By Ian Harkin
Round 11 of the ANZ Premiership was reduced to just two games, thanks to the postponement of Pulse v Tactix. That fixture has now been moved to next Friday, July 9.
The first game of the round saw the much awaited top of the table clash between Stars and Mystics. Stars had just the better of a very tight first half. They won the first quarter by two goals, while Mystics won the second by one. But the second half was a completely different story. Mystics got on top thanks to a dominant third quarter from young shooter Grace Nweke who piled on 19 goals. Like every other team in the competition, Stars found the task of stopping Nweke almost impossible thanks to the great service she was getting from Elisapeta Toeava and Bailey Mes.
Leading by four at three-quarter time, Mystics went on with the job and completed a surprisingly comfortable eight goal victory to leapfrog Stars and take top spot on the ladder. Currently the hottest double act in netball, Nweke ended the game with 55 goals and Toeava had 27 assists. Meanwhile, the Mystics defence accounted for 14 possession gains to just six for Stars. In attack, Crampton and Reuelu-Buchanan combined for 51 assists, but even that wasn’t enough for Stars against an in form Mystics side who must now be favoured to win their first ever title.
The second (and last) game of the round saw Steel host Magic. This was seen as a good chance for Magic to finally notch just their second win of the season, because Steel were without their English import George Fisher in the shooting circle. But this thought was well off the mark. If Fisher’s replacement, Grace Namana, was supposed to be nervous and expected to struggle, she didn’t follow the script. She had an excellent game in partnership with Tiana Metuarau. Between them, they scored 35 goals from 36 attempts to half time and the game was s good as over.
Down 35-21 at half time, Magic improved in the second half, but the damage was already done. Apart from the shooting duo, another star for Steel was young defender Taneisha Fifita with seven possession gains, just one less than the entire Magic team. Saunders and Heffernan also both played well in the midcourt. Fitness and form issues have badly hampered Magic this season, and it’s looking more and more likely that the gutsy Sam Winders and her team will be left with just one win to show for their season. Steel meanwhile are still well in the hunt for a finals spot.
In a quirk of the draw, this round of matches will be repeated just a week later in Round 12. Will the results change? We shall see.
Sunday, Jul 4
4:15pm – Mystics v Stars
6:15pm – Tactix v Pulse
Monday, Jul 5
7:15pm – Magic v Steel