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Central Manawa aim high

Central Manawa will measure success in many ways this season, but make no mistake the two-time defending Beko Netball League champions are eyeing up a third title.

The Pelesa Semu-coached side returns to the League as hot favourites after winning the competition for the past two years.

They host Hellers Mainland in Palmerston North on Sunday and are keen to take another step up from the 60-40 opening round win over the Northern Comets.

“The scoreline says it was a convincing win and it was pleasing to get that first win of the season,” Semu said. “But there was a lot of work ons from that game and we’ll be looking at getting better with those connections on court.”

Semu, who is back for her second season as head coach, was fortunate to have much of last year’s winning squad back in the side.

But she was also pleased to be working with a number of players who had made the step up into the ANZ Premiership including Maddy Gordon and Elle Temu, along with Tiana Metuarau who all had court time with Central in the victory over the Comets.

“I don’t see it as a challenge to have the (ANZ Premiership) players coming back in but it is just making sure we know how to reconnect through the court,” Semu said.

“They bring that experience into the side and it’s also giving them some valuable game time.”

Those returning from last year’s squad include defenders Paris Lokotui and Danielle Tafili along with shooters Saviour Tui and Grace McLean and mid-courter Salote Taufa.

Captain Renee Savai’inaea was in the Te Wananga o Raukawa Pulse squad last season but also got plenty of time in the Beko Netball League.

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The Zone’s history in the Beko Netball League stands out having made each final since the inaugural season in 2016, winning the title the last two years.

Semu said Central had done a good job in maintaining relationships throughout the Zone and nurturing the emerging talent.

“I think it’s a combination of identifying that talent that we have in the Zone but then also having the talent as far as the right people and coaches to work with those players,” she said.

Eyeing up a third straight title was naturally something they had to address at the start of the season, knowing they had a firm target on their back.

“We measure success in a number of ways and that’s something we’ve been talking about, ‘what does success look like for us’,” Semu said. “I’d be lying if I said we didn’t want to win a third title but we also focus on other areas like development and helping players take that next step.

“Or for some, the Beko Netball League is the level they reach and we want to celebrate that and get the best out of those players.”

Meanwhile, the other Beko Netball League game to be played this weekend sees the Northern Marvels take on the Northern Comets in Auckland on Saturday with both teams looking for their first win of the season.

2019 Central Manawa: Renee Savai’inaea (captain), Emily Autagavaia, Jessica Fagan-Pease, Rochelle Fourie, Monalisa Groom, Paris Lokotui, Grace McLean, Emma-May Murray-Fifita, Bianca Nagaiya, Ainsleyana Puleiata, Tahlia Runga, Danielle Tafili, Api Taufa, Salote Taufa, Saviour Tui, Tori Watt.

Beko Netball League history: 2018 – winners; 2017 – winners; 2016 – 2nd.

2019 BNL Points Table: Central Manawa 4, Waikato-BOP 4, Southern Blast 4, Northern Marvels 1, Hellers Mainland 1, Northern Comets 0.