The Northern Stars have made a huge statement to open the ANZ Premiership season, beating the two-time defending champion Central Pulse 57-53 in Palmerston North.
It was an impressive showing for the Stars, who led the game from start to finish and looked in control throughout, despite the Pulse closing the gap in the final quarter.
Veteran defender Anna Harrison immediately showed why the Stars wanted her in the team this year, with her presence in the circle flustering the Pulse attack as she tipped and picked off passes.
Centre Claire Kersten and wing attack Whitney Souness were strong in the midcourt for the Pulse, however the disruptive defence of the Stars saw a lot of quality feeds into the circle disrupted. The absence of Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio left a large hole to fill for the hosts and while goal shoot Aliyah Dunn scored 36 of her 39 attempts, she also had eight turnovers.
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The Stars got off to a fast start in the opening quarter, scoring the first three goals of the game and leading by as many as eight in the first 15 minutes. The Pulse fought back early in the second half with four goals on the bounce, but the Stars later went on a five-goal run of their own through Maia Wilson, who ended the game with 44 goals from 50 attempts - 16 of those coming in the first quarter.
With a four-point lead at halftime, the Stars again got the better of the early exchanges in the third quarter, scoring three of the first four goals. While the Pulse were able to close the gap to just two during the quarter, the Stars pushed it back out and were able to fight off a late charge to claim the opening win of the campaign.
While the Stars' victory wasn't a major shock, the performance of the Mainland Tactix was.
Tipped as the favourites for the title, the Tactix bombed against a Southern Steel team that few fancied coming into the season, with the Steel running away with a stunningly dominant 54-36 victory.
Steel import shooter George Fisher immediately showed her worth with 46 goals from 49 attempts, while the Tactix missed key shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit as their season got off to a surprisingly poor start.