across the course of the season, Temu has transformed from a young spark to a consistent performer, someone we can readily rely on to have a good game. Spending so much court time alongside stalwart Anna Harrison has obviously paid dividends, with both Temu’s individual game and partnership with Harrison flourishing. It must be mentioned that Temu consistently starts at GD over Kayla Johnson, which is a good sign for upcoming selections. The main factor working against Temu is her inexperience on the international stage, but she’ll be hoping that a strong performance in the grand final will help mitigate this concern.
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Stars: Having debuted for the Silver Ferns within the last year, Reuelu-Buchanan will be hoping to reiterate why she deserves to be selected again. Although she’s had some quieter performances of late, her speed, fitness and work rate are undeniably impressive. With Dame Noeline Taurua hinting that strong combinations are something she’ll look at when selecting her team, Reuelu-Buchanan will want to prove that her role in the attacking combination with fellow Silver Ferns Gina Crampton and Maia Wilson is one that would be advantageous to the Ferns.
Kristiana Manu’a, Pulse: Another defender that was relatively unknown on the New Zealand scene before this year is Manu’a, who has clocked a brilliant first season with the Pulse. Previously she was playing in Australia and prior to that she played in the Magic, where she and Kelly Jury played together for the first time. A flame must have been ignited, because the duo is basically unstoppable. Manu’a is eligible for the Silver Ferns, and with Kelly Jury being such an obvious shoo in, Manu’a should be on the radar as well due to this cracking partnership.
Key match ups
Maia Wilson, Stars GS and Kelly Jury, Pulse GK.
Maia Wilson was suitably awarded MVP in the preliminary final for what has been one of her most impressive games this year. Kelly Jury, undoubtedly one of the league’s most valuable players this season, will need to disrupt Wilson’s rhythm as much as possible from early on. Wilson will need to move strongly and take her feet with her to the ball, in order to stop Jury from getting her hand to the ball.
Gina Crampton, Stars WA and Maddy Gordon, Pulse WD
Explosive Maddy Gordon will use her speed to shut down Gina Crampton, limiting her ability to pass into the circle. We have seen Crampton play some excellent matches recently, and being the physical player that she is, Gordon won’t shy away from the challenge. The Pulse defensive end are so good at creating disruptions to the opposition’s flow and Gordon is a critical part of this reputation.
Elle Temu, Stars GD and Tiana Metuarau, Pulse GA
Former teammates at the Pulse so very familiar with each other’s play, both youngsters will play integral roles in their respective teams securing the win. Co-captain Metuarau has shown us time and time again that she has a calm head, high accuracy and an ability to read the play miles beyond her experience. Temu is also fantastic at reading the game, as evidenced by her high intercept count, and she will have no intention of slowing down now.
27 April: Pulse d Stars 56-46
1 May: Stars d Pulse 47-46
15 May: Stars d Pulse 49-44
The Pulse had the most convincing win of the season, but the Stars go into the final knowing they’ve won the last two. Each match the Stars managed to score more goals than the last, so no doubt they’ll be aiming to get at least 50 points on the board this time round! The Pulse have steadily decreased their goal count against the Stars, something they’ll need to turnaround if they plan on winning. If the last two games are anything to go by, it should be a close game and hopefully a scintillating final.
Where will the game be won?
The Pulse are strong in all areas of the court and if they ignite from the get-go, they are a team that can be hard to beat. This season’s losses have mostly come down to the girls failing to click as a team, which creates errors and ultimately turnovers to the other team.
When the Pulse attack end is performing, the odds of them scoring on their own centre pass off is high. The ball isn’t often turned over in the attacking circle, and their ability to score quickly means the Pulse can never really be written out of the game. If Jury and Manu’a create sufficient turnovers (as they usually do), the athletes need to focus on bringing the ball down the court with care and converting those turnovers.
Like the preliminary final match, the Stars will want to come out of the gates hot and get points on the board before the Pulse really know what’s hit them. The Stars know they’ve got momentum and they will want to push as much as they can while it’s in their favour. They have an advantage of being able to bring this momentum with them, along with the two most recent wins against the Pulse.
Neither team has an area on the court that is weak, so it’s going to be a matter of exploiting the things that aren’t working well on the day. If the Stars start flat and the Pulse get a whiff, they could easily pull ahead on the scoring front.
The TSB Arena is one of the stadiums that carries the most atmosphere, so a roaring Pulse crowd will be huge for the Pulse team. It feels wrong to go against the Pulse at home, especially when we know how capable they are of winning grand finals there (and under the capable leadership of Yvette McCausland-Durie), but the Stars are playing with a determination which seems unparalleled by any other team.
It will come down to the team that wants it more, and after the Stars’ tumultuous start to the season, their sudden demise last year, and the fact so many players are putting themselves forward as real Silver Ferns contenders makes us think that the Stars are going to do everything in their power to not let this one slide. We know better than to ever rule out a firing Pulse side though.