Seven of last season’s 12 players have returned to the SKYCITY Mystics squad, headed by their captain Maria Tutaia. Shooting buddy Cathrine Latu (soon to have a name change after a February wedding) and fellow international Kayla Cullen are back as is Serena Guthrie, one of three current SKYCITY Mystics players to feature at the Netball World Cup in August. Defenders Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick and Temalisi Fakahokotau, who have both played for their country, and midcourter Nadia Loveday.
The five ‘new’ players to the squad include the returning Anna Harrison and perhaps the most interesting player in the whole League, 2.03m (or 6ft 8in) Megan Craig. They’re joined by three youngsters who haven’t yet hit 20; Holly Fowler, Fa’amu Ioane and Micheala Sokolich-Beatson who have all represented New Zealand in junior grades.
Anna Harrison is of course, a Kiwi great and a gold medallist at World Champs and Commonwealth Games with the Silver Ferns who has also represented New Zealand in both indoor and beach volleyball. Craig is a former US Collegiate basketballer, who grew up in Northland. Fowler, Loane and Sokolich-Beatson were part of Debbie Fuller’s Transition to ANZ in 2015, to ensure newcomers could hit the court running this season.
Among their many pre-season moves in 2016, the SKYCITY Mystics have a training camp at Muriwai in February, three trial games, and they will also host four teams at an ANZ Championship Pre-Season event at The Trusts Arena from 18-20 March. Also participating are Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic, Southern Steel, Adelaide Thunderbirds and last year’s ANZ Championship premiers the Queensland Firebirds.
Last year the Mystics went unbeaten through the regular season against all Kiwi opposition, finishing top of the ANZ Championship New Zealand conference. But two losses, one in the Conference Final to the Magic, and then in the semi-final to the Firebirds have left Debbie Fuller and her team with plenty of fire in their bellies for 2016.