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Waikato-BOP aim high ahead of Beko Netball League decider

Despite having already booked their place in the Beko Netball League’s Grand Final, Waikato-BOP coach Rebecca Gabel says there is plenty on the line in their last game of the regular season.

The league’s joint-leaders, alongside Central Manawa, have already secured their spot in next week’s Grand Final but host the Northern Marvels on Sunday in what will be a special occasion for the Zone.

The clash with the Marvels will act as a curtain raiser to the Hobbiton Cup (the ANZ Premiership match between Splice Construction Magic and the Northern Mystics) as well as Magic stalwart Casey Kopua’s final game at home.

Gabel said her Waikato-BOP side was looking forward to being part of the day in Hamilton.

“Casey has been an absolute legend in our region and Zone,” she said. “Players look up to her and she’s given so much to the game so it’s going to be a special day.

“Last year we weren’t a part of the Hobbiton Cup but I was at the game and it was an amazing experience, so to play in the build-up to that is really exciting.”

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But there is still work to be done for her side on court as they look to finish the regular season on a positive note against the Marvels.

Gabel said their focus was solely on the game ahead and not to the rematch against Central is just over a week to determine which side would win the Beko Netball League spoils.

“We’re not even thinking about the final,” she said. “Throughout the year it’s been about making sure that we put a performance out there that shows we’re growing and developing.

“And that’s what I’ll be looking for against the Marvels – we don’t want to take the foot off the pedal.”

Gabel said they were expecting a tough match against a team which had nothing to lose and who had produced some strong performances in recent weeks.

The Marvels have weathered a number of personnel changes this season and possess threats at both ends of the court.

Experienced head Filda Vui has been the playmaker up front while Maine-Crystal Maro has stepped up with her shooting accuracy and volume following the departure of Grace Nweke, who joined the Northern Mystics.

Defensively the Marvels have benefited with the late inclusion of Olivia Coughlan who is likely to team up with Nanise Waqaira, the goal keep who has been called in for ANZ Premiership minutes.

Waikato-BOP has also seen players sliding between New Zealand’s two domestic leagues with both Khiarna Williams and Georgie Edgecombe the latest to experience the elite competition.

Gabel said the Beko Netball League had shown its worth, across all teams, with the ability to pull players from it for a seamless transition.

“It’s why the league has been developed and it’s rewarding to see the hard work for these players is paying off.”

Meanwhile, the other match to round out the regular season sees Central host the Southern Blast on Sunday as they also eye up next week’s Grand Final at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch.