ANZ Premiership: Mainland Tactix picked to reverse years of netball frustration

Whispers around the ANZ Premiership launch have produced a surprise favourite to take out the New Zealand national netball league…

Incredibly, the Canterbury/Mainland Tactix have not achieved a winning season since they contested the inaugural trans-Tasman championship in 2008.

Over the past 12 seasons, including the last three in the NZ-only competition, they have won only 34 games - and lost 127. 

For a while, after the 2011 earthquakes struck Christchurch, the Tactix were allowed an extra second imported player to help offset the disruption caused to their programme.

Last season, they barely avoided another wooden-spoon finish, edging the Northern Mystics by one competition point to stay off the bottom of the table.

But if word on the street is to be believed, all that is about to change for the perennial South Island battlers.

"I think the team to beat this year is the Mainland Tactix," says Mystics captain Phoenix Karaka. "I think it's their time to shine.

"They've had a few games where they've shown glimpses of the excellence that they have, but I think this is their year - and ours.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to meet them in that final."

Central Pulse captain Katrina Rore is another quietly promoting the Tactix as the team to beat, when the 2020 season begins on March 15.

The Wellington-based outfit are defending champions, after beating the Northern Stars in last year's Grand Final, and emerged unbeaten from last month's pre-season tournament at Otaki.

But their closest contest came from the team they will face in their season-opener.

"In pre-season, [the Tactix] gave us the biggest run for our money," agrees Rore cagily. "Pre-season is pre-season and as soon as you hit the court, it's a totally different kettle of fish.

"But their group has probably been together the longest and they understand each other a lot. 

"Everyone's getting more experience, they're a little older, more understanding… yeah, the Tactix will be pretty tough."

Captained by Silver Ferns defender Jane Watson, the southerners will welcome back another world-class defender - Temalisi Fakahokotau - from injury, while international shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit moves north from the Southern Steel to boost the attacking end of the court.

And Watson isn't shying away from the lofty predictions for her side.

"We've definitely got a strong line-up," she agrees. "If all things go well, if we keep building on each game, keep consolidating as a team and back each other up, I think we'll go all the way."