Centre Nicole Witterick has been in fine form for the “Tussock Jumpers” this season. Photo: Peter Jones.

Awatere awaiting breakthrough premier win

The Awatere team may have been on a premier netball rollercoaster for the past three rounds, but spirits remain high in the “Tussock Jumpers” camp.

After being promoted to the top club ranks after the first round in 2018 they have doggedly clung to their premier status, surviving promotion/relegation games after round two in 2018 and round one this year to remain indoors.

Awatere have yet to register a win during their three terms in the top echelon although, based on their recent efforts, that breakthrough victory may not be far away.

Head coach Kate Shadbolt, speaking after her charges had pushed first round winners Harlequins hard in a 56-45 loss on Tuesday, felt they were making progress.

“I feel they are improving every week,” she said, “they have a few down games then they bounce back … I think it is just a lack of confidence in themselves.

“It is a mental thing … they had belief [tonight] after coming off a win on Sunday, their fitness is good and the combinations are gelling.”

Shadbolt said their aim was clear this round. “Just to get a win probably, to show the girls that they can do it. We would like to stay indoors all season, I am unavailable on Saturdays so if they want me as their coach they need to stay up [in premier grade],” she added with a broad smile.

Harlequins were joined by Tokomaru and Marlborough Girls’ College as winners when the second round began at Stadium 2000 on Tuesday.

The closest game of the night was the first on court, MGC holding on against a fast-finishing Pelorus to prevail 44-40.

The students had a 16-8 third quarter to thank for their victory after just one goal separated the sides at halftime. Pelorus clawed five goals back in the final 15 minutes to claim a well-deserved bonus point but it was the young team’s night.

Star of the show for MGC was young defender Mya Wiapo whose skill in the air and anticipation belied her tender age.

Eleri James-Sitters had a top game in midcourt, providing pace and finesse when required, while shooter Anna Gardiner was again on target, dropping in 31 goals from 35 attempts to ensure turnover ball was not wasted.

Danelle Moffatt was again a tower of strength at the back for Pelorus, with Jenna Gilbert and Oriana Houra standing out both on attack and defence.

The Quins v Awatere match-up was expected to be relatively one-sided, but the Tussocks were up for the battle and took the game to their more illustrious opponents. They lost the first quarter by one, the third by one and the fourth by two but came undone in the second period of play.

Awatere’s inability to convert their own possession into points and make the most of turnovers created by relentless defence meant Quins were able to pick up a seven-goal advantage which they maintained until the final whistle.

The night’s final encounter saw a red-hot Tokomaru outfit up against SMOG, who struggled through the first round.

However, the Ladies in Black showed they were not about to be overpowered by the Picton side. After losing the first quarter 18-14, SMOG lifted their game in the second, winning it by eight to take a four-goal lead into halftime.

However it is one thing to slow Toko’s scoring duo of Haze Tepuia and Gemma Hika for one quarter, quite another to do it for the rest of the match. Their ability to score quickly was very much to the fore in the third stanza, which Toko won by nine to regain control and win 72-59. A 19-11 final stanza merely underlined their scoring threat.

 

Scores from Tuesday:

Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 44 (Isabella Rohloff 7/13, Anna Gardiner 37/41) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 40 (Olivia Pinkerton 20/32, Jordan Peipi 11/21, Kelly West 9/11). Quarter scores (winning team first): 9-11, 10-7, 16-8, 9-14.

Harlequins Radich Law 56 (Lauren Murray 36/41, Hayley Marfell 20/28) Awatere 45 (Tracee Lee 18/26, Aimee Jones 27/40). Quarter scores: 16-10, 24-11, 24-10, 25-8. Quarter scores: 15-14, 14-7, 14-13, 13-11.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 72 (Haze Tepuia 48/49, Gemma Hika 24/30) SMOG Good Home 59 (Lucy Barrett 25/31, Kate Gaudin 34/36). Quarter scores: 18-14, 13-21, 22-13, 19-11

Round two standings: Harlequins 3, Tokomaru 3, MGC 3, Pelorus 1, SMOG 0, Awatere 0.

Draw for tonight: SMOG v Harlequins 6.15pm; Pelorus v Tokomaru 7.30pm; MGC v Awatere 8pm.

Tokomaru shooter Haze Tepuia stretches to pull in a high pass at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 on Tuesday. Photo: Peter Jones.

Quins finish on top, but Toko closing in

Harlequins may have clinched first round honours in the Marlborough premier netball competition, but they will be casting anxious glances over their shoulders at a Tokomaru side on a roll.

Quins wrapped up an unbeaten first round at Stadium 2000 on Tuesday, beating SMOG 50-41.

However it was the Toko troops who caught the eye. They romped past Awatere 89-39, a week after disposing of SMOG 64-54 and a fortnight after downing Marlborough Girls’ College 59-45.

Tokomaru’s only losses this season came in the first rounds, going down to Harlequins by two and Pelorus by five in the opening week.

Head coach Vanessa Hika said her side had taken a little while to find their feet, but combinations were now beginning to gel.

“The team is starting to come together nicely,” said the experienced mentor. “I hope we have had our run of injuries out of the way … we have certainly hit our [first round] target.”

A feature of Toko’s performances of late has been the shooting end combination of Haze Tepuia, who landed a startling 51 from 51 against SMOG, and the ever-reliable Gemma Hika.

“Haze is addicted to practicing, he’s on the shot all the time … he and Gemma have a really nice combination going now.”

Vanessa also pinpointed the family connections in the team with the Wilson twins, Hana and Kayla, working well in midcourt plus the Lawrence sisters, Naia and Savannah, also part of the equation. Defenders Michaela Boaz and Hannah Dickson played together for MGC last season, adding to the “extended family” mix.

“I feel we have lots of room to grow our game,” said Vanessa. “I’m excited by the rest of the season.”

However, it was the “Mighty Quins” who lived up to their nickname on Tuesday evening, getting the job done in a scrappy encounter.

Pelorus, who were best-placed to take advantage of any slip-up by Quins, tripped over themselves, going down 38-35 to Marlborough Girls’ College in the tightest battle of the night.

The Quins v SMOG match was a messy affair, as the low score indicated. The Ladies in Black are now without regular shooter Karli Murphy and took some time to adjust, Quins holding a seven-goal lead after the first quarter. However, SMOG had drawn within four at the break and only trailed by five heading into the final stanza.

Unfortunately for the chasing side their error rate compounded, allowing Quins to dominate possession and finish comfortably ahead.

Again Lauren Murray was a standout for Quins, moving well in the attacking circle and beginning to gel with shooting partner Hayley Marfell. Taylor Rogers and Hayley Lammas were strong in defence, along with the long-limbed Jackson McLaren.

SMOG got good value from defenders Merena Ave and Jesse Volavola, wing attack Ella-Rose Hammond plus shooters Lucy Barrett and Kate Gaudin, although they put up 19 less shots overall than their rivals.

The evening’s late show featured Pelorus and MGC. The students, most of whom had been involved in rep play at either South or North Island age group tournaments over the long weekend, were expected to be jaded, but came out firing.

They led by four at halftime and eight at the three-quarter break, their trio of shooters, led by the composed Anna Gardiner, converting regularly while their defence, superbly marshalled by Olivia Robinson, punished any Pelorus inaccuracy.

However, it was Pelorus who came home stronger, albeit in a frantic final 15 minutes, and went close to snatching the match.

A 6-1 scoring run saw Pelorus close within two goals in the final five minutes before MGC managed to find the net and shut the game out.

Eleri James-Sitters, Ella Donald and Neve Godsiff provided energy in midcourt for MGC, while Lily Tiueti impressed late in the piece at wing defence.

Pelorus, who were again missing player/coach Courtney Taufa, worked hard to stay in touch throughout, but were unable to find any extra spark until the final quarter. Defenders Danelle Moffatt, Oriana Houra and Kelly West, plus shooter Olivia Pinkerton stood out on a tough night.

It was an even tougher night for Awatere, who played a promotion/relegation battle against the grade one winner on Sunday.

Although they dropped in 39 goals, they were overwhelmed by a Toko offensive blitz.

The opening games in round two will be played tonight.

Awatere will be back on the inside courts after winning their promotion/relegation battle against grade one winners Harlequins Woodbourne Tavern on Sunday. Awatere prevailed 58-53, leading through all four quarters of a tightly-fought contest.

Scores from Tuesday:

Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 38 (Oakley Tepuia 5/8, Isabella Rohloff 10/17, Anna Gardiner 23/30) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 35 (Olivia Pinkerton 21/29, Jordan Peipi 14/27). Quarter scores (winning team first): 14-11, 9-8, 11-7, 4-9.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 89 (Haze Tepuia 67/73, Gemma Hika 22/28) Awatere 39 (Tracee Lee 3/11, Aimee Jones 36/53). Quarter scores: 16-10, 24-11, 24-10, 25-8.

Harlequins Radich Law 50 (Lauren Murray 33/41, Hayley Marfell 17/28) SMOG Good Home 41 (Lucy Barrett 22/28, Kate Gaudin 19/22) Quarter scores: 15-8, 9-12, 12-11, 14-10.

Final round one standings: Harlequins 15, Tokomaru 11, Pelorus 10, MGC 9, SMOG 4, Awatere 0.

Harlequins show they are team to beat

There is a long-held sporting idiom that suggests, “to be the best you have to beat the best”.

For most of the past decade the Harlequins premier netball team have set the pace on the local scene, either winning the title or reaching the final.

Consequently, challengers have to get past them if they have aspirations of lifting the silverware come season’s end.

Last Tuesday evening, Pelorus found out just how hard that mission is. After moving through the first three rounds unbeaten they came up against the Quins, also unbeaten, and left Stadium 2000 with a 46-37 defeat and plenty to dwell on.

Their ability to maintain intensity and momentum throughout the 60 minutes will be a concern. Although they lost key player Courtney Taufa to injury in the first half they still held a handy lead at halftime.

The resulting reshuffle didn’t appear to unsettle Pelorus who pushed on during the first half hour to lead 27-21. Kelsie Fitzpatrick, Jenna Gilbert and Claudia Ryan worked well in midcourt while the inspirational Danelle Moffat and Oriana Houra snapped up any loose ball at the back.

But after the break it all changed. A third quarter shut-out was the key, Quins allowing Pelorus just nine shots at goal, while they created 25 shooting opportunities. Quins finished much stronger, taking out the third quarter 15-5 and the final period 10-5 to strike first in what is likely to be an on-going rivalry this season

Their middies Bridget Gane, Mikayla Avant and Maighan Watson providing shooters Lauren Murray and Georgie Bryce with quality ball. Defenders Jackson McLaren, Hayley Lammas and Taylor Rogers lifted their game to put their rival shooters off theirs.

Harlequins stalwart Bridget Gane, who missed their previous week’s stuttering effort against Awatere, said there was a good feel about the 2019 side.

“It was nice that we kept our composure and our structure tonight.

“The scores were pretty low, but that was because of the number of turnovers … that’s because netball now has become a more defense-orientated game.

“Teams are working more on defense, putting structures in place to get intercepts and putting a lot more pressure on the feeders.”

Gane said the work of her side’s circle defenders had been a key to Quins’ success.

“Jackson, Hayley and Tayor all played well, picking up some really good rebounds and tips. Hayley hasn’t played for six years and this is a big step up for Jackson, but they are really starting to gel.

“It was so good that we got all 10 players on court tonight and everyone contributed.”

Like many observers, Gane feels the 2019 competition is particularly even. “It’s going to be really close, any team can topple any other and that’s what you want,” she added.

Meanwhile, Tokomaru had a superb shooting performance to thank for their 64-54 win over SMOG in the late game. Toko youngster Haze Tepuia landed an outstanding 51 goals from 51 attempts, a performance the great Irene van Dyk would have been proud of.

However, despite Tepuia’s stunning shooting, this game was tight almost all the way. At three quarter time the sides were level 44-44 before a 20-10 final quarter put the result beyond doubt.

Besides Tepuia, Hana Wilson, Kayla Wilson and Brooke Horton performed strongly, while Karli Murphy, Bonnie Morris and Katie Bradley shone for SMOG.

In the night’s early encounter Marlborough Girls’ College were quick out of the blocks against Awatere, their 19-7 first quarter advantage translated into a 58-40 victory at fulltime.

The Tussock Jumpers were left to rue a slow start, playing catch-up all night, and are destined for the promotion/relegation game at the end of round one.

MGC seemed to sit back after forging an early lead, but had things well in control throughout. Eleri James-Sitters, Olivia Robinson, Mya Wiapo and Isabella Rohloff stood out for the students, Aimee Jones, Harriet Ryan and hard-working centre Nicole Witterick the best of the Awatere side.

Scores:

Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 58 (Oakley Tepuia 10/17, Isabella Rohloff 36/44, Anna Gardiner 12/17) Awatere 40 (Tracee Lee 12/22, Aimee Jones 28/42). Quarter scores (winning team first): 19-7, 14-10, 14-12, 11-11.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 64 (Haze Tepuia 51/51, Gemma Hika 13/17) SMOG Good Home 54 (Karli Murphy 34/42, L Barrett 2/4, Kate Gaudin 18/23) Quarter scores: 16-16, 13-15, 15-13, 20-10.

Harlequins Radich Law 46 (Lauren Murray 41/57, Hayley Marfell 3/6, Georgie Bryce 2/7) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 37 (Olivia Pinkerton 26/45, Courtney Taufa 6/9, Jordan Peipi 5/10). Quarter scores: 12-13, 9-14, 15-5, 10-5.

Standings: Harlequins 12, Pelorus 9, Tokomaru 8, MGC 6, SMOG 4, Awatere 0.

Draw for tonight (June 4): SMOG v Harlequins 6.16pm; Tokomaru v Awatere 7.45pm; Pelorus v MGC 8pm.

Pelorus primed for shot at 2019 premier title

Pre-season fitness work has helped the Pelorus premier netball team make an auspicious start to their 2019 campaign.

Player/coach Courtney Taufa said the team had worked hard on conditioning before the season began and, “that is definitely showing out on court”.

“The team vibe is also good … just having each other’s back and confidence in each other. That makes it easy for our shooters.”

“We’ve got an awesome bunch of girls, willing to learn and everyone has their input … that certainly makes a difference,” she added.

Taufa and co-player/coach Danelle Moffat’s troops are locked with Harlequins at the top of the premier standings after they both picked up their third consecutive wins at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 on Tuesday night.

The leading teams will meet tonight at 7.45pm to decide who grabs pole position for first round honours. MGC play Awatere at 6.15pm while SMOG take on Tokomaru at 8pm.

Last week, Pelorus had a blazing start to thank for their 56-43 victory over SMOG, while Harlequins showed resilience to get past a vastly-improved Awatere combination, 60-41.

The third match of the evening saw Tokomaru overcome Marlborough Girls’ College 59-45, moving the Picton side into third on the table.

In the night’s early match-up, Pelorus sped out of the blocks, racing to a 12-1 advantage in no time at all. SMOG found some cohesion late in the quarter but their opponents’ took the first stanza 16-6, earning a 10-goal margin they defended to the final whistle.

Once again SMOG’s reliable shooters, Kate Gaudin and Karli Murphy registered decent percentages, but they suffered from a lack of possession, thanks to Pelorus’s unrelenting defence. The Pelorus shooters, Taufa and Olivia Pinkerton put up 73 shots, their SMOG opposites just 52.

Pelorus showed they will be genuine title contenders, offering strength all through the court. Defenders Moffat, Oriana Houra and Claudia Ryan were energetic and hungry for any loose ball. Kelsie Fitzpatrick and Jenna Gilbert dominated midcourt while Taufa and Pinkerton are forging a telling combination.

Defenders Katie Cunningham and Bonnie Morris battled hard for SMOG, while Katie Bradley was reliable and creative in midcourt.

In the second game, MGC were brought down to earth after their win over SMOG last week, a second quarter slump sealing their fate. Tokomaru lifted their tempo after an even opening stanza, dominating possession two-to-one as they surged to a 17-6 second quarter and a 31-19 halftime lead which MGC never looked like hauling in.

In the final game, Harlequins had to do without the talismanic Bridget Gane, a rare occurrence, and her absence as both an organizer and midcourt distributor was obvious in their spluttering first half effort, after which they trailed 24-22.

Awatere had plenty to do with that situation also, their passing accuracy and defensive determination up a level from last week.

However they were unable to sustain it and slowly, but surely, Quins got back into the game. An 18-9 third quarter sealed the deal for Quins, with shooter Lauren Murray to the fore as she carried the bulk of the offensive load, landing 49 of her 71 attempts.

 

Scores

Harlequins Radich Law 60 (Hayley Marfell 10/17, Lauren Murray 50/71) Awatere 41 (Aimee Jones 26/38, Tracee Lee 15/26). Quarter scores (winning team first): 8-16, 14-8, 18-9, 20-8.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 59 (Haze Tepuia 43/53, Gemma Hika 10/12, Naia Lawrence 6/10) MGC NZ King Salmon 45 (Oakley Tepuia 21/31, Anna Gardiner 24/28). Quarter scores: 14-13, 17-6, 13-11, 15-15.

Pelorus Edridge Contracting 56 (Courtney Taufa 34/43, Olivia Pinkerton 22/30) SMOG Good Home 43 (Kate Gaudin 14/18, Karli Murphy 29/34). Quarter scores: 16-6, 14-15, 12-8, 14-14.

Standings: Pelorus 9, Harlequins 9, Tokomaru 5, SMOG 4, MGC 3, Awatere 0.

 

Netball title race predicted to be close

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.

Time for action as premier netball gets underway

Marlborough premier netball kicks off on Tuesday evening with three intriguing clashes at Marlborough Lines Stadium.

After all the pre-season comings and goings, speculation and unproven ambition the players finally get a chance to demonstrate their abilities under the stadium roof.

The six premier teams will enter the 2019 premiership with varying degrees of optimism. There has been quite a lot of movement in the off-season, with several key players exiting the scene.

Among those are SMOG Good Home kingpin Cara Wiapo and Harlequins Radich Law shooter Paige Lovell. Both players were key members of the teams that contested last year’s grand final, won by SMOG, and will be difficult to replace.

SMOG open their title defence with a 6.15pm match against Awatere, who contested the final two rounds in 2018 without managing a win. The “Ladies in Black”, coached by Janine Jordaan, will be hot favourites to start their campaign with a victory, especially with such talented performers as shooters Karli Murphy and Kate Gaudin at the attacking end.

The ‘Tussock Jumpers” have lost shooter Kimberly McCabe, but have gained a few quality players new to the local competition. Aimee Jones made rapid improvement in 2018 while Ashleigh Childs is an experienced competitor

“The Mighty Quins” will have a new-look shooting duo, Hayley Marfell stepping in to the circle with regular Lauren Murray when they take on New Zealand King Salmon Marlborough Girls’ College at 7.45pm

Evergreen Bridget Gane is back to guide the Harlequins’ ship from midcourt, while Taylor Rogers, Mikayla Avant and Maighan Watson are also experienced operators.

The students, as always, have a new-look squad but make up with enthusiasm and energy what they regularly lose in experience as the year 13 troops move on.

Key players will be shooter Isabella Rohloff, Ella Donald, Eleri James-Sitters and rising star Mya Wiapo.

Pelorus Edridge Contracting reached the semifinals in 2018 and will be well-motivated to go one step further this year. They have lost player/coach Anna Archie and defender Riana Burger but have the nucleus of the squad that showed considerable improvement during their last campaign, along with a couple of promising recruits. They meet Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton at 8pm.

The Picton-based club were only a couple of goals away from reaching the final last year, after being champions in 2017. They will rely on the skilful Gemma Hika, plus sister acts Hana and Kayla May Wilson, plus Savannah and Naia Lawrence, if they are to topple the top teams this time around.