The Central Pulse and Southern Steel were runaway leaders in the ANZ Premiership last season, losing a combined six of 32 games. Will the story be the same this time, or will the rest of the pack have caught up?
In the brief history of the ANZ Premiership, two teams have stood clearly above the pack. While there were signs of the gap closing in 2019, the defending champions Central Pulse remain the clear favourites heading into the new season.
Having dominated the competition in its first three years, the Pulse and Southern Steel lost just six games between them last season. However, one of those defeats came at the most critical time for the Steel, beaten in the preliminary final by the Northern Stars, a result which ended their two-year reign as champions.
It was an indication that the other four teams may have had enough of playing second fiddle, and with more player movement between franchises than ever before, 2020 may be the most competitive season yet.
Every squad has had personnel changes.
The Steel have lost both of last year’s starting shooters, with Lenize Potgieter heading to Australia and Te Paea Selby-Rickit to the Tactix. Selby-Rickit’s move north is a major coup for the Cantabs, who will also be bolstered by the return of Silver Ferns Temalisi Fakahokotau and Erikana Pedersen from serious knee injuries.
Waikato-Bay of Plenty have recruited well, with Erena Mikaere, Whitney Souness and Holly Fowler all heading to the Magic, but they will be without the retired Casey Kopua and defender Kelly Jury, who’s making a fresh start with the Pulse after two seasons of injury woes.
The Stars will rely on a young and exciting squad to repeat their efforts of last season but also have key midcourters Grace Kara and Fa’amu Ioane back, while the Mystics have suffered a huge loss with the season-ending injury to Silver Ferns defender Michaela Sokolich-Beatson.
But the more things change, the more they remain the same. Despite losing Souness and Sulu Fitzpatrick from last year’s championship-winning team, the Pulse again have a dynamic squad with plenty of depth led by Katrina Rore. It makes them, once again, the team to beat.
By Rikki Swannell - Skywatch, March 2020
Sky Sport 3 LIVE:
Tactix v Pulse: Sun 15th – 4pm
Stars v Mystics: Sun 15th – 6pm
Steel v Magic: Mon 16th – 7pm
Mystics v Tactix: Sun 22nd – 4pm
Pulse v Steel: Sun 22nd – 6pm
Magic v Stars: Mon 23rd – 7pm
Tactix v Steel: Sat 28th – 4pm
Stars v Pulse: Sun 29th – 4pm
Magic v Mystics: Mon 30th – 7pm
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