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.