The 12-strong squad includes seven players who featured in last year's series, with Dan Rich, Timmy Apisai, Stefan Mateariki, Benny Matthews, Stan Smith, Manase Vaka and Tane Apaapa all returning.
Manapori will be counting on the experienced heads to lead from the front.
“Dan Rich brings a lot of experience both from winning titles on the national scene and representing the NZ Men’s side as well. Fellow defender Timmy Apisai is the current goal keep for the NZ Men’s side, so we’re really lucky to have them on the team. We also have midcourter Stefan Mateariki who is very experienced and has played at national level as well and Benny Matthews has trained with the Stars women within the past year and adds value through those experiences.” Manapori said.
Manapori is excited to integrate players into the environment for the first time and sees the opportunity as a stepping stone for their netball development and will help them grow as a player and person.
“New goal shoot Jakob Mahutariki-Fakalelu has impressed me, he’s only 23 but has a lot of maturity for a very young player and is really strong and has a lot of game smarts and adds a youthful exuberance to the team which is awesome. Defender Tane Apaapa has been great too, he plays with passion and is always looking to get better and has an ability to train and play with an intensity which is great to watch.” Manapori explained.
Game one against the Mystics men is next Saturday May 6th as a curtain raiser to the Mystics' ANZ Premiership match against the Steel at the Trusts Arena.
The Stars men have had a condensed amount of time to prepare for the first match and Manapori says there's been a big focus on being connected and building trust as a playing group.
"Player accountability has been really huge and emphasis on the players to build on what they’ve achieved during our training sessions and be able to put out a really good brand of netball that everyone can be happy with and taking accountability for how they play. Manapori added.
"It is basic netball, but is about understanding the technicality and tactical side of the game where a lot of players are quite new. I want them to play with some structure, but also have the freedom to express themselves through their own game as well. “
The Stars won the last contest between the two sides in a one-point thriller and Manapori says it would be massive for the players and the South Auckland region if they were to win game one this year.
“I think the boys are really keen to get out and show what they’ve put out on court during the last couple of trainings and to be proud of the work we’ve put in. They’ve all been challenged to do things differently, or try something new and that’s been awesome for us as coaches. The win would be huge in terms of how players feel and how far we’ve come as a squad. The win would be a bonus, but always looking to be better and working on our connections is the key.”
2023 STARS MENS INVITATIONAL SQUAD
William Te Tomo