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Beko Netball League setting new standards for the 2018 season

New Central coach Pelesa Semu expects the toughest season yet when teams line up for the third instalment of the Beko Netball League.

The defending champion team went unbeaten en route to winning their first Beko crown last year but Semu, who takes over from last season’s victorious Central coach Natalie Milicich, was expecting the 2018 league to be tougher than the first two seasons.

“It’s just getting more competitive every year,” she said. “There has been a lot of player movement and I’m expecting there to be very little between the teams.

“And that’s what we all want to see from this league – the level of intensity to increase, competitive matches and preparing these players for their next step.”

The Beko Netball League, which was introduced in 2016 with the aim of developing talent in New Zealand, starts on May 13 with a repeat of last year’s Grand Final between Central and Mainland. Waikato-BOP will host inaugural winners South while an all-Auckland derby, between the Marvels and Comets, rounds out the opening weekend of the competition.

Semu, who is a former Shakers’ captain and Samoa international, believed teams now had programmes well aligned with their ANZ Premiership franchise which was improving the standard of play each year.

The former Shakers captain and Samoa international said they would not be able to take any team lightly in the league.

“I honestly don’t think you can discard any team this year,” she said. “Auckland teams are always strong and have a great player base, Mainland has an experienced base and Waikato and South have some talented players coming through.”

Semu, who is also the Central Zone’s Performance Manager, said both she and her team could feel some heat going into the 2018 Beko League as defending champions but felt her new-look squad had been working hard on “our own identity”.

“It just comes with the role,” she said. “There’s always a pressure environment as coach but I’m always up for a challenge and I’m certainly looking forward to this one.

“It’s a very new team and it’s about paving our own pathways this year.”

The Beko Netball League starts on May 13 and consists of 31 games over 13 weeks, with the Grand Final to be played in Auckland on July 29.