With the 2023 ANZ Premiership just a fortnight away, Merryn Anderson looks at the intriguing off-season movements within the six netball sides, and what lies ahead.
As we enter the seventh season of ANZ Premiership netball, it’s the last chance for players to prove themselves for Silver Ferns selection as the Netball World Cup looms.
Defending champions Central Pulse will be hungry for their fourth title, but face a big hurdle with Aliyah Dunn moving south to the Tactix. Dunn was the most prolific shooter of the 2022 season in both volume and accuracy, succeeding with 618 goals at 93 percent accuracy.
All six teams will shake out the cobwebs and try out different combinations at the annual Te Wānanga o Raukawa pre-season tournament in Ōtaki, starting today.
With a few big movements, and key players ruled out on the eve of the 2023 season, LockerRoom previews each team and how they might fare this year.
2022 finish: 1st
2023 team: Maddy Gordon, Fa’amu Ioane, Kelly Jury, Kristiana Manu’a, Parris Mason, Tiana Metuarau, Joyce Mvula, Ainsleyana Puleiata, Whitney Souness, Amelia Walmsley
In: Joyce Mvula (Malawi international), Ainsleyana Puleiata (NNL), Fa’amu Ioane (Mystics)
Out: Aliyah Dunn (Tactix), Courtney Elliot (Steel), Binnian Hunt (injury), Paris Lokotui (injury)
Coach: Yvette McCausland-Durie
Losing Dunn will likely have a big impact on the team, although they’ve kept the rest of their core group, including coach Yvette McCausland-Durie.
But they still have an interesting shooting line-up. Tiana Metuarau’s new shooting partner comes with a wealth of international experience – Malawi’s Joyce Mvula played in the UK’s Superleague for six years. Young goal shoot Amelia Walmsley may also get more court time, and is one to watch for the future.
The Pulse retain last year’s ANZ Premiership player of the year, Kelly Jury, who also won Netball NZ’s big award – the Dame Lois Muir Supreme Award shared with Grace Nweke. Jury finished last season with the most intercepts, deflections and was runner-up in rebounds, and co-captained the team with Metuarau.
It will be a challenge for the Pulse to retain the title, but with the leadership of McCausland-Durie and a handful of players who know how to win under pressure, it’s a challenge they’re more than prepared for.
2022 finish: 2nd
2023 team: Gina Crampton, Holly Fowler, Jamie Hume, Amorangi Malesala, Samon Nathan, Kelera Nawai-Caucau, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Elle Temu, Maia Wilson, plus one TBD
In: Samon Nathan (Tactix), Kelera Nawai-Caucau (Tactix)
Out: Anna Harrison (retired), Kayla Johnson (pregnant), Lisa Mather (England)
Coach: Kiri Wills
The Stars won last year’s elimination final against the Mystics to make the grand final, where they fell way short of the champion Pulse side.
They had one of the strongest defensive ends with Elle Temu and Anna Harrison combining well in the circle, but with Harrison retiring and Kayla Johnson pregnant with her second child, new combinations at the back will be tested. Look for Holly Fowler and Kelera Nawai-Caucau to pair up with Temu.
Maia Wilson should calmly lead the shooting end, with her trademark high volume and accuracy, while fellow Silver Fern Gina Crampton brings a level head to the midcourt.
For a team who have made the grand final twice, only to be beaten by the Pulse both times, the Stars can go into this season with confidence to finally win the trophy.
2022 finish: 3rd
2023 team: Tayla Earle, Monica Falkner, Sulu Fitzpatrick, Phoenix Karaka, Grace Nweke, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, Carys Stythe, Katie Te Ao, Peta Toeava, Filda Vui
In: Carys Stythe (Mystics training partner), Katie Te Ao (Magic 2021 training partner)
Out: Claire O’Brien (Australia), Fa’amu Ioane (Pulse)
Coach: Tia Winikerei
The Mystics will be highly confident in their ability to make the elimination finals again this year, but with a new head coach, Tia Winikerei, we may see some different strategies from the Auckland-based team.
Following success under Helene Wilson in 2021, the Mystics fell short last year, partly due to an ankle injury to key shooter Grace Nweke. But with Nweke fully fit and ready – and with more international exposure under her belt – and with wing attack Peta Toeava able to fire in any ball to her without hesitation, they will be hard to defend.
Sulu Fitzpatrick will ably lead the defensive end hoping to go out strong – the Silver Fern choosing to retire after this year’s World Cup.
For a team who can often be reliant on Nweke, the Mystics will need all of their squad to step up if they want to be in title contention.
2022 finish: 4th
2023 team: Kate Burley, Ivari Christie, Courtney Elliot, Georgia Heffernan, Kate Heffernan, Renee Savai’inaea, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Saviour Tui, Sam Winders, plus one TBD
In: Sam Winders (Magic), Courtney Elliot (Pulse) Ivari Christie
Out: George Fisher (injury), Shannon Saunders (pregnancy), Ali Wilshier (England), Sarahpheinna Woulf
Coach: Reinga Bloxham
The Steel looked like a team capable of climbing further up the ladder season, adding Magic captain Sam Winders to their midcourt. Even with the unavailability of Shannon Saunders – who’s just had her first child, daughter Madison – the Steel still looked strong.
But things can change quickly – an ACL injury to star shooter George Fisher during a pre-season match leaves the Steel in a tough position. But fellow shooter Georgia Heffernan is on the rise (after her own ACL recovery) and Saviour Tui has proven herself a capable shooter, who may now spend more court time at her preferred position of goal shoot.
They’ll be led by one of the most experienced netballers in the country, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, who’s looking to bring up her 200th domestic cap this year. And fan favourite Kate Heffernan is out to prove herself as the top choice wing defence in the country.
Former Magic player Sam Winders (centre) has made the move down to the Southern Steel this year.
Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
2022 finish: 5th
2023 team: Amy Christophers, Georgie Edgecombe, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Charlotte Elley, Claire Kersten, Bailey Mes, Erena Mikaere, Ivana Rowland, Georgia Takarangi (née Tong), Simmon Wilbore
In: Charlotte Elley (Tactix), Amy Christophers (NNL)
Out: Sam Winders (Steel), Oceane Maihi (injured)
Coach: Mary-Jane Araroa
The Magic are one of the teams with the least changes, but losing captain and long-time loyal midcourter Sam Winders to the south will be a big blow for the team.
A leader on and off court, Winders will be replaced in the captaincy role by Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who will again team up with the experienced Bailey Mes in the shooting circle.
The Magic had a tough run in 2022 – injuries and illness meant they didn’t field their top line-up until the very end of the season. Then they showed what they’re capable of with a fully rostered side.
Defender Oceane Maihi will miss the season after injuring her knee playing mixed netball for New Zealand, so Erena Mikaere and Georgia Takarangi (née Tong) will lead the defensive end.
The new addition to the Magic midcourt is long-time Tactix middie Charlotte Elley, who will slot in alongside Simmon Wilbore and Georgie Edgecombe.
2022 finish: 6th
2023 team: Karin Burger, Aliyah Dunn, Vika Koloto, Kate Lloyd, Laura Malcom, Parris Petera, Kimiora Poi, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Greer Sinclair, Jane Watson
In: Aliyah Dunn (Pulse), Jane Watson (pregnancy), Laura Malcolm (England), Parris Petera (training partner), Greer Sinclair (Stars training partner)
Out: Ellie Bird (England), Charlotte Elley (Magic), Hannah Glen (injured), Samon Nathan (Stars), Kelera Nawai-Caucau (Stars)
Coach: Marianne Delaney-Hoshek
The Tactix have the most changes – much needed after finishing bottom of the table in 2022, despite making the finals the year before.
They lose Ellie Bird to the UK, where she’s signed with Leeds Rhinos, but receive an equally dominant goal shoot in Aliyah Dunn.
And in return, England have sent Roses midcourter Laura Malcolm to the Tactix. The 31-year-old has over 50 international caps over 10 years in the red dress and will bring her game smarts to complement Kimiora Poi’s speed.
Tactix fans will be excited by the prospect of Jane Watson returning to pair with Karin Burger in the defensive end. Both are coming off some time away from the court, Burger having foot surgery after last year’s competition and Watson missing the whole season while expecting her first child.
An intimidating duo, they’re sure to disrupt shooters and will hope to lift the Tactix out of bottom spot on the table.
*The ANZ Premiership kicks off on March 4, as the Mystics take on the Steel in Auckland. Catch all games live on Sky Sport. This weekend’s Te Wānanga o Raukawa pre-season tournament, starting today, is live and free-to-air on Māori+ TV.