Maheno ‘ecstatic’ after premier win

As the Maheno drought was broken, the floodgates opened.

Tears of relief, pride, and happiness were in the eyes of players, coaches, management and supporters as Maheno beat Valley 37-29 to be crowned North Otago Netball champions on Saturday. It was Maheno’s first premier title since 1975, and after being beaten finalists from 2018 to 2020, the girls in green finally shed their bridesmaids tag.

‘‘Ecstatic. It’s an amazing feeling and a long time coming,’’ Maheno coach Carmen Brenssell said.

‘‘It’s just like a huge relief. We’ve finally done it.’’

It was a special moment as Maheno was roared from the rooftops at Waitaki Community Recreation Centre — the game was moved inside due to rain — and the team never looked prepared to let history repeat itself.

Maheno trailed 10-8 at the first break, but fought hard in the second quarter to pull ahead 17-16 at half-time. The third quarter, often labelled the championship quarter, was where Maheno came alive. Anchored by Anika Smith and Kat Kawau in the middle, Maheno flew out to a 10›goal lead it never relinquished, to win by eight at the final whistle.

Before the game, Brenssell spoke to the team about Valley coming to play in Maheno’s ‘‘sandpit’’.

‘‘I just told the girls they needed to fill hands with sand . .. and there was [an] absolute sandstorm in the third quarter. I was nervous until the final whistle. We know what Valley’s like, they’re the comeback queens.’’

But Brenssell never doubted her players, saying there was a ‘‘whole different feel’’ to this year’s team, with players working well on and off the court, and feeling confident in their ability.

‘‘It was a feeling that no›one else was going to get that trophy — the Jessie Allen was coming home.

‘‘In the last few years, I don’t think we’ve been confident that it was coming home. We wanted it, but we weren’t sure if we could do it.

‘‘But this year it was just not going anywhere else. That was the difference.’’

It was great to win the title for the Maheno stalwarts, who stuck around for years to try get their hands on the trophy, and for their community, she said.

Messages of support had been flowing in and it was a special occasion to mark Maheno Netball’s 75th jubilee. There had been plenty of support from the 1975 team as well, which last won the title.

‘‘It must be awesome for them because they’ve been the title holders — it’s finally been broken.’’

Maheno celebrated in style for most of the weekend and has another opportunity tomorrow at the club’s prizegiving.