Valley Gold looks to do it again

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Netball season is here again. Hayden Meikle clocks in with the seven North Otago premier club teams ahead of the opening round.

VALLEY GOLD
Coach: Rihi Schultz.
Last year: Champion.
The oil: Four straight titles for the North Otago netball powerhouse, but the strive for five will not be easy. Dominant defender Briar Wilson, talented utility Kate Macgregor and towering shooter Kara Cox leave big holes to fill. Newcomers include shooter Brytnee Firman, out of St Kevin’s College, and Australian attacker Shay Frost. Wing defence Sarah Newlands and goal defence Nicky Wallace are the star women.

ST KEVIN’S
Coaches: Carmen Brenssell and Melissa Smith.
Last year: Beaten finalist.
The oil: The schoolgirls did superbly last year to reach the final and give Valley a heck of a scare. Turnover has not been horrific, though Firman, Whitney Cleveland and Tivinia Misiloi leave big gaps. Incoming seniors will be ready to step up, none more so than Molly Kay, the new captain. St Kevin’s is looking forward to a tour of Australia next week, and the girls should set the standard in the competition in terms of defence. Ellen Swanson is a new player to watch.

WGHS LIGHTNING STRIKE
Coach: Georgie Salter.
Last year: Third.
The oil: Will have to make do without star shooter Taneisha Fifita for a while as she has Steel commitments. Little sister Maikale (goal defence), Jasmine Hunter (midcourt) and India McLay (utility) are the key players, while shooter Losa Fifita and defender Charlotte Weir are newcomers to watch.

WGHS WILDFIRE
Coach: Georgie Salter.
Last year: Fourth.
The oil: Could be a team to watch. Silky attacker Molly Hurst is backed by the formidable defensive pairing of Nicole Lowen and Holly Beazer. Plenty of confidence and intensity, and you know they will be fit – and well coached.

MAHENO
Coach: Carmen Brenssell.
Last year: Fifth.
The oil: In the premier ranks for a second straight season and with aspirations to crack the semifinals. The roster is extremely stable – Becky Taylor is off for knee surgery, but otherwise the same veterans will be back in green. Suzy Oakes, Kathryn Kawau and Mel Smith form the core of a very decent team. Ngapera Yaxley and Shannon Vince are newcomers. Maheno has loads of experience and well-tested combinations, so anything less than a top-four finish will be a disappointment.

ATHLETIC
Coach: Kim Lyttle.
Last year: Sixth.
The oil: Player turnover has been high, so it is too early to tell if the club has a chance to get back into the top four. Promising midcourter Ella Francis steps up to premier grade, and Renee Webster moves to midcourt to join her. Goal keep Tina Williamson returns to premier netball.

VALLEY SILVER
Coach: Allan Craig.
Last year: Last.
The oil: Plummeted from the semifinals in 2016 to the wooden spoon, so the only way is up. It is a new-look team with midcourter PJ Bell the only regular back from last season. Ani Lafoou, who filled in last year, covers both ends of the court, and defender Kendall McBride takes the step up from social grade. A wildcard team.