By Ian Harkin
In a recurring theme of this year’s competition, round nine of the ANZ Premiership proved to be another close one, with all three games once again going down to the wire and being decided by margins of five goals or less. That’s now seven straight games (and almost 60% of all this year’s games) that have resulted in the loser taking away a bonus point.
The first match of the weekend saw competition leaders Stars come up against defending champions Central Pulse. Just three rounds earlier, Pulse had won their previous encounter easily to inflict the first defeat on Stars for the season. Despite a good start from Stars, it appeared this result may be going the same way as that round six match when Pulse won both the second and third quarters to take a three goal lead into the final quarter.
It was then that a change came over the game. Having scored 13, 16 and 15 goals in the previous three quarters, Pulse could only manage nine in the final period. Penalised heavily in defence, they ground to a halt in attack and were overrun late by a determined Stars team who scored seven of the last ten goals in the match.
For Stars, Gina Crampton racked up 30 goal assists, and in partnership with youngster Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, they laid the platform for shooters Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume. Hume had 12 assists of her own to add to her 18/21. Anna Harrison was the star of the defence with five possession gains, including three intercepts. For Pulse, Maddy Gordon played well, this time in the position of centre, while Claire Kersten returned to her old spot at wing defence.
There was a familiar tale to the second match. Magic has been guilty of starting well, but not finishing off matches, and so it was again. In their round six match against Mystics, they fell in a heap in the last quarter and meekly surrendered. The situation wasn’t quite so bad on this occasion, but they were still unable to hold on.
The favoured Mystics team applied the pressure in a high scoring match and won by five goals. Much like Pulse in the previous match, having scored 18, 18 and 16 goals in the first three quarters, Magic were only able to score 11 in the final quarter. And so they must wait longer for their second win.
Captain Sam Winders puts on a brave face but has every right to be extremely frustrated. She puts in a hundred percent every single week and doesn’t deserve to be on the bottom of the ladder. Along with Winders, Magic’s best was wing attack Grace Kara, with 16 assists and an incredible 40 centre-pass receives.
For Mystics, this win keeps them right on the tail of competition leaders, Stars. And it was largely down to another outstanding performance from goal shooter Grace Nweke who continues to rack up the goals, and Elisapeta Toeava who continues to rack up the goal assists. They are currently the most dominant duo in the competition.
The third game of the round was quite extraordinary. Or at least the finish was. It was a slightly topsy-turvy affair for the first three quarters, but that was absolutely nothing compared to what happened in the final quarter. Going into three-quarter time, Steel led Tactix 37-35, and four minutes into the last quarter, they maintained that two goal advantage. Then came the drama.
Tactix proceeded to score the next seven goals straight. From trailing by two, they were now up by five, and with six minutes left, it looked like a valuable three points coming their way. But wait. No sooner were they looking like winners than nerves began to set in. One turnover, then another. And another. Steel came surging back, and incredibly they answered Tactix’s seven goal run with one of their own to take the game by two goals.
It was an unbelievable chain of events in the final quarter and the final result makes a big difference to each team’s campaign. For Steel, it keeps them on the rise and in touch with the leading two teams. English import George Fisher scored all of those final seven goals as she continues her tremendous form, while Tiana Metuarau, Kate Heffernan and captain Shannon Saunders all had good games for the winners.
The task for Tactix, is now that much harder. Karin Burger had a brilliant game with eight gains, but it wasn’t quite enough. It must be noted that in this game, they were without their star shooter in Ellie Bird. She was sorely missed, and there’s a chance she may not be back for their next game either. It is now two matches in a row where they have allowed their opposition to score the final seven goals of the game; that is a very worrying statistical trend.
Saturday, Jun 19
5:15pm – Stars v Steel
Sunday, Jun 20
4:15pm – Mystics v Pulse
Monday, Jun 21
7:15pm – Tactix v Magic