The ANZ Premiership took the first of many giant steps to a more inclusive and exciting game of netball this past weekend, by including a Men’s Invitational game in the fixture after COVID-19 reaped through the teams.
The Mystic’s Men and Star’s Men had been patiently waiting in the wings for their opportunity to shine at a national league level and shine they did as this game was filled with excitement, emotions and clean physical netball.
The Mystics Men won this game 54 – 45 but the scoreline was not the story to tell.
A flourish of new shooters.
As fans of netball, we have become accustomed to a Cadbury Series goal circle with Junior Levy and Kruze Tangira which showcases agility and flair but while Junior was at training in Melbourne, Kruze bibbed up in GD and let the fresh talent really showcase what they got.
For the Mystics Men, it was the 213cm Quintin Gerber in GS who had an impeccable high bun and held strong under the post waiting for the perfect feeds from the Vercoe twins.
In his tool kit was a range of shooting styles from a Lenize Potgeiter basketball-style shot to a typical Cath Cox type of shot and sometimes even a jump shot just to ensure it went in. He made the defenders work for the ball and looked incredibly confident in every single one of his shots.
Paired with him for most of the game was 24-year-old, Thomson Matuku who could be likened to a Maria Folau or Rahni Samason with their high long bomb shot, stone-cold confidence and ability to make a play work no matter who was defending them or where they were on the court.
But if confidence was a shot of tequila, Maru Delamere took ten of them before this game. The Stars Men GA/GS was out to show off his skill and prove that Men’s Netball deserves to be played on the main stage.
It was quite early on that Anna Stanley and Jenny Woods noticed the shooter’s confidence to get the ball, turn and shoot but an iconic moment of the game was when Delamere was so confident in their shot that he started walking back to the transverse line before the goal was even scored. And with Kruze Tangira in Goal Defence that was a high-class risk.
The Man of the Match
Described as uncharacteristically bibbing up in Goal Defence, Kruze Tangira became the world’s best netballer on Saturday.
In just the first quarter, he had three intercepts and about half a dozen deflections likening his style of play to Shamera Sterling or Casey Kopua.
But that wasnt what made him the World’s Best Netballer.
By the end of the game, Kruze had filled five different positions none of which were the normal shooting positions he plays. Proving that he could play every position on court and play it to some of the highest standards of the game.
He was the player you didn’t want to be playing against as often his opposition had to work twice as hard to get the ball and he commanded the court often providing sound advice to his shooters Matuku and Gerber or loudly directing players to set up a zone defence in the middle third.
There was nothing uncharacteristic about it, he played with his heart on his sleeve, his brain in the game and left all of his blood sweat and tears out on the court.
The Relentless Defence End
We don’t say this enough but defence wins you the game and the Stars Men’s biggest pitfall was resting Timothy Apisai in the third quarter.
Apisai was a force to be reckoned with. His perfect coverage of a shot allowed him to neatly reject and intercept long-range shots and his long arms allowed him to get his hands to some wayward passes from the Mystics, making it crucial that every pass was perfect.
What stunned the fans though was his standing jump, it was on song but often your eyebrows raised at how he contorted his body in different angles to deflect the ball.
(Not only that but you felt for his ankles every time he landed)
Down the other end the Mystics showcased the stronghold of Joseph Tukaki in GK and Tangira’s agile defence but when we moved him out to the midcourt a new name became known to the fans.
Hikoirangi Paki. A 19-year-old hailing from Queensland who was out to ruffle some shooter’s feathers and unfortunately the umpires didn’t like it.
Paki was incredibly skilled and agile within the last quarter and truly showed some natural talent and love for the game (often apologising before the call was made) but he lacked some discipline which resulted in late contacts, intimidation and eventually with 54 seconds to go a send-off. While it will be a game to remember for him there is definitely a lot to learn.
One thing is for sure, the New Zealand Men do not lack midcourt talent. The Vercoe twins, Caleb and Joshua showed what pinpoint accuracy looks like and how when you just do the basics you get the ball down the court.
Ryaan Griima’s vision into his goal circle is something that only comes with experience and Benny Mathews was a playmaker for the Stars Men.
But one of the crucial players in this match was Stefan Mateariki who played in WA for the Stars Men and showcased what it is like to be a defensive attacking midcourter. In that first quarter, Mateariki was responsible for navigating play and finding ways to get the ball passed Tangira and Tukaki. As the ball came out of his goal third he often had two hands over the ball and was able to pick up any loose passes or wayward balls helping to convert them into goals. The work he did off the ball and the body to keep Jordan Napara (and eventually Tangira) busy was extremely impressive and that’s what I want to see more of if we get another invitational game.
This was a history-making game to begin with but the men didn’t waste this opportunity to showcase everything they had. The game truly had it all and if you want to revisit the match or watch it for the first time head to netballpass.com or Sky Sports NZ.