Beko Netball League contenders target Central Manawa
Knocking Central Manawa off its Beko Netball League perch will be high on the agenda of the chasing pack as the season opener looms large.
The three-time defending champions are the most successful team in the league which was first unveiled in 2016 in a bid to strengthen the pathways of elite Netball in New Zealand.
Just who stands in their way from a fourth-straight title remains to be seen but there is a generous sprinkling of experience and new talent emerging from the 2020 Beko Netball League to suggest that Central Manawa will remain wary of the challengers.
They themselves have changes to the squad which beat Waikato-BOP in last year’s Grand Final, particularly in the shooting circle with Saviour Tui elevated to the ANZ Premiership and Monalisa Groom unavailable due to injury.
The return of shooter Jermaine Howard-Vallance will provide new coach Anna Andrews-Tasola with some experience on attack while last year’s Tania Dalton Scholarship winner, Paris Lokotui, gives Manawa a strong option on defence.
Their season opener sees them take on the only other team to have lifted the spoils, the Southern Blast, with the inaugural league winners now under the watchful eye of former Silver Fern Jo Morrison.
She is without both Heffernan twins this season with Kate and Georgia earning Premiership contracts, but she will have one half of another southern set of twins, with Sophie Erwood, sister to the Southern Steel’s Abby Erwood, back in Blast colours.
Morrison is not the only former Silver Fern to guide a BNL team this season with Mary-Jane Araroa back with last year’s finalists, Waikato-BOP, and Temepara Bailey taking on the head coach role with the Northern Comets.
Waikato-BOP will again be spearheaded by dynamic midcourter, Ali Wilshier, who was named the 2019 Beko Netball League Player of the Year, while promising young shooter Khiarna Williams will anchor the shooting circle.
Meanwhile, Bailey will tackle a dual coaching role this season as she continues to act as assistant coach to the Northern Stars in the ANZ Premiership while also picking up the head coach role for the Comets for the first time.
Stars training partners Nanise Waqaira (formerly with the Northern Mystics) and Oceane Maihi along with Kolose sisters, Jaymie and Tori, will feature for the northern side in the BNL.
Their neighbours, the Northern Marvels, are again coached by Ripeka Pirie and will turn to the experience of attacking playmaker Filda Vui who has played since the league started.
Mainland will also turn to the experienced head of Nicola Mackle through the middle with Lily Marshall and Lily Fletcher two players to watch on defence.
They have a new coach in Andrea Cousins who has stepped up from her role as assistant last year.
The 12-week round-robin competition concludes at the TSB Arena in Wellington where the Grand Final will be played on June 21.
NZ Strong Northern Marvels | Coach: Ripeka Pirie
Northern Comets | Coach: Temepara Bailey
Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty | Coach: Mary-Jane Araroa
Katie Te Ao
Central Manawa | Coach: Anna Andrews-Tasola
Netball Mainland | Coach: Andrea Cousins
Southern Blast | Coach: Jo Morrison