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Shield be right . . . North Otago netballers celebrate retaining the Hanan Shield. Back, from left: Rebecca Stark, Molly Hurst, Renee Webster, Petra Aspros, Mikayla Cleveland, Holly Beazer (umpire); front, Taneisha Fifita, Shay Frost, Nicky Wallace, Melissa Smith and Rihi Schultz. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

North Otago’s top netballers made the most of a rare opportunity to represent the province at senior level at the weekend.

Wins over Mid Canterbury (37-27) and South Canterbury (33-30) ensured North Otago would retain the Hanan Shield.

“We are extremely happy to be able to bring the trophy back home,” player-coach Rihi Schultz said.

“I was definitely more nervous this time, defending the trophy. I’m very proud of the girls.”

In the old days, North Otago had a fuller representative schedule, even getting the chance to compete at national tournaments as either a stand-alone province or as part of Aoraki.

Now, the association has to rely on the goodwill of its neighbours, and a tournament containing two games in one afternoon is it.

“It would be great to be able to field some more games for the team in the future. That is definitely on the to-do list for next season,” Schultz said.

“Mid Canterbury approached us for another separate game next year. So it’s nice to know we have that as an option. But I would also like to look into South Otago and Gore potentially as other options.

“As North Otago has shown, especially with our under-17 success, we bat above our size, so more exposure to these types of games could lead to further opportunities for these talented players.”

Captain and defensive stalwart Nicky Wallace showed her class and experience for North Otago.

Taneisha Fifita was strong and steady under the hoop, back in her old position of goal shoot after converting into a defender at the higher levels, while youngster Molly Hurst shot well in her appearances at goal attack.

Schultz said Kurow midcourter Rebecca Stark was another to stand out. Dogged and determined on defence, Stark came up with some crucial intercepts.

St Kevin’s College players were absent due to injuries and workload but otherwise all the premier teams were represented in the North Otago squad.

All 10 players got on court for at least two quarters in each game.

“We really have a ‘with our powers combined’ approach to North Otago seniors,” Schultz said.

“We are a strong club competition with all premier teams very competitive and vying for top four spots in our local competition, and that shows with the talent we have in the North Otago team.

“It has always been a tactic that I have inherited from my mother [Georgie Salter] to use your whole team. It’s easy to do when everyone in the team is strong.”

North Otago led all the way against Mid Canterbury, taking a 10-7 lead after the first quarter and a 19-13 lead at halftime.

But it was a different story against the old rival, South Canterbury, which shot to an 8-4 lead after the first quarter.

North Otago responded superbly, closing the gap to a goal at halftime and shooting ahead by three at the three-quarter mark.

Another feature of the successful trip north was the umpiring performance of Holly Beazer, the Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil.

Beazer, who balances playing for Wildfire in the club competition with umpiring duties as well as coaching sessions in Dunedin, umpired both of North Otago’s games and was “very professional”, Schultz said.

“The Mid Canterbury coach came and chatted to her after our game to praise her great umpiring – and coming from the defeated coach, that meant a lot.

“The South Canterbury umpire was a national level umpire, and it was great for Holly to be able to umpire alongside her and get some tips from the top.”