The marquee signing of Caitlin Bassett by the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic was the final piece of business for the six ANZ Premiership netball teams as they confirmed their rosters for the 2021 season. Merryn Anderson analyses all the off-season movements.
Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic
2020 finish: 6th
2021 team: Caitlin Bassett, Chiara Semple, Khiarna Williams, Asher Grapes, Grace Kara, Sam Winders, Georgie Edgecombe, Georgia Tong, Erena Mikaere, Temalisi Fakahokotau.
In: Caitlin Bassett (Giants), Chiara Semple (London Pulse), Asher Grapes (Mystics), Grace Kara (Stars), Temalisi Fakahokotau (Tactix).
Out: Ariana Cable-Dixon (pregnant), Monica Falkner (Stars), Holly Fowler (injury), Abigail Latu-Meafou, Kelsey McPhee, Jenna O'Sullivan, Whitney Souness (Pulse), Georgia Marshall.
After winning just two games in 2020, the Magic have only retained three of their originally-named squad members. However, the side's new additions put the team in contention for a place in the 2021 finals. The biggest and potentially most controversial signing in ANZ Premiership history occurred when the Magic announced that Australian Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett would be spearheading the Magic's shooting end next season. Last season's preferred shooting duo of Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou are not returning, which makes Bassett's 100 international test caps invaluable.
The Magic have a special exemption to have two imports this season, with New Zealand-born Chiara Semple moving home after playing for the London Pulse in 2020. At the opposite end of the court, Temalisi Fakahokotau leaves the Mainland Tactix after four seasons and will form a formidable pairing with Erena Mikaere, while Grace Kara and Sam Winders provide experience and cool heads in the midcourt.
2020 finish: 5th
2021 team: George Fisher, Kiana Pelasio, Tiana Metuarau, Shannon Saunders, Ali Wilshier, Renee Savai'inaea, Kate Heffernan, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Sarahpheinna Woulf, Taneisha Fifita.
In: Ali Wilshier (Waikato Beko league), Renee Savai'inaea (Pulse), Sarahpheinna Woulf (Australia), Tiana Metuarau (Pulse), George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks).
Out: Kendall Corkery, Gina Crampton (Stars), Abby Erwood, Georgia Heffernan (injury), Kalifa McCollin (Collingwood Magpies), Jen O'Connell (injury).
2020 was a tough year for the Steel, losing two of their key shooters to serious knee injuries and recording only four wins. A new-look attacking end awaits the Steel in 2021, with Jen O'Connell unavailable due to her ACL injury in July, and the ever-present and ever-reliable Gina Crampton leaving the Steel for the Stars, after nine seasons with the Southern team. Shannon Saunders and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit remain at the Steel and will have to show their leadership on court to bring all their new signings together.
The Steel's shooters have the lowest average age of all the teams — Pelasio and Fisher will be 22 at the start of next year, and despite being in her fifth Premiership season, Tiana Metuarau will only be 20. George Fisher also has a lot of experience for a young player, with 12 caps for England.
2020 finish: 4th
2021 team: Maia Wilson, Jamie Hume, Amorangi Malesala, Monica Falkner, Gina Crampton, Mila Reulu-Buchanan, Lisa Mather, Oceane Maihi, Anna Harrison, Elle Temu.
In: Gina Crampton (Steel), Amorangi Malesala (Australia), Anna Harrison (retirement), Monica Falkner (Magic), Elle Temu (Pulse).
Out: Fa'amu Ioane (Mystics), Julianna Naoupu (pregnant), Storm Purvis (retired), Daystar Swift, Kate Burley (Mystics), Grace Kara (Magic), Vika Koloto.
The Stars relied heavily on goal shoot Maia Wilson for the 2020 season, who slotted 461 goals at 90 per cent accuracy, while starting goal attack Jamie Hume played more of a feeding role, recording only 123 goals at 67 per cent accuracy. New signing Monica Falkner returns to elite netball after recovering from an ACL injury last year and will likely share the goal attack bib with fellow ex-Magic shooter Amorangi Malesala. The latter returns to the Premiership after two seasons in Australia.
The loss of the 63 test caps of Grace Kara shouldn't worry Stars fans too much as the pick-up of Silver Ferns co vice-captain Gina Crampton will provide accurate feeds and a pair of safe hands in the midcourt. Crampton finished the 2020 season top in both centre pass receives (319) and circle feeds (434). Look out for some creativity in the defensive end with Anna Harrison coming out of retirement to don the purple dress.
2020 finish: 3rd
2021 team: Bailey Mes, Grace Nweke, Saviour Tui, Filda Vui, Tayla Earle, Fa'amu Ioane, Peta Toeava, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson*, Kate Burley, Sulu Fitzpatrick.
In: Kate Burley (Stars), Fa'amu Ioane (Stars).
Out: Emma Iversen (retired), Phoenix Karaka (pregnant), Asher Grapes (Magic), Emily Burgess.
The Northern Mystics' chances for the 2021 campaign took a blow earlier this week when a ruptured Achilles tendon cruelly ruled out Michaela Sokolich-Beatson. It is the second time in nine months the tendon has ruptured. Having already missed the 2020 campaign, the impending return of the Silver Ferns defender — and international shooter Bailey Mes — from injury was set to be welcome news.
While the Mystics will have to again replace Sokolich-Beatson, they will be hoping Mes can provide much-needed support to star shooter Grace Nweke. Nweke was the most prolific shooter in the 2020 season, netting 471 goals, often with little support from her goal attacks. Fa'amu Ioane and Kate Burley both move from the Stars and will be looking for court time, with Burley likely to get more action with Sokolich-Beatson sidelined. Last season's Mystics captain Phoenix Karaka will miss the 2021 season. She is expecting her first child in January.
2020 finish: 2nd
2021 team: Ellie Bird, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Jess Prosser, Erikana Pedersen, Kimiora Poi, Charlotte Elley, Samon Nathan, Karin Burger, Sophia Fenwick, Jane Watson.
In: Karin Burger (Pulse).
Out: Temalisi Fakahokotau (Magic).
The Canterbury-based side made the final for the first time in 2020, and are largely sticking to the same formula for 2021. Marianne Delaney-Hoshek is leading the side again, which means there is only one change for the franchise — Temalisi Fakahokotau is heading north to the Magic.
However, the Tactix gain Silver Fern Karin Burger to cover the defensive end. Burger had most of her court time at wing defence for the title-winning Pulse in 2020, but expect to see her at goal defence at the Tactix, playing alongside the 2020 player of the year Jane Watson. The Tactix midcourt of Erikana Pedersen, Kimiora Poi and Charlotte Elley provide speed and accurate feeds to the shooting duo of Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
2020 finish: 1st
2021 team: Aliyah Dunn, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Te Amo Amaru-Tibble, Whitney Souness, Maddy Gordon, Claire Kersten, Paris Lokotui, Parris Mason, Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury.
In: Whitney Souness (Magic), Te Amo Amaru-Tibble.
Out: Karin Burger (Tactix), Tiana Metuarau (Steel), Renee Savai'inaea (Steel), Elle Temu (Stars).
The reigning back-to-back champions have lost four players next season. As well as Burger's move north, Tiana Metuarau and Renee Savi'inaea will be looking for more court time at the Steel and Elle Temu is heading to the Northern Stars.
Despite these changes, the Pulse still have a strong attacking line-up. The return of Whitney Souness from a season at the Magic will create fierce competition for the starting wing attack bib, with the MVP of last year's final, Maddy Gordon, in the mix to earn her first Silver Ferns cap this year. Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio are arguably the best shooting pairing in the league, thanks in part to Dunn's record of the highest accuracy last season (91 per cent). New coach Gail Parata has plenty of depth to choose from, with six Pulse players being selected in the Silver Ferns squad.