The encounter between last year's runners-up Magic, with and a fired-up Mystics side (four former Silver Ferns) is set to be a sizzling contest, with a total of 15 current or former international players in the two teams.
The opening round concludes this evening with the first trans-Tasman encounter of the season, between 2008 champions NSW Swifts and Mercury Energy Tactix. Tactix finished eighth last season but had the distinction of being the only New Zealand team to defeat the Swifts, 50-44 in Round 2.
The 2009 ANZ Championship began on a high note in New Zealand on Saturday in front of a sell-out crowd at Invercargill's Stadium Southland.
And the home team, Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel did not disappoint their army of enthusiastic fans. They delivered a solid performance to defeat the young Central Pulse team 55-46.
Steel, with eight current or former Silver Ferns, held the edge throughout against a competitive Pulse. Both sides showed some rustiness, but by the final quarter the southerners began to display the class they will need for a serious tilt at this year’s title.
A highlight of the game was the return of former Southern Sting stars Adine Wilson and Donna Wilkins after a break from the game in 2008 to give birth. They quickly made their mark on the game, with Wilson showing good speed and sharp release on attack, while Wilkins was a dominant figure in the Steel shooting circle.
Pulse, the youngest team in the competition, put up a game effort against Steel’s superior firepower. Standouts for Pulse were shooters Paula Griffin and Jamilah Gupwell, tireless wing attack Ngarama Milner-Olsen and the team’s captain, rugged defender Cushla Lichtwark.
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