Illness keeps sides waiting for clash

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Most North Otago netball teams returned to action on Saturday, after a week off due to wet weather.

But the long-awaited premier A clash between Valley Karaka and Maheno Green had to be rescheduled, due to illness in the Maheno side.

Valley Karaka and Maheno Green — two of the competition heavyweights — have not played each other since 2020. Last season’s scheduled clashes between the two sides were not able to go ahead due to either rain or Covid-19.

Maheno Green coach Carmen Brenssell said only four of her players were available last Saturday. She was grateful Valley had agreed to reschedule the clash for June 2, and said the game would be a good gauge of where both sides were at this season.

‘‘We actually haven’t played them for two seasons . . .so it will be interesting,’’ Brenssell said.

Maheno had a big first-round win against Kurow A, and now had players who had been out with injury — including Ella Brown and Ngapera Yaxley — ready to take to the court again.

‘‘We’ve got the whole squad back, so we’re ready to go,’’ Brenssell said.

With the second week of competition rained off, it had been a tough start to the season for all teams.

‘‘It does muck you up, because you just don’t get the momentum going,’’ she said.

‘‘It doesn’t even feel like netball season’s started — it’s a weird feeling.’’

But Maheno was ‘‘tracking well’’ at training and would keep working hard in its fight for the Jessie Allen Trophy this year.

Apart from Maheno and Valley, who have only played one game so far, all other premier A teams have had at least one loss already this season.

Tomorrow, Maheno plays Waitaki Girls’ High School Lightning Strike at 10am, the North Otago Men’s team comes up against Athletic Maroon at 11am, Valley Karaka takes on Kurow A at noon, and Waitaki Girls’ Wildfire and St Kevin’s College A clash at 1pm.

WGHS WILDFIRE V ATHLETIC MAROON
Final score: 33-29 to WGHS

Waitaki Girls’ Wildfire stepped up when it mattered most to secure its first win of the season.

With scores tied at three-quarter time, the schoolgirls ramped up their intensity in the final quarter against Athletic Maroon and cashed in on turnovers to take the game 33-29.

Coach Steve Ross said the team worked as a ‘‘strong unit’’ throughout the second half to grind out the win.

‘‘Emily Neal was making exceptional drives and controlling the attack end with Sarah Jamison,’’ Ross said.

‘‘Renee Stenning controlled the shooting circle and Mya Nicol and Jorja Belt forced errors in the defensive end to give [the] team extra ball which they managed to secure.’’

Athletic impressed with flowing through-court play at times, but lost its way when Wildfire applied the pressure and was unable to convert turnovers to points in the final quarter.

Renee Webster was a standout for Athletic at goal attack, positioning herself well in the shooting circle, and working hard through the court.

SKC A V KUROW A
Final score: 33-21 to SKC

Strong winds presented an added challenge for all teams on Saturday.

St Kevin’s A and Kurow both had a slow start, as players adjusted to the conditions, and St Kevin’s held on to a one-goal lead at quarter time. After a low-scoring second quarter, scores were tied at 14-14 at halftime.

Then, St Kevin’s found its rhythm. The school team’s circle defence of Maia Clunie and Amelia Wilkinson was unrelenting in the third quarter, restricting Kurow to just two goals in 10 minutes, and their haul of intercepts helped the team to a 24-16 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of play.

St Kevin’s kept the intensity up to win 33-21, Zara Kira slotting some impressive shots in the wind and Olivia Mavor showing strength on attack and defence.

Kurow kept in the fight until the end, but was unable to close the gap. Centre Georgie McFarlane was a standout in her first outing for the country club.

WGHS LIGHTNING STRIKE V NORTH OTAGO MEN
Final score: 34-22 to North Otago Men

The North Otago Men’s team was pushed all the way by Waitaki Girls’ Lightning Strike.

While the men are not competing for the Jessie Allen Trophy, games against them count for points for the women’s teams this season — and if teams lose to the men by 10 goals or fewer, they receive a bonus point.

Lightning Strike fought hard for that bonus point on Saturday, and was unlucky to not finish within 10 to take it.

The men sprung out to an early lead, settling into the game and adjusting to conditions faster than the schoolgirls. Andy Anderson (GS) and Stephen Ross (GA) connected well in the shooting circle.

But in the second half, Lightning Strike really applied the pressure and kept to their game plan, making it difficult for the men to find their connections. Meadow Neill showed strength and leadership bringing the ball through the court, Alysha McCabe picked up some impressive intercepts and shooting duo Emily Mavor and Emma Fox worked the circle nicely.

The school side was so close to a bonus point, but some timely intercepts by Keegan Wilson and Mitch McRae in the last quarter helped the men’s team secure the win by 12 points.