ANZ Premiership Report Card: Qualification of each team (2023)

Mystics' Grace Naweke and Magic's Georgia Takarangi battle for the ball during an ANZ Premiership clash in April. Photosport

After a close ANZ Premiership regular season, three teams remain to contest the trophy. Merryn Anderson takes a look at how they got there, who missed it, and why.

In 12 days, the Northern Mystics will line up in Hamilton in hopes of taking home the 2023 ANZ Premiership title. But who will they be up against and how did they get there?

Defending champions Pulse host the Stars in the elimination final in Porirua on Sunday, with the winner moving on to the grand final on June 4.

A Stars win this weekend would make it the first Auckland final in league history. And neither team could claim home-field advantage, with the game set in stone for Hamilton.

It has been one of the closest seasons, the top four teams separated by just eight points, and the composition of the knockout final is not known until the final group game (which ended up going to extra time).

The Tactix pushed the Mystics into overtime in their final game on Monday night, but they still failed to reach final elimination, trailing by three, when they needed to win by at least 12. But it may have been a lack of points bonus. during the season that finally cost the Tactix.

LockerRoom takes a look at all six teams, what went right (or wrong) this season, and gives them a report grade for their regular season performances.

The Mystics secured their place in the grand final last Sunday with a five-goal win over the Stars. The winners in 2021, new head coach Tia Winikerei led the team to 11 wins and just four losses (three of which were within five goals).

Always a star for her team, Grace Nweke finished the regular season with the most goals: 755, with 92 percent accuracy.

The Mystics' defense was strong this season, not missing a beat when Sulu Fitzpatrick was injured on the bench. Young Carys Stythe snuck in alongside Phoenix Karaka, the trio able to rotate smoothly.

ANZ Premiership Report Card: Qualification of each team (1)

Despite leading most of their final game, the Mystics were pushed past the regular 60 minutes by a Tactix team desperate to stay alive in the competition. But they still look strong to win the grand final.

A bye week could greatly benefit the Mystics, with some players having been battling injury or illness this season.

If they can field a fully fit team, they're hard to stop: the Nweke/Peta Toeava connection has yet to find their match defensively, and center Tayla Earle won't be running out of steam any time soon.

And what better way to send off Fitzpatrick than with a title: With more than 150 national games to her name, the Mystics would like nothing more than to send off their captain in style.

The first team to secure a spot in the final series, the Pulse finished second on the ladder, therefore securing the rights to host this weekend's knockout final against the All-Stars.

It was a different looking lineup for the Pulse this year, as Aliyah Dunn left for the Tactix and Malawi's Joyce Mvula was signed as an import player.

ANZ Premiership Report Card: Qualification of each team (2)

Many expected Mvula to take Dunn's place as the dominant goal shot. But it was 19-year-old Amelia Walmsley who stepped up to hers, finishing her debut regular season with the third-most goals of any ANZ Premiership shooter.

Kelly Jury was terrific as usual at the back, her deflections, rebounds and interceptions deflecting opposing attackers.

To reach the grand final and have a chance to defend the title she won in 2019, 2020 and 2022, Walmsley must not be intimidated by any defensive opponent, and her shooting partner Tiana Metuarau will have to step up and provide more volume. and feed.

Despite a midseason hiatus, where the Stars suffered some major losses, last season's finalists rallied to win nine games.

The ever-important bonus points were their saving grace as they came back from a 10-goal deficit to tie the Mystics at five on Sunday. With just over three minutes left on the clock, the stars scored all five goals of the match: Amorangi Malesala scored the crucial goal just at full time. They celebrated as if they had won the game.

Maia Wilson was the most accurate marksman in the competition, finishing with 94 percent accuracy, with the second-highest volume.

ANZ Premiership Report Card: Qualification of each team (3)

With Malesala in great shape, Stars' shooting circle looks strong, but their defensive side needs to be more orderly and get cleaner interceptions to send off their shooters if they are to advance beyond final elimination.

Going into the final round, the Tactix needed two wins to have any real hope of reaching the final series. An upset nine-goal win over Pulse on Saturday meant Tactix had to have a complete victory over the Mystics: 12 goals or more, depending on what the Mystics scored.

They managed to rally from a seven-goal deficit to push the champions out of the top division, but a sizeable victory never seemed likely, eventually ending their season with a 64-61 defeat.

The Tactix were the only team this season not to receive a bonus point. With every other team having three or four, the Tactix would have been in final contention if some of their losses had been closer.

The Tactix had a solid roster, especially defensively, with Jane Watson and Karin Burger reunited. A season-ending injury to Greer Sinclair (who was having a breakout season) was not detrimental to the team, as Paris Lokotui stepped in, finishing his rehab from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.

Aliyah Dunn's first season in red was okay: she had good accuracy but less volume than usual as she was ably supported by Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who is known for sharing the load well for an attack on goal.

It was a mixed season for the Magic: six wins, nine losses, and four bonus points. It looked like they had a chance to reach the elimination final early on, but some major losses knocked them out of final contention.

The combination of Ameliarane Ekenasio and Bailey Mes worked well for the Magic, averaging 89 percent accurate. Mes had one of his best domestic seasons, bidding professional netball farewell over the weekend on a high.

Claire Kersten's tears after her last game suggested that she, too, could leave the Magic, her national retirement confirmed after the game, leaving the team that was rebuilding so well after a few difficult seasons in a little more trouble.

But Simmon Wilbore and Georgie Edgecombe's connection at midcourt grew with each game, helping the Magic move on and even beat some of the best teams. It was just the midseason consistency that his team lacked.

The Steel are history makers - the first ANZ Premiership winners. And now they also have the unfortunate title of being the only team to go a season without a win.

So what went wrong? The initial Steel team on paper looked strong, the loss of Shannon Saunders expecting her first baby offset by the pick-up of Magic middie Sam Winders.

But when George Fisher suffered an ACL injury in a pre-season game, so did the Steel's hopes. Their game plan had to change, and the Southerners weren't quick enough to adapt.

Despite Savior Tui's goal kick doing the best he could while recovering from his own minor knee injury, Steel finished the season with zero wins from 15 games, earning four bonus points, but with a difference of goals of -206.

They came close to securing their maiden win in their last game against the Magic, in front of their ever-loyal Invercargill crowd, but fell short by one goal – the story of their season.

And think of Winders: the former Magic captain has won just seven of her last 60 ANZ Premiership games after going winless with Steel this season.

This story was originally published is republished with permission.

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