Netball: Plenty to iron out at business end of ANZ
Analysis – You tend to learn a lot about players during the business end of a competition and this one will be no different with five rounds left in the ANZ Premiership regular season.
A quirky draw means all six teams will have back to back games against the same opponent over the next two rounds.
The highlight will be the match between the two Auckland sides, the Stars and Northern Mystics, who sit first and second on the table respectively.
They meet on Sunday at Pulman Arena, then again a week later. The Mystics beat the Stars in their first meeting in Round 8 and have been on a roll since, completely dominating the Pulse last weekend.
One of the issues the Mystics had last year was an over reliance on teenage goal shoot Grace Nweke. The same thing has happened this year but they are still winning most of their games.
It was thought that with the return from injury of experienced Silver Ferns’ shooter Bailey Mes, that there would be a better share of the shooting load but Mes has failed to fire on that front and was replaced at half-time last week after shooting 2 from 9.
Nweke has compensated by being even more prolific than she was in 2020 and is being fed well by wing attack Peta Toeava.
She’s shot 86 percent of the entire Mystics’ goals – the highest percentage of any player for her team.
The Silver Ferns’ selectors will have question marks around players they’ll want ironed out over the remainder of the season, and a lot of them revolve around the shooting end.
Goal attacks – please stand up
Mes’ form will be a concern for the selectors, with starting goal attack and captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio unavailable this year as she’s expecting her second child.
Mystics’ assistant coach Rob Wright told RNZ recently that they want Mes to shoot more, but for some reason the 32-year-old hasn’t been able to respond and Filda Vui in her first full season, has looked more comfortable going to post than Mes has.
Mes sits third highest for centre pass receives but that might not be enough.
The other current Silver Ferns’ goal attack option is Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who missed the first two games this season and looked rusty when she came back from an ankle injury.
But Selby-Rickit has stepped up over the last two rounds, returning 18 from 20 and 19 from 23 last week.
She currently doesn’t appear in the top 10 shooting statistics but should break into that bracket over the back end of the competition.
Stars goal attack Monica Falkner was on track for a big season.
In great nick after coming back from an ACL injury, Falkner stood out in last year’s Cadbury Series to force her way into the Silver Ferns for their series against England and Australia.
But frustratingly Falkner was stopped in her tracks early this season with an injury to the same knee, and may only come back for the last couple of rounds this year.
That has made way for Jamie Hume to push her case for higher honours.
Hume has taken her game to another level this year and has looked slick working with Silver Ferns’ shooter Maia Wilson.
While her shooting accuracy isn’t as high as the selectors would like, the Silver Ferns’ development squad member looks confident going to the post and crucially looks well conditioned.
While other shooters were sent home from the Silver Ferns’ wider training camp in January after failing to pass the fitness tests, Hume was there until the end, getting valuable time in the Ferns’ environment.
The Steel’s Tiana Metuarau has been solid this year, enjoying regular court time and a fruitful combination with English shooter George Fisher.
But she’s turned the ball over 66 times so far this season, the most of any player in the competition.
Metuarau could be in line for a spot in the Silver Ferns’ development squad, but her conditioning might not be there yet for the Silver Ferns.
Despite limited court time exciting young Magic shooter Khiarna Williams has shot more goals than Metuarau, Selby-Rickit and Mes and will well and truly be on the selectors’ radar.
Goal shooters Ellie Bird and Aliyah Dunn have been strong targets again this year for their franchises but it doesn’t appear that they have made significant gains fitness wise.
After four seasons of elite netball, if the pair are still unable to meet the Silver Ferns’ fitness targets this year, the question is if not now, when?
Wilson’s shooting accuracy is down this year at 84 percent but the captaincy may have weighed on her. She’s also second to Metuarau for turnovers, committing 64 of them.
Silver Ferns’ coach Dame Noeline Taurua might consider reconfiguring her whole shooting end while Ekenasio is unavailable and put Wilson at goal attack and Nweke at goal shoot.
At Dame Noeline’s request Wilson spent some time at goal attack for the All Stars during the 2019 Cadbury Series and it could be a good stopgap measure later this year.
There’s no guarantees that the Ferns will meet the Diamonds early next year so the Constellation Cup later this year and a potential Quad Series might be the only opportunity for Nweke to cut her teeth before the Commonwealth Games next year.
While Nweke didn’t make the cut in January this year, the 19-year-old has passed the Silver Ferns fitness test in the past and with another ANZ season under her belt would be primed to do so again.
Blow for Steel
The Southern Steel’s chances of making the top three suffered a big blow with goal shoot George Fisher picking up a concussion in their match against the Stars last weekend.
The English import will have to sit out Monday’s game against the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and will be reassessed next Tuesday.
The Steel were only trailing the Stars by two when Fisher had to leave the court in the third quarter. It was a game that deserved a tight finish but the Southerners lost by 10.
The Magic will be desperate for their second win of the season when they meet the Steel.
Australian import Caitlin Bassett is the most accurate shooter in the competition at 91 percent, but is sixth for volume.
The 33-year-old was looking to resurrect her career in New Zealand and show the Australian selectors she still has what it takes at international level.
She’s had the court time she craved and been solid for the Magic but the move hasn’t been a raging success for the former Diamonds’ skipper.
Both the Magic franchise and Bassett will have a lot of thinking to do as the season draws to a close, and the Magic might want to invest in a promising local player in 2022.
The game between the Mainland Tactix and Central Pulse in Porirua has been postponed until Tuesday as a result of Covid-19 restrictions in Wellington.
The Tactix are third on the ladder ahead of the Steel, despite the Southerners having more wins than the Tactix, courtesy of them picking up bonus points for close loses.
Sun 27 June
Stars v Mystics, Pulman Arena, Papakura – 6:15pm
Mon 28 June
Steel v Magic, ILT Stadium Southland, Invercargill – 7:15pm
Tues 29 June
Pulse v Tactix, Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua – 7.15pm
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