Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v MG Mystics - March 4, 2023
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel faltered in its opening clash of the 2023 ANZ Premiership season, heavily defeated 64-38 by the MG Mystics in Auckland.
It was a game of contrasts. Where the Mystics delivered a slick performance brimming with confidence to let the ball soar, the Steel were hesitant on attack and too often struggled to find cohesion.
Already trailing 2-8 just five minutes into the match, the Steel never recovered to make an impact on the scoreboard – down 10-22, 18-36 and 52-28 heading into each spell.
Buoyed by a dominant defensive effort, the Mystics earned the luxury of injecting new players into the action for valuable court time.
After delivering some favourable pre-season results, the Steel will be left lamenting what went wrong in a game marred by turnovers.
Playing with flair and precision, the Mystics posted the biggest winning margin of their ANZ Premiership history. The home side showed few chinks, playing with confidence and unrelenting in execution.
Conversely, it was a tough day at the office for an injury-depleted Steel, who struggled to fill the void of their missing firepower while dipping to their lowest-ever score in the ANZ Premiership.
Elevated from the Mystics national league feeder team the Northern Marvels, Danielle Binks got the start at wing attack where she shared duties throughout the game with Peta Toeava, who is working her way back to full fitness after a bout of illness.
For the Steel, Eseta Autagavaia, who was recently named as the replacement player for the injured George Fisher, got the nod at goal shoot with Sam Winders lining up in front of her for her new team while also assuming a new role at wing attack.
The Mystics got away to the best of starts, quickly settling into their groove and moving seamlessly into overdrive against a Steel side struggling to find their feet.
It was largely one-way traffic through the opening stanza, a steady stream of quick, quality ball landing in the hands of Mystics super shooter Grace Nweke as the home side forged a substantial lead.
There were slim pickings at the scoring end for the Steel, the new combination of Georgia Heffernan and Autagavaia under siege early on. The Mystics posted a 22-10 first quarter lead, leaving the Steel a mountain to climb.
Things didn’t get much better for the Steel on the resumption, taking over four minutes to slot their first goal as the international defensive duo of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka had the wood on the Steel scorers.
In the midcourt, wing defence Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and centre Tayla Earle also had strong outings, the pair picking up plenty of turnover ball through their defensive prowess.
Jess Allan was injected for Autagavaia midway through the quarter, her movement providing more opportunities in the Steel shooting circle but it remained an uphill struggle.
Restricting the Steel to just eight goals for the stanza while continuing to add to their own tally, the Mystics burst out to a 36-18 lead at half time.
Using a variety of combinations, the Mystics defensive end continued to apply the blowtorch during an equally dominant third term, leaving the Steel little respite.
Exciting young midcourt talent Ivari Christie was injected into the Steel cause during the quarter, adding some spark with her quick movement and passing.
The Mystics continued to alternate their playing roster, all players getting a run at varying stages throughout while Nweke finished her impressive shift with 43 goals from 45 attempts when a dominant Mystics rolled into the three-quarter time break with a 52-28 lead.
Not quite done, Nweke appeared for a brief 2 -1/2-minute cameo to end the game at goal attack, in the process adding another three goals to her tally.
Shooting Stats - Steel:
Eseta Autagavaia 9/13 (69%)
Georgia Heffernan 14/19 (74%)
Jess Allan 15/19 (79%)
Shooting Stats - Mystics:
Grace Nweke 46/48 (96%)
Monica Falkner 12/17 (71%)
Filda Vui 6/7 (86%)
MVP: Phoenix Karaka (Mystics)