Central claim Beko Netball League crown
Netball Central have netted their first Beko Netball League crown keeping their clean sheet in an impressive 2017 campaign.
Last year’s beaten finalists held off a fast-finishing Hellers Netball Mainland 43-41 in a thrilling grand final at The Trusts Arena in Auckland on Sunday.
Central posted some big scores through the regular season but were pushed hard by a willing Mainland side in their toughest game of the league.
Player of the match Karin Burger said they were “delighted” to win the final and hold off Mainland in an exciting fourth quarter.
“We’ve had it sort of easy the whole season with big scores but we knew they were going to ‘bring it’ so we were ready for it,” she said. “We probably made it a little bit harder on ourselves that we needed to but we got the win in the end.”
She said they held their composure when the pressure came on and “trusted each other” as Mainland rallied time and again.
“We worked hard for every ball and you could see people putting their bodies on the line out there. It was really good work from the girls,” Burger said.
Shooter Jermaine Howard-Vallance showed some early nerves for the side missing her first two attempts at goal as Mainland raced out to a 5-0 lead.
Mainland applied all the pressure but it didn’t take long for Central to switch gears as their big-named players settled into their roles.
Mid-courter Mila Reuelu-Buchanan – who was named Beko Netball League Player of the Year – was a work-horse for her side up front and backed up well in the middle by Kimiora Poi and Sheridan Bignall.
Defenders Karin Burger and Renee Savai’inaea shut Mainland down on attack in a telling third quarter and it was Howard-Vallance who stood out for the victors.
Howard-Vallance was a strong target for her feeders and after a nervous few opening minutes, when she missed her first two attempts, showed a steady hand under pressure.
Central led by one goal at the first break and four at half-time. They looked to be taking control of the game with a 33-26 three quarter lead before a resurgent Mainland pushed hard again in the fourth stanza.
Mainland hussled hard on defence but the second-ranked side this season were let down at crucial times with handling errors.
Goal keeper Olivia Coughlan used her long lean well and Mainland added extra height in the defensive circle in the third quarter by bringing NZU21 defender Kate Lloyd into the action.
The tussle was worthy of a final as both sides showed plenty of passion and Mainland proved hard for Central to shake.
Mainland made one last push for the win in a pulsating fourth spell coming within two goals of their rivals. Shooter Ellie Bird netted the bulk of Mainland’s goals while Chloe Williamson was tenacious through the middle.