In a year where the Silver Ferns seek to right a wrong, the ANZ Premiership will be an important testing ground for talent. Merryn Anderson looks at six players aiming for a breakout season.
As 2022 delivers an ever-changing sporting landscape, the ANZ Premiership will need to stay agile and adaptable.
This weekend, reigning champions the Northern Mystics take on 2021’s wooden spooners, the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, in Hamilton to launch this year’s competition (albeit without crowds under the red light restrictions).
It’s a big year for netball, with the Silver Ferns looking to erase all memories of the nightmarish 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games when they travel to Birmingham in July.
There have been a lot of changes in the international side since that fourth place finish four years ago; pregnancies, retirement, injuries and a decline in form leaving spots wide open for anyone to take.
After a few noteworthy shifts in the off-season, LockerRoom takes a look at one player from each of the six franchises who’s poised to have a breakout season.
Filda Vui (Northern Mystics)
Following her first fully-contracted season with the Northern Mystics, Vui was rewarded with a call-up to the wider Silver Ferns squad to contest the Quad Series in England in January.
Vui played 11 games for the Mystics last season, shooting 70 goals at 80 percent accuracy. With her no-nonsense turn and shoot style, she teamed up with Grace Nweke to help the Mystics take out their first ever ANZ Premiership title.
The 25-year-old shooter returns to the blue dress for 2022, and with Bailey Mes moving to the Magic, Vui will line up alongside Nweke and Monica Falkner, likely at goal attack.
With Nweke easily the most prolific shooter in 2021 (over 200 attempts more than her nearest rival), it’s easy for the Mystics’ goal attacks to take a backseat and simply play a feeding role.
But not Vui. After getting the call to the Silver Ferns, she’ll be ready to step up for the Mystics and push to rejoin the Ferns environment for her debut in the black dress.
Amorangi Malesala (Northern Stars)
Getting her first taste of ANZ Premiership netball in 2017 with the Magic, Amorangi Malesala plied her trade in Sydney for two years before returning home to south Auckland and the Stars last year.
Malesala was one of four quality shooters in the Stars line-up, but still managed 143 minutes of game time, slotting 62 goals.
With Maia Wilson holding down the goal shoot bib for the past five years, the Stars have cycled through goal attacks, including Jamie Hume (who’s still in the side).
Malesala found her groove in the latter half of the season, complementing Wilson’s strength under the hoop with her long-range accuracy.
The Stars will be looking to undo their poor finish to the 2021 season and Malesala has the chance to put her hand up to be their number one choice for the goal attack bib.
Off the court, the 23-year-old is studying towards a law degree, with hopes of giving back to her community and being a voice for Māori and Pasifika youth.
A new-look Magic team awaits in 2022, including defender Oceane Maihi (centre).
Oceane Maihi (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic)
Oceane Maihi makes the move south to the mighty Waikato this season and will slot into a very defence-heavy Magic team.
Seven of the Magic’s 10 contracted players can play wing defence or in-circle defence, so the fight for court time will be tough (although the most experienced defender, Katrina Rore, is now expecting her second child). Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong both have Silver Ferns caps as circle defenders, while Maihi is a member of the Silver Ferns development squad.
A proud Northlander, Maihi put her work as a physio on hold to focus on netball, and was rewarded with her first fully-contracted year with the Stars.
She played 13 of the Stars’ 15 games in 2021, pulling on the purple dress alongside Elle Temu and the experienced head of Anna Harrison.
Splitting her time between goal defence and goal keep, Maihi’s strength and agility with her 1.83m frame will cause a selection dilemma for new Magic coach Mary-Jane Araroa.
Paris Lokotui (Central Pulse)
Paris Lokotui made her ANZ Premiership debut last year, after representing New Zealand as a high schooler in both basketball and water polo.
Maddy Gordon’s knee injury gives Lokotui an opportunity to make the wing defence bib hers at the Pulse this year.
Starting the Pulse’s 2021 season primarily as a wing defence, Lokotui spent more time at goal defence towards the end of the season.
Likely to be used at wing defence this year, Lokotui’s strength and power on court complement her personality off it.
The 20-year-old was a recipient of a Tania Dalton Foundation scholarship in 2019, and was chosen as vice-captain of the NZU21 team for their games in 2020.
A member of the Silver Ferns development squad, Lokotui was also part of the wider Silver Ferns squad for last year’s series against the England Roses and Aotearoa Men.
Vika Koloto is making the trip down south this year to last year's grand finalists, the Tactix.
Vika Koloto (Mainland Tactix)
Another 2019 Tania Dalton Foundation scholar, Vika Koloto was originally named as a training partner for the 2022 Tactix, but made the switch to a fully-contracted player when Jane Watson announced her pregnancy.
The 1.8m shooter was planning to use 2022 to build her skills as a shooter and at wing attack, but will have the chance to really stamp her mark on a Tactix team who fell at the last hurdle last year, losing by two goals to the Mystics in the grand final.
The Tactix were heavily reliant on Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit last season, but now have four shooters, with Koloto’s NZU21 teammate Hannah Glen also making the step up from training partner.
Koloto’s first taste of ANZ Premiership netball was in 2020 with the Stars, playing two games as a replacement player. Her move to Christchurch marks her first-time away from home, so this year will push her outside her comfort zone as she looks to perform in her first full season at the elite level.
Saviour Tui (Southern Steel)
Even on the bench, you could still see the smiling face of young shooter Saviour Tui last season.
The 20-year-old only managed 14 minutes of game time with the Mystics in 2021, down from 374 minutes in 2020.
Primarily a goal shoot, Tui was stuck behind Nweke at the Mystics, with Bailey Mes and Filda Vui filling the goal attack role in 2021. But she was a standout for the Northern Marvels in their National Netball League (her 54 from 56 leading the Marvels to their grand final victory over Northern Comets).
But this season Tui has made the move down south, teaming up in the goal circle with Georgia Heffernan, returning from an ACL injury, and English import George Fisher.
Tui impressed as part of the New Zealand U21 side who contested the 2020 Cadbury Netball Series against the Ferns, New Zealand A and the Aotearoa Men.
Her accuracy from long range and ability to find space under the hoop make her an asset to any team, and if she can withstand the pressure of quality defence, she could easily be in contention for the Silver Ferns in the future.