Contributors: Emily Bruce
Stars 58 d Magic 54 (postponed from round 5) (17-12, 16-12, 15-16, 10-14)
Stars 68 d Steel 49 (postponed from round 4) (13-9, 18-13, 17-14, 20-13)
Pulse 58 d Mystics 40 (postponed from round 12) (14-12, 12-10, 17-6, 15-12)
Magic 54 d Steel 43 (postponed from round 7) (13-8, 13-12, 15-10, 13-13)
Most goals – Maia Wilson 51 (Stars v Steel)
Most intercepts – Elle Temu 4 (Stars v Steel)
Most feeds – Gina Crampton 56 (Stars v Steel)
Most turnovers – Saviour Tui 6 (Stars v Steel)
Grace Nweke was still out of action with her ankle injury.
Jamie Hume was briefly benched after potential injury to her ankle during the game against the Magic, but returned to the Court within the game. Elle Temu sat that game out, also due to ankle injury but returned to the Court for the next day’s game against the Steel.
It was fitting for the most disrupted season in ANZ Premiership history to end the way it did: with games almost every night of the week. For the Stars, that meant games two nights in a row. This must have been full on for the players, but effective preparation for the Commonwealth Games. With the Silver Ferns trials just around the corner (June 20-23), it also gave players a chance to shine and showcase their high fitness levels.
With the Pulse now through to the grand final, the big question on everyone’s lips is whether the Mystics, who topped the table for most of the season, can return to their old form in time for the elimination final on Wednesday. Star shooter Grace Nweke, has been declared fit to play. It will be interesting to see if she is named to start. On Friday night, Mystics were also without starting midcourters Tayla Earle and Elisapeta Toeava. It is a race against time for this team, but there is a lot for them to play for too, with coach Helene Wilson announcing she will be leaving the role at the end of the season.
The season ended for the Magic on a high, with the embattled side winning their final game to mean that for the first time in three years they are not finishing at the bottom of the table. Captain Sam Winders said in commentary that she wished there were a few more weeks of the competition and you can’t help but see why that is the case for this side, who seem now to have really started to gel and find form as a team.
Rookie of the Round
Grace Namana was outstanding this week. A training partner with the Pulse (and a lawyer by day), Namana has become something of an expert fill-in player, making her debut in an impressive performance for the Steel last year.
On Wednesday night, she had big boots to fill, starting at goal shoot for the Mystics to replace the injured Grace Nweke. She played with incredible confidence, a strong hold, great variety of movement and an accurate shot (87%). She looked like she had played with Ariana Cable-Dixon (also a fill in in the wing attack bib) for years. And she did all of this while marked by the season’s unrivalled star goal keeper Kelly Jury.
Match of the Round
Pulse 58 d Mystics 40
The final score of this somewhat bizarre game really does not tell the full story. While the Pulse were tipped to win on the basis that they had their full squad, the Mystics kept tight to them right up until the third quarter. It also might go down in history as the game featuring the most player changes. Every player on both benches took the court, with the Mystics making a grand total of 32 changes and the Pulse 30 throughout the game.
The Pulse were once again on fire defensively, putting in a solid full team effort for the whole 60 minutes.
In the first half of the game, the Mystics also came out firing. The shooting combination of Namana and Falkner gave the Pulse defence something new to think about, as did the variety in the feeds coming in to them.
Where the match was won and lost?
This game was really won by the Pulse during a run in the third quarter, where they scored eight out of ten goals. Many have attributed this sudden change to changes made in the Mystics shooting circle, most notably Grace Namana being taken off the court. This must have been part of the equation, and certainly play settled on her return, but it also seemed that the Pulse returned to the court at half time with far more energy and drive than in the first half.
The Pulse were also deflection queens, securing ten to the Mystics’ zero.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Once again, it is impossible not to mention Kelly Jury and Kristiana Manu’a, who go from strength to strength as a defensive duo every week. With Jury a certainty for the Ferns, it will be interesting to see if Manu’a too is invited to trial and given the opportunity to showcase this rock solid combination on an international stage.
Ariana Cable-Dixon was also on fire at wing attack for the Mystics. An ex-Magic player who left to have a baby, she looked more than ready to make a comeback to elite netball, playing with speed and pinpoint accurate feeding.
Aliyah Dunn 37/41 (90%)
Tiana Metuarau 17/21 (81%)
Amelia Walmsley 3/4 (75%)
Grace Namana 32/37 (86%)
Monica Falkner 5/6(83%)
Filda Vui 2/2 (100%)
Phoenix Karaka 1/3 (33%)
Renee Matoe 1/2 (50%)
MVP: Tiana Metuarau (Pulse)
Pulse 15 played, 34 points
Stars 15 played, 34 points
Mystics 15 played, 31 points
Steel 15 played, 20 points
Magic 15 played, 16 points
Tactix 15 played, 16 points
All matches will be shown live on Sky Sport
Wednesday 8 June, Stars v Mystics (elimination final), 7:15pm
Sunday 12 June, Pulse v winner of Stars v Mystics game (grand final), 4pm