It is now down to the “nitty gritty” part of the Nelson Netball season as teams prepare for semi-finals. All grades, including the elite grade, will play on Saturday at Saxton Stadium.
In the Premier grade, Jacks OPD, Richmond Glass, Prices Pharmacy A and Stoke NBS looked to be top four contenders, however a serious challenge came from promoted Suburban Russell Curtains. Stoke did not cement their semi-final berth until after they had accounted for Prices Black last Thursday. While Suburban could be disappointed at missing a semi spot, they should consider their debut season in Premier to be a successful one.
The top two seeds, Jacks OPD and Richmond Glass, will meet at 4:45pm with the winner going straight through to next week’s final, while the loser will meet the winner of Prices A and Stoke NBS who play at 3:30pm.
Prices have bragging rights over Stoke as they have been the victors on both occasions by a six goal margin. Prices have the better record, winning the first 12 games of the competition, however they have stumbled in the last two games when they have gone down to Richmond and Jacks. Coach Mandy Whiting hopes to have a full roster on Saturday with only Christta Burrows in doubt with illness. Prices defensive end has been increased with the inclusion of Rebecca Watene from Prices Black. With the new 5.3 rule, players must have played three games for a team before they can take the court for a semi or final. Although Prices have capable circle defenders in Sarah Steele, Dayna Whiting and Mahina Selby-Law, Rebecca can add another dimension.
Prices were not happy with their performance against Richmond, when they were guilty of wrong options on attack and they did not capitalize on turnovers gained. However, they can take heart from their first half against Jacks last week.
Coach Whiting believes their strength is as a unit and her charges will enter the game on a positive note.
Stoke NBS coach Abbie Cook is hoping her team can “put it out there on the day,” despite the fact that six of the roster will contest the Motueka Grade 1 final in the morning. Stoke have displayed “patches of form” with “patches of a team” in recent weeks due to player availability, injury and sickness. While Abbie admits her girls only squeaked into fourth place, she believes Prices are not unbeatable. The Thomson sisters, Megan and Jaunita, have had sterling seasons, with Megan anchoring the offensive end and returning impressive statistics while Jaunita has been handy at the other end of the court.
While Richmond will be putting their best foot forward they are under no illusions that Jacks will be easy opposition without the services of Lisa and Aimee Book, who will be absent due to basketball commitments. They do have capable substitutes in Kim Starnes and Belinda Kolomatanga. Player/coach Kathleen Thornalley is aware of Jacks skilled mid court and their shooting combinations, however she does have faith in her experienced defenders to create the turnover ball. Richmond will be looking to focus on the basics and put their best game possible out on court, knowing that should they loose there is another opportunity to play the winner of Prices and Stoke.
Jacks have a well-balanced line-up, with coach Robyn Leonard having the luxury of three accurate shooters in Rebecca James, Leanne Cook and Hannah Mead. There is speed to burn in the mid court and Jacks will begin the game as favourites.