Nelson Netball Premier Grade will get underway at Saxton Stadium on Thursday night with teams having a “warm up” of two shortened games before the season properly begins the following week.
On paper, Richmond Glass looks to be the team to beat as they set out to defend their title. Mikaela Powick is the only loss, as she is now at university, while a noteworthy acquisition is Jess Bygate who has transferred from Jacks. She will prove to be a formidable shooting duo with Nicky Rampton, while promising youngster Aimee Book will also bolster the offensive lineup. The remainder of Richmond’s roster is tried and true with a wealth of talent and experience across the court.
Richmond have had the benefit of game time at the Super Club Competition in Christchurch in early March, where they faced teams who played with more speed, however they were disappointed with their outings in Nelson the following week. Coach Kathleen Thornalley is looking forward to the eight team competition, however she does have to contend with the unavailability of her three Nelson Sparks basketball players in the coming weeks.
Runners up from 2014, Jacks OPD, have lost the services of ace shooter, Ani Waitai, however Welsh shooter Rebecca James has returned to the side. Jess Drummond has returned to Nelson from Christchurch and is likely to make her presence felt through the mid court.
Jacks claimed the Geraldine Hodgson Tournament trophy last weekend, when they scraped through with a one goal win over Prices Pharmacy. Jacks will not be taking anyone lightly, as anyone is a threat on any given day.
With the increase to an eight team competition the Stoke club will have two teams. As beaten finalists in Premier 2, Stoke Sun City Panel & Paint will join club mates Stoke NBS, who finished third in 2014. The NBS team has the nucleus of last year’s lineup and is quite versatile, and will be going with a similar mantra of “horses for courses” which has proved successful in the past.
Stoke Sun City Panel & Paint have four players from last year who are making the step to the elite grade and are joined by Charlotte Etheridge and Amber Grainger, who are no strangers to Stoke colours. Fresh out of college, Becky Green will play in the mid court, while Garin College’s talented Kate Hand will get her first taste of premier netball as a dual-registered player. They will face a baptism of fire when they meet Richmond in their first competition game as it is a seeded draw.
Prices Pharmacy will also have two teams in the competition. Mandy Whiting is again calling the shots for the A team which has a similar look about it, with the addition of former players – Shar Lowe (injury) Christta Burrows (overseas) and Dayna Whiting (study). The team was “pretty happy” with their performance at GH Tournament and have been working hard at their strength and conditioning for the past eight weeks. Specific team training will begin this week.
Tom Alesena has the reins of Prices Black and has a fairly new team to work with. Shevaun Collier and Kelly Jenkins are expected to lead the offensive end, while McKenzie Taikato is the experience in the mid court and Bex Watene will call the shots in the defensive third. Prices Black enjoyed the GH Tournament last weekend and intend to consolidate their combinations to become competitive against all teams in the grade.
Kalyssa Rasmussen will go from being the “baby” of Waimea College to premier experience all within the space of a year, as she is the only remaining player from 2014. There is a distinct legacy the girls in green and gold have to uphold, however the college is stacked with talent and there is no doubt the new squad will relish and benefit from the opportunities that playing in the top grade will present.
With three returning from last year’s Prem 2 winning side, Nelson College for Girls are fortunate in having leaders in each third – Abbey Frankin in the shooting, Charlotte Timms in the mid and Merekara McGuinnetty in the defensive third. Co-coach Penny-Sue Franklin was impressed in their performance at GH Tournament, particularly the younger players who stepped up to the mark and by no means looked out of their depth against the more experienced opposition.
NCG are excited to be in the elite grade and feel it will provide a good platform on which to build for the South Island Secondary Schools Tournament later in the year.