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Performance challenge set for Waikato-BOP

Waikato-BOP coach Mary-Jane Araroa expects to meet a “fired-up” defending Beko Netball League champion when their campaign continues in Hamilton on Sunday.

They opened their 2018 season with an eight-goal win over South but expect a tough encounter when they host Central, last year’s champions, at Claudelands Arena.

“They would have been bitterly disappointed to lose their first up game (against Mainland) so I’m expecting them to bounce back pretty hard,” Araroa said of their opponent. “That’s something we’ve talked about and we’ll be up for that challenge.”

Araroa was pleased to net the points in the opening round but was after a step up in performance against Central – a team they lost to in pre-season.

“You’re always happy to get the ‘W’ but there were still a few nerves out there which you’d expect at the start of the season,” Araroa said. “We’ll be looking to make sure the structures are in place and the connections.”

There were also plenty of new learnings for the experienced coach who is in her first season at Beko Netball League level.

Araroa is the current New Zealand Secondary Schools coach and has also guided the New Zealand Maori team, Aotearoa Maori Secondary Schools, and has been assistant of the Fast5 Ferns in the past, but said this role brought different challenges.

Managing the player workload in the Beko Netball League – with much of the squad working or studying full time and others heavily involved with the Waikato-BOP Magic ANZ Premiership team – is something that needed to be considered each week.

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It required weekly meetings with Waikato-BOP performance manager Ruth Aitken and Magic coach Margaret Forsyth to discuss playing rosters.

The first round match against South marked the return of three of their squad members including Lisa Mather, Harley Smith and Hannah Ridling who are all with the Magic as training partners.

“They’ve thrived in that environment,” Araroa said. “It’s really important for us that we emulate what our ‘A’ team (the Magic) are doing so that if we are called up it can be seamless.”

Mather gained more experience at the top level over the week with three quarters for the Magic’s Round 2 ANZ Premiership match.

Another success story has been defender Courtney Elliot – named in the Waikato-BOP Beko team at the start of the year but finding herself thrust into the elite league with a late call-up to the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.

“As coaches, that is what it is about – getting these players ready for that next step and it’s great to see how they’re slotting in.”

Meanwhile, in other matches, the Northern Marvels will host South at The Trusts Arena in Auckland on Saturday with both teams looking for their first win of the season, while first round victors Heller’s Mainland will travel to theHigh Wire Trust Gymnasiumin Auckland on Sunday to play the Northern Comets.