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The North Otago Netball season gets under way tomorrow. Kayla Hodge checks in with the Premier A clubs to find out how their teams are looking.

ATHLETIC

Athletic started off with a hiss and a roar last season and would love nothing more than to do it again.

‘‘We were lined up for a pretty good finish last season and then it all turned to custard,’’ club president Kim Lyttle said.

‘‘It’d be nice to carry that momentum into this season.’’

Athletic is sporting good numbers and will be competitive, led by head coach Karen Metherell again. She returned to the club last season after time away.

‘‘She’s just got years and years of coaching knowledge,’’ Lyttle said.

Robyn Williams and Blayze Tisdall are also back after a season off, and will help bolster Athletic’s defensive end.

KUROW

Kurow is packed with experience and some new talent this season.

The team’s defensive circle holds the experience, with Steph Voice and Jane Mulholland back, Brianna Butcher and Amberlee Shadbolt joining the shooting end this season and Georgie McFarlane and Jaime Archer added to the midcourt.

Kurow player-coach Anna Haugh said the new players were combining well with the club’s longer-serving players.

It has been an unsettling few years for Kurow. Covid-19 delayed the start of the 2020 season, leaving Kurow unable to field a Premier A team, and last season was disrupted by rain and then Covid-19.

‘‘We’re just looking forward to playing. We’re just really excited to get on the court and get going,’’ Haugh said.

MAHENO

Maheno had the trophy pulled out from under its feet last season, head coach Carmen Brenssell says.

The country club has come so close to the title in recent years, finishing runner-up four seasons in a row, and was on track to finally lift the Jessie Allen Trophy last year, before Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the rest of the season.

But with the full Maheno Green roster of players returning, Brenssell was excited about the season ahead.

‘‘They’re still in that mentality that it just hasn’t ended yet. Our road hasn’t ended yet,’’ Brenssell said.

Maheno was lucky to have the core group back, including captain Mel Smith, as well as Suzy Oakes, Philippa Masoe and Hannah Johnston.

‘‘They just gel so well.’’

Sarah Lindsay was a huge gain for the club last season in the shooting end, and Brenssell was rapt she was returning.

Former Otago representative netballer and basketballer Amy Sai Waqawai has also joined the team, adding strength to the midcourt.

ST KEVIN’S COLLEGE

Having experienced players in key positions will help St Kevin’s College A this season, coach Rachel Fowler says.

The secondary school team is bolstered by the experience of Zaria Kira in the shooting circle, captain Olivia Mavor in the midcourt and Amelia Wilkinson in defence.

‘‘I think we’ve got strength throughout the court. It helps to have the older girls at both ends as well,’’ Fowler said.

Shooter Kaliopeta Katoa has returned after a season off.

The team had lost several players from last year and had a disruptive pre-season due to Covid-19, but Fowler was pleased with their recent performance against Dunedin’s Kavanagh College.

Fowler was looking forward to getting the team together properly and getting the season under way.

VALLEY

Valley is sporting a new coaching line-up and new players this season.
Talented defender Nicky Fisher has swapped playing for coaching this season and will guide

Valley Karaka, alongside player-coach Lisa Fenwick. The pair previously played together and had both been coached by Georgie Salter, and Valley stalwarts Rihi Salter and Petra Aspros.

‘‘We’ve got the same kind of brain. It’ll be great,’’ Fisher said.

Valley had a big pool of experienced players retire last season, and defender Kendall McBride switched to Excelsior.

Defender India McLay has returned, Lauren Hueppauff has joined the club and Brytnee Firman is back after a season away. They join the core group of Mikayla Rowland, Whitney Cleveland, Brianna Sandri, Kara Cox and Fenwick.

WAITAKI GIRLS’ HIGH SCHOOL

With only two year 13 players across both Wildfire and Lightning Strike, Waitaki Girls’ High School will lean on their younger players more than ever this season.

‘‘They’re exciting and they’re young and they’re ready to learn, which is actually going to be quite nice,’’ coach Steve Ross said.

Year 10 Tupou Kautai — a cousin of former Southern Steel defender Taneisha Fifita
— has been promoted to play for Lightning Strike, and would come in handy, playing in both the defensive and shooting circles.

Eight Waitaki Girls’ players, including Tupou, were involved in Netball South’s Steel Steps accelerator programme, and were now rising through the senior ranks.

‘‘The shooting end’s actually looking really strong. A bit of young with a [few] older heads who have been there a couple of seasons.’’

Maheno Green’s Hannah Johnston joins Ross as assistant coach.

NORTH OTAGO MEN

Premier teams have everything to play for against the North Otago Men’s side this season.

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

Senior team member Steve Ross believed the change would benefit men’s and women’s netball in North Otago.

‘‘I think it will actually be the women who will have to actually play strong teams against us too. It’s improving the women’s game too.’’

The men’s team has lost Michael Misiloi, but had the experience of Mitch McRae, Andy Anderson, Timote Hanipale, Tim Craig and Jak Elliott who are all returning.
Anderson, a Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil, would be key in the shooting circle.

‘‘He’s going to be a superstar when he’s older if he sticks at it.’’

North Otago Netball also hoped to organise some games for the men’s team against Dunedin men’s teams throughout the season.