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Air time ... Valley Gold goal defence Nicky Wallace tries to block St Kevin's College goal attack Molly Kay during the North Otago premier netball final last year. PHOTO: DAVE BOYLE

Netball season has arrived.

Grading day at the Oamaru courts tomorrow will be followed by the start of the competition proper on April 14.

Thirty-five senior teams have registered, and they will be sorted into five grades.

The only grade that will require no sorting is premier netball, which has just seven teams registered, so grading day will merely be a chance to test combinations and get some match fitness.

Defending champion Valley Gold and beaten finalist St Kevin’s College A will be joined in the premier grade by Athletic Maroon, Maheno, Valley Silver, Waitaki Girls’ High School Wildfire and Waitaki Girls’ High School Lightning Strike. Twizel, a popular newcomer to premier netball last year, has indicated a preference to drop to the 1.2 grade as it has lost a few players.

The overall number of senior teams is down from 42 last year, but that drop is partly because North Otago netball has encouraged teams to carry slightly larger squads to cover for injuries.

After the first round, there will be no promotion-relegation games. The top team in each grade will simply move up to the grade above, meaning premier netball will be a seven-team competition in the first round, and an eight-team competition in the second.

Finals day is scheduled for August 18. Rain days (Sundays), if required, have been set for May 27 and August 5.

The Oamaru Mail will have a full team-by-team breakdown of premier netball next week.