ANZ Premiership: Tactix learns from 2020 Grand Final loss to Mystics

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The Mainland Tactix were in awe of the opportunity at last year’s ANZ Premiership Grand Final and won’t let that happen again.

For the second season in a row, the Tactix will play in the national netball title match when they face the Mystics at Spark Arena in Auckland on Sunday.

Playing in their first grand final in team history against the Pulse last year, the Tactix were way below their best and started badly.

There were obvious nerves and it wasn’t until the second half that they settled into their rhythm but found themselves chasing after the game, dropping 10 goals at halftime.

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With Temalisi Fakahokotau being the only member of last year’s grand final not to return, the Tactix had a better appreciation of what to expect on Sunday.

The intensity and pressure would only increase and Tactix captain Jane Watson thought the pain of last year’s big final loss had been a solid learning experience.

The Pulse are celebrating winning the ANZ Premiership title last year as Tactix players Jane Watson and Te Paea Selby-Rickit leave the field.

Joe Allison / Getty Images

The Pulse are celebrating winning the ANZ Premiership title last year as Tactix players Jane Watson and Te Paea Selby-Rickit leave the field.

Whatever happens, a first-time champion will be crowned by the Mystics who have never won the ANZ Premiership title or played in the all-New Zealand competition decider.

With New Zealand on Alert Level 2 last August, the Pulse and Tactix performed in front of a small crowd of just 160 fans at Invercargill. More than 5,000 are expected at Spark Arena with the vast majority of Mystics supporters.

The Tactix had been talking this week about embracing the netball grand finale and making the most of it because they didn’t roll that often. Some elite netballers have gone their entire careers without playing one.

Jane Watson thinks the Tactix are better for the lessons of last year's big final loss.

Kai Schwoerer / Getty Images

Jane Watson thinks the Tactix are better for the lessons of last year’s big final loss.

“We certainly have [mentioned last year]. We touched on a few points and hope that our preparation before this game, we know it’s going to be a lot better. We’re a little more experienced with this now. Hope this helps us move forward, ”Watson said.

“It wasn’t quite the feeling that we had had all year [in that grand final]. I think the last games we had this year were like a final for us. I think we will be better prepared and ready to start strong and put in a good performance that feels natural to us. “

Qualifying for the back-to-back Grand Finals is a world away from the debut of Watson, the excellent Silver Ferns, with the Tactix.

Tactix players wave to the crowd at Christchurch Arena after a win over the Magic this season.

John Davidson / Photosport

Tactix players wave to the crowd at Christchurch Arena after a win over the Magic this season.

She won just five games in three seasons with the team between 2012-14 in the former Trans-Tasman League, regularly receiving unbalanced beatings.

In a bizarre move, the Tactix failed to hold Watson back and she moved to the Steel in 2015, thriving in three seasons with the Southerners. The outstanding defender was a member of Steel’s title-winning team in the ANZ Premiership’s debut season in 2017.

In a signing move for the Tactix, Watson joined the Reds and Blacks in 2018 and has been a central figure in their turnaround, helping to set the standards and inspiring them to victory with his brilliant play.

Jane Watson and the Tactix have had a lot to smile about this season after a tough start to the campaign.

John Davidson / Photosport

Jane Watson and the Tactix have had a lot to smile about this season after a tough start to the campaign.

“It has been a massive change. I think it’s really cool and that’s all to the credit of everyone who was a part of it, even then and those who are still around now. I’m just very proud of the girls. I know we worked really hard and we deserve this place, I really believe it.

“I really wanted to see a change in the mindset, the performance culture around Tactix. I think this has been a positive change, thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of people. “

A chartered flight from Tactix fans will travel to Auckland to support the team and Watson said they were blown away by the support they received.

Even in their dark days in the Trans-Tasman League, the Tactix drew nice crowds to their home games and they stayed with the team.

The Tactix players thank the crowd at Christchurch Arena after their only home game of the season last year against the Stars.

Kai Schwoerer / Getty Images

The Tactix players thank the crowd at Christchurch Arena after their only home game of the season last year against the Stars.

A first Tactix title would be a reward for them and everyone who has followed the team across the mainland, which stretches from Waimate to Nelson-Marlborough and includes the West Coast.

“It would honestly mean the world. There is more than just [us], there’s our fans, there’s a community, there’s our whole region and the people who really put their time behind us – our sponsors, everyone really. There are too many to name them, to be honest.

“Just being able to make them proud and play for more than us, for everyone.”

The battle between Mystics Grace Nweke's shot on goal and Tactix goalkeeper Jane Watson could decide the grand finale.

John Davidson / Photosport

The battle between Mystics Grace Nweke’s shot on goal and Tactix goalkeeper Jane Watson could decide the grand finale.

The Mystics and Tactix have served classics this season with the first two games decided by a single goal and each team securing a victory. In the final round, the Mystics won 63-59 in Christchurch to gain some confidence heading into the grand final and win the round series 2-1.

If the Tactix are to win, they will need to limit the balloon supply from Mystics’ wing attack and main source Peta Toeava in prolific goalscorer Grace Nweke.

Nweke’s positional battle with Watson and compatriot Silver Fern Karin Burger would be key in determining the outcome of the final.

“There is no doubt that they are scoring quickly. So I think it’s all about our team effort on defense putting the pressure all the way through, but also knowing when we have the ball, we have control.

“We have to make the most of every opportunity we have. “

AT A GLANCE:

ANZ Premiership Grand Final

Mystics vs. Tactix

Sunday 3:30 p.m. Spark Arena Auckland

Likely beginners:

Mystics: Grace Nweke, Filda Vui / Bailey Mes, Peta Toeava, Tayla Earle, Fa’amu Ioane, Kate Burley, Sulu Fitzpatrick.

Tactical: Ellie Bird, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Samon Nathan, Kimiora Poi, Charlotte Elley, Karin Burger, Jane Watson.


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