MVP Kelly Jury headlines Stuff’s ANZ Premiership team of the season
Brendon Egan is a Stuff sports writer
OPINION: It’s been the most challenging ANZ Premiership season in the competition’s six-year history with Covid-19 causing plenty of disruption and rescheduled matches.
Now we’re down to the Pulse and Stars in Sunday’s final, it’s time to don the chief selector’s hat and pick the team of the season.
Selection criteria: Players were picked in the position they predominantly played this season, meaning Karin Burger, who mostly played goal defence, couldn’t slide to wing defence. Selection is purely on premiership form – this is not a Silver Ferns starting seven.
* Stars hold on to beat Mystics 63-57 in ANZ Premiership elimination final
* Yvette McCausland-Durie delivers major boost for Central Pulse in ANZ Premiership grand final week
* Stars a stronger team now than when they last made the ANZ Premiership finals
Four players – Grace Nweke (Mystics), Maia Wilson (Stars), Aliyah Dunn (Pulse) and George Fisher (Steel) deserve consideration at goal shoot and you could easily make a case for any of them. They all landed 545 goals or more and shot at 87% or higher. Nweke gets the nod in a tight battle though given how much of an impact she had on court. In the four games she missed with an ankle injury, the Mystics were awful, losing every game – demonstrating how critical she was to the team.
Nweke had five games with 50 or more goals, including a season-best of 59 against the Stars. Tiana Metuarau (Pulse) edges Jamie Hume (Stars), Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Tactix) and Bailey Mes (Magic) at goal attack. Metuarau operated effectively alongside Dunn in a successful Pulse shooting end after shifting back home from the Steel– converting 239 goals at 82% prior to the grand final.
Maia Wilson makes a stunning start for the Stars, then Mystics Grace Nweke makes an immediate impact.
Silver Ferns captain Gina Crampton had a quiet start by her high standards, but was a standout over the back half of the Stars’ campaign. She was integral at wing attack on the team’s seven game winning run to make the grand final, delivering quality ball to her shooters. Crampton is preferred over Whitney Souness (Pulse), who had an excellent season, and Shannon Saunders of the Steel. Centre is the most fiercely contested position of the court for the Silver Ferns and it was a close decision for the team of the season. Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Stars) pips Kate Heffernan (Steel) in one of the toughest positional decisions with Kimiora Poi (Tactix) also having her moments in a struggling team.
Reuelu-Buchanan flourished again with her connections with Crampton, Hume, and Wilson, and has made her case to be the Ferns’ starting centre at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. At wing defence, Maddy Gordon (Pulse) missed the start of the season with a knee niggle, but upon returning to the court, added spark on attack and defence, delivering pleasing performances. She shades Holly Fowler (Stars), who had her finest premiership season, and did a tremendous job creating ball for the circle defenders with her constant pressure.
Elle Temu was another success story for the Stars at goal defence, building on the encouraging signs she showed last year. Temu thrived alongside Anna Harrison forming one of the most dominant defensive circles in the premiership. She was second for both intercepts (40) and deflections (72) and created regular turnover ball. Temu gains selection over Karin Burger (Tactix), who had another impressive season, Kristiana Manu’a (Pulse) and Phoenix Karaka (Mystics).
Kelly Jury (Pulse) is a lock at goal keep and would be the ANZ Premiership MVP, if it was handed out. Harrison, Sulu Fitzpatrick (Mystics) and Kate Burley (Steel) all had strong seasons, but it’s impossible to go past Jury at the back. The 25-year-old took her play to another level in 2022 and was in sparkling touch. Statistics don’t tell you everything, but Jury was top for deflections (109) entering the final, intercepts (42) and second for rebounds (35). A Silver Ferns’ starting goal keep bib awaits in Birmingham.
Stuff Super Seven:
GS: Grace Nweke (Mystics), GA: Tiana Metuarau (Pulse), WA: Gina Crampton (Stars), C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Stars), WD: Maddy Gordon (Pulse), GD: Elle Temu (Stars), GK: Kelly Jury (Pulse).
Bench: Maia Wilson (Stars), Whitney Souness (Pulse), Kate Heffernan (Steel), Karin Burger (Tactix), Anna Harrison (Stars).