Early indications suggest the 2019 Marlborough premier netball race will be a close-run affair.
The three favoured teams pre-season – SMOG Good Home, Harlequins Radich Law and Pelorus Edridge Contracting – picked up wins at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 last week, however none were compelling.
All six teams in action on opening night battled to shake off the rust that had accumulated over the warmer months, struggling for combinations and rhythm, no surprise this early in a long campaign.
SMOG accounted for Awatere 61-32, by far the most comfortable margin, although they had to battle in the early stages for cohesion.
The Quins had a ding-dong battle with Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon, the students staying within reach most of the way through before finally succumbing 46-35.
Pelorus also struggled throughout their clash with Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton, unable to shake off the Picton side, with the final score of 52-47 suggesting some torrid battles to come this season.
Tonight the three winning sides from week one have an opportunity to make an early statement, all matched against first round losers.
SMOG meet MGC in the night’s early game, at 6.15pm, Pelorus take on Awatere at 7.45pm then Harlequins play Tokomaru at 8pm.
Janine Jordaan, coach of defending premier champions SMOG, was happy with her side’s first efforts, especially given they had some untried combinations on court.
“I would probably give them a seven-out-of-10 mark,” said the experienced mentor.
“We started slowly and tried different combinations … but I thought the defence started working better as a unit as the game progressed, along with the attackers’ ability to change speed, create second phase and drives … the connections were just there.
“We have some younger players in areas we had experience in last year, so they just need time to grow.
All the newbies did great. Mahina [Henry-Campbell] at goal keep has never played a full premier game and she kept going all night. Mereana [Ave], at wing defence is a beautiful young player who started reading the game well, built her confidence and grew as the game went on, while Sarah [Hammond] and Ella-Rose [Hammond] did their jobs, meaning the other players could just concentrate on their work.”
A standout in the opener was goal attack Kate Gaudin who showed her reliability, dropping in 32 goals from 36 attempts.
Aimee Jones stood out for the Tussocks, providing an energetic, reliable shooting option, while new centre Nicole Witterick made an immediate impression.
Harlequins gave court time to all 10 players, working on different combinations around the solid core of centre Bridget Gane, shooter Hayley Marfell, goal attack Lauren Murray and goal defence Taylor Rogers.
Wing defence Lily Tiueti, circle defender Mya Wiapo and middie Ella Donald were impressive for MGC, along with goal attack Taila Town who shot at 87 percent and looks a highly-promising prospect.
Pelorus got good value from the experienced midcourt duo of Kelsie Fitzpatrick and Jenna Gilbert, defender Danelle Moffat and Kelly West, who moved into the shooting circle during the second spell.
For Toko, youngster Haze Tepuia stepping up with 31 goals from 37 attempts, while Naia Lawrence also impressed under the hoop. The Wilson twins, Hana and Kayla May, were busy and constructive in midcourt while Savannah Lawrence toiled hard in defence throughout.
Scores from week one:
SMOG Good Home 61 (Karli Murphy 13/19, Lucy Barrett 16/21, Kate Gaudin 32/36) Awatere 32 (Aimee Jones 21/35, Tracee Lee 11/19). Quarter scores (winning team first): 13-10, 17-7, 14-9, 17-6.
Harlequins Radich Law 46 (Hayley Marfell 17/28, Lauren Murray 29/41) MGC New Zealand King Salmon 35 (Oakley Tepuia 7/17, Isabella Rohloff 7/13, Taila Town 21/24). Quarter scores: 11-9, 12-7, 10-11, 13-8.
Pelorus Edridge Contracting 52 (Courtney Taufa 18/32, Olivia Pinkerton 23/33, Kelly West 11/18) Tokomaru Crafar Crouch 47 (Haze Tepuia 32/38, Naia Lawrence 11/12, Gemma Hika 4/5). Quarter scores: 15-10, 11-9, 13-14, 13-14.
Standings: SMOG 3, Harlequins 3, Pelorus 3, Tokomaru 0, MGC 0, Awatere 0.