Central and Waikato-BOP set for final showdown
Drumming up support on neutral turf has been part of the build-up towards the Beko Netball League Grand Final for both Central Manawa and Waikato-BOP.
The two teams meet at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch on Sunday to determine the winner of the 2019 Beko spoils.
And Waikato-BOP captain Ali Wilshier admits they may have to take extra steps to ensure they have added support away from home.
“We’ll have to try and convert a few of the Christchurch fans into the Waikato-BOP camp,” she said with a laugh.
Both she and Central captain Renee Savai’inaea said they had family members of various players who were making the trip south for the special occasion.
“We’re lucky to have the support of some parents who are travelling down but it’s a big stadium so they’re going to have to cheer extra loud,” Savai’inaea said.
Both teams finished the regular season on a convincing note and while Central, the defending champions, had the edge over Waikato-BOP the last time they met, little has separated the league’s leading teams.
Savai’inaea believed Waikato-BOP boasted strengths in all areas including the defensive combination of Georgia Tong and Georgie Edgecombe while Khiarna Williams was a solid target in the shooting circle.
“We know they are strong throughout the court and are really good at bringing that ball out of the defence end through court,” she said. “But we need to make sure that we focus on our game and what we want to put out there.”
Central is also well balanced throughout the court and welcomed back defender Paris Lokotui last week, having returned from an ankle injury.
Goal attack Saviour Tui has been a stand-out with her accuracy for Central while Savai’inaea, who has moved forward from defence into the midcourt this season, has been a strength through the middle.
“I also think one of their strengths is that they also have that finals experience having been in this position for a few years,” Wilshier said.
Sunday’s game will be Central’s fourth straight Grand Final, having won the last two, and for Wilshier it will be her second shot at the Beko Netball League spoils.
Wilshier was the only player, from this year’s Waikato-BOP squad, to start last year’s final and while she may personally draw from that experience, she said the team had not talked much about the game.
“I think because we’ve got a newish team and new coaches too that we haven’t really touched on that game,” she said. “Our focus is on the netball that we produce now.”
The hardworking midcourter said she was excited about the final and what it meant for a team she had seen develop both as individuals and a unit throughout the season.
“It’s important to stay in the moment and focus on the processes rather than get ahead of ourselves,” she said. “The two games that we’ve played have been really close so we know it’s going to take a full 60 minute effort from all 10 of our players.”
The Beko Netball League Grand Final starts at 2pm on Sunday and will be televised live on SKY Sport 1.
n Road to the 2019 Beko Netball League final:
Central Manawa: beat Comets 60-40, beat Mainland 57-32, lost to South 42-45, beat Comets 51-40, beat Marvels 64-32, drew with Waikato-BOP 46-46, beat Waikato-BOP 44-41, beat South 75-39.
Waikato-BOP: beat Mainland 55-50, beat Marvels 68-54, beat South 61-36, beat Comets 53-50, beat Mainland 58-45, drew with Central 46-46, lost to Central 41-44, beat Marvels 70-44.