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Young Central side relishing Beko Netball League challenge

Netball’s next generation have been making great strides in the Beko Netball League and the competition leaders have benefitted from the explosion of young talent.

A trio of schoolgirls continues to make their mark for Central Manawa, who sits one point clear of second-placed Waikato-BOP, with the side eyeing up its fourth consecutive Beko Netball League Grand Final.

They travel to Auckland to play the Northern Marvels on Sunday where they will aim to consolidate their place at the top of the Beko ladder, while the other game sees Waikato-BOP take on the Northern Comets at home.

Central coach Pelesa Semu said it was not surprising to see the youngsters, including Saviour Tui, Paris Lokotui and Rochelle Fourie, step up for Manawa over the past few years.

“That’s been the theme for our team,” she said. “Those secondary school players who are brought into our programme have been fantastic.”

But it has even taken the experienced coach by surprise at times.

“It was a bit scary to realise that I had two 17-year-olds (Tui and Fourie) running that shooting circle,” she said with a laugh. “But they’re doing well and stepping up to that challenge.”

Tui, who is also a training partner for Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse, is in her second year with Central’s Beko side while fellow shooter Fourie made her debut this season.

At the other end of the court, schoolgirl Lokotui is also something of a veteran having been a part of last year’s winning side.

“The great thing for me as a coach is that those two players (Tui and Lokotui) have had a taste of it last year and know what to expect,” Semu said.

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“Rochelle has been on our radar and is now getting that exposure in the Beko League which has been great.”

All three are in the New Zealand Secondary Schools squad with the team to be named this month.

Meanwhile, Semu said it was important her side focused on their game against the Marvels before looking too far ahead.

The defending champions take on last year’s Grand Finalists Waikato-BOP twice this month which could go some way to deciding the top two rankings.

“We need to ensure that we come back from our week off and pick up from where we were,” Semu said. “Waikato-BOP are on hot form and we’ve got them back-to-back weekends so it’s going to be interesting. But for us it’s all about the Marvels this weekend and doing the job there.”

Hellers Mainland remains in contention after making a recent charge up the points ladder. They beat Southern Blast 61-46 last week to claim third spot, but don’t play again until April 14 when they take on Waikato-BOP.

Beko Netball League points: Central Manawa 13, Waikato-BOP 12, Hellers Mainland 11, Southern Blast 8, Northern Marvels 5, Northern Comets 3.