North Otago Netball has named a strong side for the South Island Senior Championships in Dunedin this weekend.
As well as the pick of senior players from the premier netball competition, North Otago has secured the services of rising stars Southern Steel signing Taneisha Fifita and Central Pulse shooter Aliyah Dunn.
The rules of the tournament allow for one Beko league player and one ANZ Premiership player per team, and although Fifita has been signed to the Steel next year, she will still qualify as a Beko player for this tournament.
It is thanks to the legacy of the late Georgie Salter that Dunn is playing for North Otago for the first time.
Originally from Invercargill, Dunn got to know North Otago player-coach Rihi Schultz when Salter was coaching the Beko South team, and was happy to fill in when former Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil Jen O’Connell became unavailable.
“[Dunn] is amazing. She was unlucky to miss out on the world cup,” Schultz said.
“She was the highest shooting percentage in the ANZ Premiership last year.”
Five of North Otago’s players are mothers, so trainings had been once a week – and intense, Schultz said.
“We have made it quality over quantity.
“That has been really great. We started our trainings as soon as our club netball finished. Everyone has been going hard.”
In the same vein as the Silver Ferns, North Otago had a warm-up game against the Otago men’s team in preparation for the competition. The men won 54-36, but North Otago was competitive and was without the services of Dunn.
The South Island Senior Championships is a new competition.
“There was a gap where a lot of players of an older age didn’t have any competitions to strive for, unless you were at the Beko level,” Schultz said.
“There is often a lot of crossover of those age-group players in the Beko teams anyway – they already have the competitions like under-17s and under-19s.
“It’s a really cool opportunity for all the top players within all the different regions to get some different competition.”
North Otago plays its two pool games today on court four at the Edgar Centre, against Dunedin Blue at 1.15pm and against South Canterbury at 3.45pm.
The playoffs will take place tomorrow and on Sunday.