Awatere goal attack Aimee Jones prepares to put up a shot during her side’s match-up with SMOG. Photo: Peter Jones.

Quins underline title potential

Harlequins fired a warning shot across the bows of their premier netball rivals with a gritty victory over Pelorus at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 on Tuesday.

“The Mighty Quins” showed they would be a force to reckon with in the shortened 2020 season by downing SMOG in round one, then backing up with a hard-fought 41-37 win over Pelorus, last year’s finalists.

In the early match SMOG rebounded with a 67-47 victory over Awatere, while defending champions Tokomaru continued on their winning way with a comfortable 63-41 triumph over Marlborough Girls’ College.

However, it was the Quins v Pelorus clash that caught the eye. Not for the precision of either side’s play, a lack of accuracy showing that some post-lockdown rust remains.

Turnovers were frequent, especially as the stakes ramped up in the latter stages. Underlining this, the third quarter was won by Pelorus 6-5, just 23 shots attempted over the 15-minute period.

The final quarter was also low-scoring, Quins claiming it 11-5. The teams were locked together 36-36 with five minutes on the clock before Quins took charge. Their efforts were led by young goal defence Jackson McLaren, who only played the final 15 minutes. His athleticism and speed of foot bred uncertainty in Pelorus’s attacking game, while he also pulled off a couple of crucial interceptions.

His team mates also lifted in the final stages. Shooters Lauren Murray and Stacey Hopkins managed handy percentages throughout, while middies Bridget Gane, Maighan Watson and Sophie Robinson, plus defenders Olivia Robinson and Katie Cunningham took the battle right to the final whistle.

Pelorus were very much in the game and will rue some missed opportunities and inaccuracies in the latter stages. Their defence was strong and energetic, Jordan Peipi, Oriana Houra and Courtney Avery all enjoying moments of dominance.

Olivia Pinkerton and Paige Lovell returned handy shooting stats, while Kelsie Fitzpatrick continually added impetus through court.

The evening’s early entertainment saw SMOG win all four quarters, their effort led by a strong defensive performance from Karli Murphy, normally a circle attacker.

She worked well with Bonnie Morris to pressurize their rivals, especially as the sides enjoyed an almost equal share of possession.

Anna Thomas, Katie Bradley, Cara Wiapo and Kate Gaudin provide experience and guile in midcourt while Anna Gardiner is becoming a very reliable performer under the hoop.

Awatere continue to drop in their fair share of goals, welcoming the energetic Aimee Jones back this week to partner Hannah McCabe, however concede too many at the other end.

With such talented players as Ashley Childs, Nicole Witterick, Courtney Ryan, Harriet Ryan, Dee Teddy and Kim Andrews on their roster the Tussocks have the personnel, but are yet to find the right mix.

The third game featured two sets of twins on court at the same time. Toko middies Kayla and Hana Wilson turned in their usual heads-up, energetic efforts, while ace shooter Haze Tepuia was marked by his twin sister Oakley, keeper for the MGC side.

Unfortunately for Oakley her side were unable to keep pace with the champs, despite holding them to just four goals at halftime. A 20-11 third quarter took the match out of MGC’s reach, although they battled to the end, led by Taila Town, Fiaalii Solomona, Mele Moli, Anika Moetaua and Naia Lawrence on attack, plus Taryn Breen and Mya Wiapo in defence.

Toko newcomer Eden Te Huki showed promise at the defensive end, alongside Michaela Boaz, while Haze Tepuia continues to rack up high percentages, this week dropping in 53 goals from 58 shots.


SMOG Good Home 67 (Kate Gaudin 20/26, Anna Gardiner 47/57) Awatere 47 (Hannah McCabe 21/28, Aimee Jones 23/48, Tori McCulloch 3/5). Quarter scores (winning team first): 18-10, 16-10, 17-15, 16-12.

Harlequins Radich Law 41 (Lauren Murray 22/36, Stacey Hopkins 19/30) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 37 (Paige Lovell 24/37, Olivia Pinkerton 13/18). Quarter scores: 10-14, 15-12, 5-6, 11-5.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 63 (Haze Tepuia 53/58, Gemma Hika 6/101, Dana Wilson 4/7) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 41 (Taila Town 16/19, Fiaalii Solomona 10/16, Naia Lawrence 15/20). Quarter scores: 14-9, 12-11, 20-11, 17-10.

Standings: Tokomaru 6, Harlequins 6, SMOG 4, Pelorus 4, MGC 0, Awatere 0.

Tokomaru mid courter Kayla Wilson claims possession on Tuesday. Photo: Peter Jones.

Netball returns to stadium

Premier netball is back – seven weeks later than usual but with traditional enthusiasm and similar scorelines.

The favoured teams took out Tuesday night’s late encounters at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 by comfortable margins, after the opening match became something of an arm wrestle.

Defending champions Tokomaru were too good for Awatere, prevailing 68-37, while last season’s other finalist, Pelorus, accounted for a young Marlborough Girls’ College side, 52-34.

However the evening’s first match was considerably more closely-fought, Harlequins eventually getting the better of long-standing rivals SMOG, 50-45.

After the first three quarters SMOG held a narrow 38-35 advantage, despite having established several handy leads during the first 45 minutes only to see Quins string a run of goals together to close up the scoreline.

Quins, with defenders Olivia Robinson and Jackson McLaren lifting their intensity, restricted their rivals to just 14 goal attempts, while putting up 26 themselves. Lauren Murray and Simone Pedersen, like most of the shooters on display, struggled for consistent numbers under the hoop, but dropped in enough goals to see their side home by five.

Both sides used their benches extensively, keen to give all the players a chance to stretch their legs after lockdown, with new combinations taking time to gel and a fair amount of rust evident in the technical skills.

However, given the unusual circumstances, it was an entertaining match. SMOG welcomed back experienced hands Cara Wiapo, Karli Murphy, Serena MacDougall and Anna Thomas while introducing new recruits Anna Gardiner, Isabella Rohloff and Ella Donald, all former MGC standouts.

Quins opened with Stacey Hopkins, better known on the basketball scene, under the attacking hoop, and welcomed back Simone Pedersen, surely one of the most versatile players on the premier scene. Katie Cunningham, formerly with SMOG, joined Olivia and Sophie Robinson as other new faces in the Quins’ camp this year.

In the late game on the main court Tokomaru began sedately against a new-look Awatere combination but increased the intensity through the first three quarters, before taking their foot off the gas in the final 15 minutes.

Toko marksman Haze Tepuia showed he has been busy under the hoop over the lockdown period by landing a stellar 40 goals from 42 attempts, while his partnership with goal attack Gemma Hika clicked smoothly back into gear.

The three Wilson sisters in midcourt, Hana, Kayla and Dana, ensured Tepuia and Hika had plenty of ball to play with, while Michaela Boaz anchored the defensive end, along with the energetic Chloe Devir.

Awatere, missing the steadily-improving Aimee Jones this week, got good value from skipper Nicole Witterick in midcourt, along with newcomer Kim Andrews. Hannah McCabe looked comfortable in the attacking circle, alongside the versatile Ashley Childs. Defenders Harriet Ryan and Dee Teddy had their work cut out against their Toko rivals but never gave up, helping their side to a morale-boosting final quarter win.

The Pelorus side had a familiar look to it, with quality in all areas, but took some time to find their feet against a willing MGC unit.

At haftime Pelorus held a slender 24-22 lead but they quickly ensured there would be no first night boil over by taking out the third 17-6 to put the game out of reach.

Their slick midcourt combination of Jenna Seabrook, Laura Murphy and Kelsie Fitzpatrick eventually shook off the rust and ensured shooter Paige Lovell and Olivia Pinkerton were kept busy. Oriana Houra and Courtney Avery appealed as an effective defensive duo.

The College side, who were without influential middie Eleri James-Sitters, relied on goal defence Mya Wiapo for much of their momentum and she delivered. Promising newcomers such as Mele Moli, Fiaalii Solomona and Aniuka Moetaua received an early indication of the pace of premier netball, while Taila Town and Oakley Tepuia showed the value of having a season behind them.

Just two rounds will be played this season, with no promotion/relegation between rounds, leading into semifinals and a grand final on September 19.


Harlequins Radich Law 50 (Lauren Murray 17/31, Stacey Hopkins 14/25, Simone Pedersen 19/31) SMOG Good Home 45 (Kate Gaudin 15/22, Anna Gardiner 30/47). Quarter scores (winning team first): 13-12, 10-16, 12-10, 15-7.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 68 (Haze Tepuia 40/42, Gemma Hika 25/31, Dana Wilson 3/7) Awatere 37 (Hannah McCabe 17/28, Ashley Childs 20/30). Quarter scores: 17-11, 17-8, 23-6, 11-12.

Pelorus Edridge Contracting 52 (Paige Lovell 30/49, Olivia Pinkerton 14/25, Laura Murphy 8/14) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 34 (Taila Town 11/20, Fiaalii Solomona 16/24, Naia Lawrence 7/11). Quarter scores: 12-10, 12-12, 17-6, 11-6.

Standings: Tokomaru 3, Pelorus 3, Harlequins 3, SMOG 1, MGC 0, Awatere 0.

Pulse wing defence Karin Burger rises high to claim possession at Stadium 2000. Photo: Supplied.

Pulse beats stronger at Stadium 2000

The Te Wananga o Raukawa Pulse immediately underlined their champion status with a decisive 53-41 win over the Good Oil Pulse at Blenheim’s Stadium 2000 on Sunday afternoon.

The defending ANZ Premiership champions from Wellington took on a Tactix side boosted by a couple of players returning from serious injury and the arrival of Silver Ferns shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit. The southerners have been tipped to make a strong showing in the 2020 competition, but will have some thinking to do after letting what was a close game at halftime get away from them in the second half.

In the end it was the Pulse’s more-settled combinations that saw them through the first match of the new season.

Their shooters Ameliaranne Ekanasio and Aliyah Dunn immediately clicking into the same gear that saw them finish 2019 in such style. Midcourters Maddy Gordon, Claire Kersten and Karin Burger offered pace and accuracy through the centre of the court while the defensive trio of the inspirational Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury and Elle Timu preyed on any loose ball and inaccurate passes.

However, it took them a while to get into full stride. After knocking in the first three goals they were reminded whose side the majority of the 1000-strong crowd were on when a loud roar accompanied the first goal from Selby-Rickit.

A see-sawing first quarter ended with the Tactix holding a slender 12-11 advantage, which became a 22-22 score line at the main break.

Immediately after halftime the Pulse upped the ante, moving out to a four-goal lead. Tactix replied to level midway through the quarter but the final five minutes belonged to the side from the capital as they forged a 38-31 lead at three-quarter time.

Despite working relentlessly to create turnovers in the final 15 minutes the Tactix were frustrated by the defending champs, who closed the game out in some style, combining scintillating straight-line attack with dogged defence to stretch the final margin to 12 goals.

The respective shooting stats also tell a story, Dunn nailing 35 from 38 attempts and Ekanasio dropping in 18 from 22. With less possession, the Tactix shooters put up nine less shots, Ellie Bird slotting 26 from 29 and Selby-Rickit 15 from 22 with her high-trajectory shots.

Skipper Jane Watson, who managed seven deflections for the match, showed the way for the Christchurch-based side, who also got good value from the hard-working Kimiora Poi, Erikana Pedersen and Charlotte Elley while Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotua worked well in tandem, especially in the first spell.

Despite the final scoreline, Watson was happy with some parts of her side’s performance.

“Our first half was really competitive … we sort of went away from doing our own jobs within out structure and we just got pulled apart a little bit in the third and fourth quarters.

“Also, as defence we didn’t get enough ball in that second half as well.”

The Silver Ferns defender expected that her side’s combinations would not take long to gel.

“Me and Tem [Fakahokotau] haven’t played together for a long time now and Te Paea has just come in, as has Erikana after her injury, so there was definitely nerves out there and new combinations.

“But it’s exciting and we will definitely come together eventually.”

Her opposing skipper, Rore, said she was happy with how her side had begun their title defence.

“We are up and running. At times it felt a bit like a Pulse home game actually, we had quite a few supporters here, which we were happy about.

“People have been talking up the Tactix this season so to play them first-up was nice and to get a win as well, we’ll take that.”

Jess Prosser.

Tactix shooter excited to be back in Blenheim

One face will be particularly familiar to Marlborough netball fans when the Good Oil Tactix take on Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse at Stadium 2000 on Sunday.

Jess Prosser, who will suit up for the Tactix in her ANZ Premiership debut season, spent two years in Marlborough and knows the region and the match venue well.

In 2016, the 1.83m goal shoot or goal attack burst onto the Marlborough scene after previously being a standout at St Margaret’s College in Christchurch.

Playing for Harlequins, she was an integral feature of their premier title-winning combination. The following year she moved to the Tokomaru club and was again part of a title-winning team. In 2017 she was named the province’s Netballer of the Year.

Jess moved back to Christchurch for the 2018 season and was named in the Mainland team which competed in the second-tier Beko League.

After impressing in that competition through 2018-19 she was selected in the Tactix squad for the forthcoming season, a season which opens with Sunday’s first competition game, beginning at 4.10pm.

The 23-year-old is relishing being part of the Tactix environment and excited to have a chance to show her skills in familiar surroundings on Sunday.

“I’m looking forward to it … Blenheim is something of a second home after I spent a couple of years there.

“The team are also excited because it has been a while since the team played in Blenheim … plus it‘s our first game up, and against the Pulse who we just played in a pre-season tournament at Otaki. We lost by one so that has given us confidence leading into the first week that [a win] is doable.

“[The Pulse] are very physical but we have been training to combat that. We have a lot of versatility in the team, a lot of people can play in several positions so [selection] can depend on who are playing.”

Jess says training and competing at a higher level has seen her undergo some physical changes since her time in the top of the south.

“My base fitness and strength has definitely changed … from having those two years in the Beko League and then making kind of a seamless transition into the Tactix … people say they can see a difference.”

She feels her time in Marlborough played a big part in shaping her career so far.

“Everyone’s journey is different and it hasn’t come easy, I have had to work for it. Probably the best thing [I did] was coming to Blenheim and having a couple of years kind of like finding myself … then coming home and putting in the hard work … mentally and physically.”

While Jess will be desperate to get some game time on Sunday she has some formidable rivals for the shooting bibs in the shape of Silver Fern Te Paea Selby-Rickit and the towering Ellie Bird.

“I expect to be on the bench, with a Silver Fern in front of me, but it is awesome to train alongside those top players and I am learning so much.”

The Tactix will again be led by Silver Ferns defender Jane Watson with support from vice-captain and midcourter Erikana Pedersen, who makes her return after injuring her ACL in the opening game of 2019. Head coach is Marianne Delaney-Hoshek.

Reigning champions The Pulse will bring an experienced, polished squad to Blenheim.

Consistency of selection was a key feature of their 2020 side, following the re-signing of accomplished shooting trio Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Tiana Metuarau and Aliyah Dunn.

The versatile and potent shooting mix will reunite for a third successive campaign having set an impressive foundation for the defending champions.

There will also be familiarity at the other end of the court, with Pulse stalwart Katrina Rore confirming her return for an 11th successive campaign with the Wellington-based franchise.

Pulse squad: Karin Burger, Aliyah Dunn, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Maddy Gordon, Kelly Jury, Claire Kersten, Tiana Metuarau, Katrina Rore, Renee Savai’inaea, Elle Temu.

Tactix squad: Ellie Bird, Charlotte Elley, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Sophia Fenwick, Samon Nathan, Erikana Pedersen, Kimiora Poi, Jess Prosser, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Jane Watson.

Netball action moves to Whites Bay

Marlborough Netball made the most of the balmy summer weather to take their sport outdoors in mid-February.

A beach netball tournament was played at Whites Bay, offering soft landings, plenty of fun and some serious skills.

The finalists in the competitive grade, Beach Babes and Mixed Bunch, relax on the sand.

Two grades were played – competitive and social. Beach Babes took out the competitive grade from Mixed Bunch, while Matuahakopas Iwi won the social event from Stranger Things.

Marlborough Netball patron Viv Broughton and her husband Les were the chief organisers, setting up on the day and making the goal posts on the night before.

Social grade finalists, Matuahakopas Iwi and Stranger Things.
Jane Watson with the students at MGC. Back row, from left, Emma Flanagan, Hannah Buck, Jaimee van Keulen, Jane Watson, Sylvia Hartland, Vei Moli, Sarah Leota, Mahina Henry-Campbell. Front, from left, Sophie Ridley-Scott, Mikayla Bradley, Poppy Lane. Photo: Supplied.

Netball star shares with students

Silver Ferns defender Jane Watson made the most of her time when she dropped into town early last week to speak at the Marlborough Sports Awards.

In the morning the world champion visited Marlborough Girls’ College and held a skills session with a group of keen netballers, then fielded questions from the group.

Following that she, and MC for the night Bernice Mene, a former Ferns captain, attended a lunch with a group of Marlborough netball supporters.

Later, at the Convention Centre, Watson shared her recent experiences of winning the World Championships in Liverpool with the 300-strong crowd, along with outlining the often bumpy path that took her to the top of the sport.

The victorious Tokomaru team after taking out the Marlborough premier netball title on Saturday. Photo: Peter Jones.

Tokomaru triumph in tight premier netball final

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch are the 2019 Marlborough premier netball champions after beating Pelorus Edridge Contracting 58-53 at Stadium 2000 on Saturday afternoon.

The season’s decider was always going to be a tight affair, most pundits unable to confidently pick a winner. And so it turned out, with Pelorus creating the early pace, only to be run down in the third quarter as Toko held their nerve under extreme pressure.

While pocketing their second premier title in three years, Tokomaru dashed the dreams of a Pelorus side playing in the club’s first premier final, with high hopes of a first top-level crown.

Tokomaru shooter Haze Tepuia reaches out to claim possession during the premier grade final at Stadium 2000 on Saturday. Photo: Peter Jones.
Tokomaru shooter Haze Tepuia reaches out to claim possession during the premier grade final at Stadium 2000 on Saturday. Photo: Peter Jones.

Once the initial nerves had cleared the opening quarter was tight, the rivals going goal-for-goal until Pelorus managed a late run to head to the first break with a three-goal advantage, shooters Paige Lovell and Olivia Pinkerton sharing duties under the hoop and both performing at a high percentage.

Meanwhile, Toko were almost exclusively utilising lofty GS Haze Tepuia, the youngster putting up 14 of their 15 shots in the first quarter and going on to attempt 80 percent of his team’s shots throughout the final.

With both sides guilty of throwing away ball and giving up turnovers the second quarter was scrappy, with Pelorus once again finishing slightly stronger to add another goal to their lead, going into the major break 32-28 ahead.

The third period was critical, tilting the balance of the match in favour of the Picton crew. They started with an 8-4 run to level the scores then, with six minutes of the quarter remaining finally got their nose in front, a position they had not enjoyed since early in the first quarter.

From there they were never headed. With Pelorus’s shooting percentage falling, plus an inability to capitalise on turnovers created by willing defence, Toko pulled away, establishing a three-goal advantage entering the final quarter.

Try as they might, Pelorus were unable to string consecutive goals together and close the gap. As the noise from their faithful supporters in the crowd grew ever louder, Toko raised the intensity again and sealed the deal with the final two goals.

It would be hard to go past Tepuia as player of the match. His impact on the game was huge, an 86 percent shooting effort, plus his ability to reel in seemingly-wayward passes and grab rebounds making him extremely hard to mark.

However, the Pelorus defence of Courtney Taufa, Oriana Houra and Jordan Peipi must be applauded for their efforts in restricting the flow of possession to Tepuia and GA Gemma Hika, who was content to pass off to her shooting partner whenever the opportunity arose.

Toko’s often under-rated defence was also outstanding, Michaela Boaz, Naia Lawrence, Hannah Dickson, who wore the GD bib in the pivotal third quarter, and Brooke Horton were relentless and accurate.

In centre court the battle was tight, Toko’s twins Hana and Kayla Wilson maintaining an often telepathic link when under pressure, while Jenna Gilbert and Kelsie Fitzpatrick were creative and slick as they sought to bring Pelorus’s possession through court.

While it would be easy to suggest one bad quarter decided the outcome of the decider, it was more than that. Toko were able to win many of the small moments, the little battles within a war that decide the big games.

Toko coach Vanessa Hika said “it could have been anybody’s game”.

“They are such good opposition. Both teams fought all the way to the end … that’s just how finals should be.

“We talked at halftime about finishing our season properly, enjoying all the work we had put in, about composure and finding your heart.

“As the crowd started to pick up so did we … there was no panic towards the end.

“It was a really great day because there were two teams playing that maybe shouldn’t have been here and we had both fought so hard to get here. That’s just how the season was.”

Taufa, player/coach of the beaten side, said her team’s inconsistency was an issue. “If it wasn’t happening at one end it was working at the other and vice versa. Plus we chucked a lot of ball away and in the end that was what made the difference. We forced plenty of turnovers but just couldn’t convert them.”

“I’m so proud of our team though, as I said to them before the game, no matter what happens today we have made history for our club.

“There’s always next year.”

Premier final scores: Tokomaru 58 (Haze Tepuia 53/61, Gemma Hika 5/6) Pelorus 53 Paige Lovell 40/59, Olivia Pinkerton 13/18). Quarter scores (winning team first): 15-18, 13-14, 16-9, 14-12.

The Harlequins Woodbourne Tavern crew, who claimed the grade one title. Photo: Peter Jones.

Lower grade netball finals shared around

Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 was a hive of activity on Saturday as the climax of the club netball season was played out.

Nine finals were contested leading into the premier showdown, which was followed by Marlborough Netball’s annual prizegiving.

Action from the social grade final as Harlequins’ shooter Kristen Hammond puts up a shot. Photo: Peter Jones.
Action from the social grade final as Harlequins’ shooter Kristen Hammond puts up a shot. Photo: Peter Jones.

The action in the lower grade finals was fast and furious, with boisterous fans shouting encouragement to their favourites.

The grade one title was won by Harlequins Woodbourne Tavern, who had featured in two promotion/relegation games earlier in the season. They were too strong for their opponents on Saturday, Marlborough Girls’ College Robinson Construction, who dominated from the outset to prevail 45-18.

MGC Bryant Earthworks, winners of grade two. Photo: Peter Jones.
MGC Bryant Earthworks, winners of grade two. Photo: Peter Jones.

Quins’ goal shoot Naomi Fowler landed 39 goals from 37 attempts while fellow shooter Cathy Kitto shot 16 from 21. Mandy O’Malley was prominent on defence.

For MGC, Fiaalii Solomona and Lahana Dempster stood out.

Grade three winners Tokomaru RJB enjoy the moment. Photo: Peter Jones.
Grade three winners Tokomaru RJB enjoy the moment. Photo: Peter Jones.

The Harlequins, Pelorus and Tokomaru clubs each claimed two finals wins.

Lower grade finals results:

Grade one: Harlequins Woodbourne Tavern 45 MGC Robinson Construction 18

Grade two: MGC Bryant Earthworks 32 United Lake Chalice 22

Wairau A took out the grade five decider. Photo: Peter Jones.
Wairau A took out the grade five decider. Photo: Peter Jones.

Grade three: Tokomaru RJB 31 MGC Fairweathers 23

Grade four: Pelorus Revival 38 Pelorus Bottle-O 25

Grade five: Wairau A 29 Pelorus Owen Marine 24

Wairau team mates Amy McKendry, left, and Estella Tyrell enjoy some team bonding before their final. Photo: Peter Jones.
Wairau team mates Amy McKendry, left, and Estella Tyrell enjoy some team bonding before their final. Photo: Peter Jones.

Grade six: Harlequins Renwick MM 19 Bohally Senior A 17

Grade seven: SMOG Pak n Save 20 Harlequins GJ Gardiner 17

Social grade: Pelorus Fairweathers 41 Harlequins Allan Scott 37.

Tokomaru centre Hana Wilson claims a pass in front of Pelorus rival Jenna Gilbert during the round three game between this year’s premier netball finalists. Photo: Peter Jones.

Pelorus, Tokomaru to battle for premier netball crown

The stage is set for an intriguing Marlborough premier netball final on Saturday.

On opposite sides of the Stadium 2000 court will be “country cousins” – Pelorus Edridge Contracting and Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton.

Last Tuesday the two finalists booked their places in the premiership decider, pushing aside SMOG and Harlequins respectively, two clubs who have almost exclusively dominated the local premier scene for the past few decades.

Toko took out the premier crown in 2017, a rare interruption of the SMOG/Quins dominance, while Pelorus are yet to get their name on the trophy. In fact, this year’s premier final will be their first trip to the “big dance”.

Courtney Taufa, Pelorus player/coach, is excited to be part of a squad on the cusp of creating history.

“Last year was out first semi in 18 years and this year we have made the final, so that’s awesome.

“Toko will be tough … they play with their heart on their sleeve and give it their all, so we have got to come out firing.”

Taufa said Pelorus had a simple recipe for success. “We work for each other … have each other’s backs.”

Tokomaru coach Vanessa Hika, who was part of the winning management team in 2017, knows what is required to win a premier final and feels her side has the potential to do just that.

“[The Tokomaru team] have come a really long way this season … they have become a much tighter unit as the season has gone on. They have trust in each other, and composure.”

Hika said the youth and relative inexperience of this side was a not an issue.

“I think Gemma [Hika] and Hana [Wilson] were the only ones playing when we won in 2017, but this group are quite capable of taking out the final.

“If they believe in themselves and want it more than the other team, it will be ours.”

The finalists have met three times previously this season, Pelorus prevailing 52-47 and 66-54 in their first two clashes, before Toko responded by taking out the round three match 61-58.

Both side possess key players at the attacking end. Pelorus shooter Paige Lovell is willing to put up shots from anywhere in the circle, making her exceptionally hard to restrict. She is expected to carry the bulk of the shooting duties.

Tokomaru pose a twin threat, with youngster Haze Tepuia, who operates sweetly close to the hoop working in tandem with the experienced Gemma Hika. Both are high percentage shooters.

The finalists are also well served at the defensive end.

Pelorus can call on Courtney Taufa and the ever-improving Oriana Houra. Both work well in close quarters while Taufa, particularly, is adept at hunting out for interceptions.

Toko’s Michaela Boaz and Naia Lawrence tend to fly under the radar somewhat, but are energetic and effective in the circle.

The midcourters will be evenly matched.

The regular Pelorus trio of Jenna Gilbert, Kelsie Fitzpatrick and Jordan Peipi are versatile, offering silky skills on attack and gritty defense without the ball.

For Toko, the Wilson sisters, Hana and Kayla, possess speed and the ability to feed their sharp shooters in a variety of ways. Brooke Horton complements the twins in midcourt with energy and dogged defense.

On Tuesday both finalists were made to earn their place in the season’s climax, Toko winning by a single goal and Pelorus being pushed hard all night, despite holding a six-goal buffer at full time.

Toko appeared to have their game in the bag, leading by 59-52 midway through the final quarter, before SMOG mounted a superb comeback, scoring seven of the last eight goals to close to within one of forcing extra time.

SMOG’s ability to lift their game in the final 15 minutes was admirable, their showing a vast improvement on efforts earlier in the season and an indication of how far they have come as a new-look team this season.

The night’s second semi was not as dramatic, but just as hard-fought. Pelorus led by a single goal at halftime, then built a handy lead after 45 minutes, an advantage Quins were unable to bridge.

While this will not be Harlequins’ year, as usual they have contributed plenty to the premier scene and played some exciting, innovative netball along the way.

However, it will be Toko and Pelorus who have the final say in 2019, preparing for a final match-up too close to call.


Semifinal scores:

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 60 (Haze Tepuia 42/47, Gemma Hika 18/22) SMOG Good Home 59 (Lucy Barrett 17/22, Kate Gaudin 42/45). Quarter scores (winning team first): 19-17, 17-14, 15-13, 9-15.

Pelorus Edridge Contracting 50 (Paige Lovell 38/49, Olivia Pinkerton 12/16) Harlequins Radich Law 44 (Lauren Murray 21/31, Liv Hodson 23/27). Quarter scores: 14-7, 8-14, 14-9, 14-14.

Likely final teams

Pelorus (from): Courtney Taufa, Olivia Pinkerton, Jordan Peipi, Paige Lovell, Oriana Houra, Jenna Gilbert, Kelsie Fitzpatrick, Riana Burger, Laura Murphy, Kelly West.

Tokomaru: Michaela Boaz, Gemma Hika, Brooke Horton, Naia Lawrence, Haze Tepuia, Hana Wilson, Kayla Wilson, Hannah Dickson.

Finals draw

Premier: Tokomaru v Pelorus 2pm; grade one: MGC v Harlequins 12noon; grade two: United v MGC 10.30am; grade three: Tokomaru v MGC 10.30am; Pelorus Bottle-O v Pelorus Revival 9am; grade five:  3rd and 4th – Harlequins v Bohally 9am, 1st and 2nd – Pelorus v Wairau 12 noon;  grade six: SMOG v Harlequins 9am; social grade: Harlequins v Pelorus 10.30am.

Outstanding SMOG defender Mya Wiapo rejects this shot from Pelorus goal attack Olivia Pinkerton on Tuesday night. Photo: Peter Jones.

Then there were four…

Marlborough’s 2019 premier netball semifinalists have been decided after three contrasting encounters at Stadium 2000 last Tuesday.

Tonight, Tokomaru, who finished top qualifier courtesy of an 82-39 victory over Awatere, will meet SMOG in one play-off. The Ladies in Black enter the semifinal frame in fourth position, despite going down 46-42 to Harlequins in the game of the night.

The other semi will see Quins, who qualified third, take on second-ranked Pelorus who ended MGC’s play-off prospects with a 57-40 victory.

Although Toko and Pelorus ended the third round tied on 13 points, the Picton club take out the round and become top qualifier thanks to a vastly-superior points for and against differential.

Tuesday’s early game provided the most entertainment, especially with the participants, plus MGC, locked in a tight tussle for semifinal spots.

Harlequins shot out to an early lead, creating turnovers throughout court which their shooters, especially the in-form Lauren Murray, readily converted.

Down by seven at the first break, SMOG showed the resilience that has become their late-season hallmark, staying in the fight and pulling within three at halftime, shooters Lucy Barrett and Kate Gaudin missing only one goal in the quarter. Quins were forced to make a change shortly before the half hour mark, Murray leaving the court with a knee injury.

SMOG continued their resurgence in the third quarter, the arrival of Katie Cunningham sparking more defensive pressure, alongside the ever-energetic Bonnie Morris. By the third break they had levelled the scores, with the possession stakes now relatively even.

The final stanza was also tight, SMOG ultimately being left to rue a couple of missed shots of goal and then a wild pass or two as the clock ticked down and Quins nailed the final five goals to move ahead of their traditional rivals.

The defensive circle work of Jackson McLaren and Hayley Lammas was a feature for the Quins, both players preying on loose ball and exerting maximum pressure on their rivals throughout.

By the time they began their match against Pelorus, MGC knew they had to win to reach the semis and they began as if they meant business.

At halftime they trailed by just four, and were well in the hunt, on the back of an outstanding defensive effort by Mya Wiapo who, in conjunction with Olivia Robinson, swooped on any chances to turn over ball.

The third quarter though was another story, MGC losing their way while Pelorus upped their game, lifting the pace of play and dominating possession 27 goal attempts to 12.

With shooter Paige Lovell in imperious form, often from afar, they quickly pulled clear of the students to lead by 13 at three quarter time. The final stanza was more of the same, the Pelorus midcourt of Jenna Gilbert, Jordan Peipi and Kelsie Fitzpatrick efficient and controlled, while Courtney Taufa continued to pick of interceptions at the back.

The MGC side can now turn their attention to their tilt at the South Island secondary schools tournament, beginning September 3, but will have to maintain their usual high standard throughout if they are to trouble some of the other top colleges.

The evening’s final game saw Awatere’s final outing of the season.

The Tussocks have provided plenty of entertainment this year, improving as they went along. With nothing at stake against Toko they played with abandon and a smile on their faces, throwing themselves around court right up to the final whistle, but were no match for the Picton crew, who score at a dizzy pace when the reins are let loose. They put up 98 shots during the 60 minutes, allowing their opponents just 54 goal attempts. Haze Tepuia, who continues to impress with his accuracy and court work, dropped in 53 of his 60 shots, his partnership with Gemma Hika in the attacking circle providing a major headache for defenders who are unable to concentrate on one or the other.

Despite unpredictability being a feature of this year’s premier competition, Toko and Pelorus will start as early favourites for the semis. However, both Harlequins and SMOG have shown over many seasons that they love a final, so no-one will be writing off their chances, setting up a riveting conclusion to an entertaining season.


Harlequins Radich Law 46 (Lauren Murray 15/16, Liv Hodson 22/35, Hayley Marfell 9/15) SMOG Good Home 42 (Lucy Barrett 23/27, Kate Gaudin 19/24). Quarter scores (winning team first): 16-9, 11-15, 10-7, 12-8.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 82 (Haze Tepuia 53/60, Gemma Hika 29/38) Awatere 39 (Tracee Lee 15/21, Aimee Jones 24/33). Quarter scores: 17-12, 22-10, 21-9, 22-8.

Pelorus Edridge Contracting 57 (Paige Lovell 39/55, Olivia Pinkerton 17/24, Courtney Taufa 1/1) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 40 (Anna Gardiner 18/24, Taila Town 12/16, Isabella Rohloff 10/12). Quarter scores: 12-11, 11-8, 18-9, 16-12.

Round three final standings: Tokomaru 13 (differential +66), Pelorus 13 (differential +39), Harlequins 9, SMOG 8, MGC 6, Awatere 3.

Semifinal draw (tonight): Tokomaru v SMOG; Pelorus v Harlequins.

Final will be played on September 7 (Saturday).