The Tokomaru premier netball team have a unique pre-match ritual. They links arms and step over the mid line of the court they are about to play on in unison.
They undertake this “crossing of the line” to shed all the day’s baggage and concentrate their collective minds solely on the forthcoming game.
At a partially-deserted Stadium 2000 on Saturday afternoon it became very apparent from early on that that their minds were fully-focussed on the job at hand as they ruthlessly disposed of Pelorus 63-46 to claim their second consecutive premier crown.
Pelorus held Toko to a single goal during round robin play, but this afternoon had no answer to the efficiency and collective skill set of the Picton-based crew who almost totally dominated the middle stages of the match.
Pelorus looked the part in the first quarter, won 17-16 by Toko, shooter Paige Lovell finding her range early to land 14 goals from the same number of attempts. With circle defenders Oriana Houra and Jalen King combining superbly to place maximum pressure on the Toko shooting duo of Haze Tepuia and Gemma Hika a tight final appeared in prospect.
However, the second quarter told a different tale. Missed shots, frequent turnovers and errant passes combined to destroy any momentum Pelorus had built. Like any champion side, Tokomaru took full advantage of their rival’s woes, Tepuia and Hika dropping in 15 goals from 19 shots while Pelorus landed just eight from 15.
With Michaela Boaz and Eden Te Huki quick to snatch the rebounds and the dynamic trio of Wilson sisters poised to shift the ball efficiently through midcourt, any Pelorus inaccuracy was swiftly punished.
Despite a change at halftime, with Jordan Peipi coming on at goal attack for Olivia Pinkerton, Tokomaru merely raised the bar.
They managed 22 goal attempts in this period to Pelorus’s 12, landing 19 goals to their opponent’s six successes. Thus, after 45 minutes and with the scoreline reading 51-30, the final was effectively over.
To their credit Pelorus lifted their heads and claimed the final stanza 16-12 to reduce the final margin, but the damage had long since been done. When the final whistle blew, the Toko contingent could reflect on an undefeated season which they ended with a giant exclamation mark.
At the centre of their success was lofty shooter Tepuia, named Marlborough netballer of the year at the MNA prizegiving which followed the final. His conversion rate was staggering and, when he was double-teamed, up stepped the redoubtable Hika to continue the momentum.
The addition of wing attack Dana Wilson to the family-friendly Toko midcourt this year has upped the ante, her clever feeding a feature of the final, while her sisters continue to add pace and precision to the mix. Hana Wilson was voted senior midcourt player of the year.
Boaz and Te Huki have grown as a defensive unit as the season has rolled on, the former strong under the hoop, the latter adept at hinting out intercepts.
Pelorus also had their heroes. Lovell almost single-handedly carrying the bulk of the shooting load, Kelsie Fitzpatrick, Jenna Seabrook, Laura Murphy and Jordan Peipi working hard in midcourt while King and Houra, the latter named defender of the year, did their level best to stem the flow.
Tokomaru coach Vanessa Hika said today’s victory felt different to last year’s triumph.
“Just because it has been such an unusual short season … more challenging too as we didn’t have much time for development.
“But this season has proven to me that relationships are everything … they are a very tight bunch that have just kept getting tighter.
“We have got a real family thing going on there too, sometimes it’s a bonus, sometimes it’s not,” she added with a smile. “But we just like each other and play hard for each other.”
Toko skipper Gemma Hika said that although the scoreline blew out, “it was still hard work out there”.
“We work really hard on our team cohesion off the court as well.
“[Today’s win] was also extra-special as it could possibly be Haze’s last game for us.”
Pelorus coach Courtney Taufa was full of praise for Toko and said her charges were “a bit flat”.
“We needed to back each other a bit more today and we didn’t.”
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch 63 (Haze Tepuia 43/48, Gemma Hika 20/27) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 46 (Paige Lovell 42/62, Olivia Pinkerton 2/9, Courtney Avery 2/4). Quarter scores (winning team first): 17-16, 15-8, 19-6, 12-16.
Netball winners decided
The Tokomaru club definitely dominated proceedings on Marlborough netball’s finals day.
Teams from the Picton-based club contested four of the eight senior grade finals on Saturday, winning them all, from premier to social grade.
Added to this was victory for the Queen Charlotte College Awhina side in the grade four decider.
Tokomaru players also featured prominently in the season awards at premier level.
Haze Tepuia, goal shoot for the premier team, was named outstanding attacking player of the year, while Hana Wilson was voted top midcourt performer.
Oriana Houra from Pelorus was named outstanding defender of the year and also picked up the MVP award for points accrued during the season.
Most improved senior player was MGC defender Taryn Breen.
Premier: Tokomaru 63 Pelorus 46
Grade one: MGC Fairweathers 25 Pelorus Farmlands 21
Grade two: Tokomaru Oxleys 23 SMOG Expol 20
Grade three: Tokomaru Summit Real Estate 28 MGC Vets Marlborough 16
Grade four: QCC Awhina 35 Pelorus Havelock Hotel 13
Grade five: SMOG Subway 22 Harlequins WK+ 14
Grade six: Legion 12 Pelorus Owen Marine 11
Grade social: Tokomaru Picton Motordome 31 Pelorus Fairweathers 28
Officiating, umpiring awards
Official of the year: Sonya Masters
Junior umpire of the Year: Tayla Fowke
Most improved umpire: Natasha Cook
Most promising umpire: Mandy O’Malley
Umpire of the Year: Michelle Stagg
Person contributing most to netball: Megan McKendry
Most improved senior defence: (merit Chloe Devir) Taryn Breen
Most improved senior attack: Taila Town
Most improved mid court: Millie Wensley
Most improved senior player overall: Taryn Breen
Most outstanding senior defence: (merit Mya Wiapo, Olivia Robinson) Oriana Houra
Most outstanding senior mid court player (merit Laura Murphy) Hana Wilson
Most outstanding senior attack (merit Anna Gardiner) Haze Tepuia
MVP of the Year: Oriana Houra
Netballer of the Year: Haze Tepuia