ANZ Premiership: Tactix must bounce back from fourth quarter meltdown
Chris Symes / Photosport
Goal Attack Tactix Te Paea Selby-Rickit is defended by Steel goalie Taneisha Fifita in Nelson.
NOTICE: The race to the first three ANZ Premiership finals should be played on the wire with seven points separating the second from the fifth. BRENDON EGAN breaks down Round 10, which is shaping up to be another crucial weekend of games.
Tactix implodes again
If the Tactix miss the first three finals, they will only have themselves to blame. Even without a shot on goal Ellie Bird (concussion), they should never have lost a five-goal lead with six minutes to go against the Steel. They appeared to be heading for a win, scoring seven straight goals to lead 44-39 in the middle of the last term. The Tactix imploded, spitting out possession and making several silly basic mistakes to sniff the Steel. The Southerners made them pay, scoring seven unanswered goals to claim a victory from behind. The lulls of the fourth quarter took a toll on Tactix at key points this season. Favorites for the preseason title, the Rouge et Noir must stand up for the last six games and play to their capacity. Injuries have hampered them at times this season, but they still have enough talented names to move on. Miss the finals and they will see 2021 as a lost season that has promised so much.
Tightest season ever
With six weeks to go, the ANZ Premiership title is wide open. Auckland’s teams, Stars and Mystics seem to be the most likely challengers, but the Steel, Tactix, and Pulse all showed they were great when they brought them together. Tight scores were a hallmark of the 2021 competition with 16 of 27 games decided by five goals or less (59% of games) – resulting in some thrilling finishes. In the recently completed round, two games were decided by two goals with the other game (Magic v Mystics) a five-goal margin. In the eighth round, three goals were the biggest margin (two games). In the other match, Steel shooter George Fisher scored on the final whistle to beat the Magic by one point.
Best signing off season?
It must be Steel English George Fisher’s shot on goal. Steel General Manager Lana Winders and Coach Reinga Bloxham absolutely succeeded with this one. Steel went through a period of horror when shooting ended last season. Jen O’Connell and Georgia Heffernan both suffered knee injuries. Trinidad and Tobago international Kalifa McCollin also sprained his ankle. Fisher was central to the Steel’s success, scoring 393 goals in 428 attempts at 92 percent (the competition’s most accurate shooter). She has scored 40 or more goals in all but one of the Steel’s nine games, converting a high of 50 against the Magic two weeks ago, including the game winner. The Steel will surely do everything they can to bring the Fisher class back next season and lock it up for the long haul.
Where does the magic go from here?
The Magic had high hopes for 2021 with the addition of Australian shooting legend Caitlin Bassett, as well as former Silver Fern Grace Kara and defenseman Temalisi Fakahokotau. They had a perfect start to the season, toppling the Mystics in Auckland in the first round on April 19, but have lost eight straight games since then. For the most part, the Magic have been competitive, losing four games by five goals or less, including a heartbreaking loss to the Steel. The Magic are still mathematically in contention for the final, but given their losing streak, that seems highly unlikely. With six round-robin matches remaining, the Magic will be taking a critical look at contracts for next season and which players they want to keep for 2022.
The game of the turn?
Saturday’s clash between the Top Stars and third-placed Steel in Dunedin will be worth parking on the couch. After a 5-0 start, the Stars haven’t played quite at the same level over the past month, losing two games and overtaking Tactix in overtime in another. The Steels are always tough to beat at home and will imagine themselves a win against the Stars, if they can play to their potential for 60 minutes. A win over the Stars would be a huge boost to Steel’s final hopes with five games to go after that, including three at Invercargill.
AT A GLANCE:
Saturday 5:15 p.m .: Steel v Stars at Edgar Center, Dunedin
Sunday 4:15 p.m .: Mystics v Pulse at Trusts Arena, Auckland
Monday 7:15 p.m .: Tactix vs. Magic at the Trafalgar Center, Nelson
Points after the ninth round: Stars 22, Mystics 21, Steel 18, Tactix 15, Pulse 14, Magic 7.
Thing MVP leaders:
15 points: Grace Nweke (Mystics)
12 points: George Fisher (Steel)
10 points: Gina Crampton (Stars), Elle Temu (Stars), Peta Toeava (Mystics)
9 points: Anna Harrison (Stars), Karin Burger (Tactix)