National Netball League
1 month ago

Comets open Synergy Hair Netball League with a win

A late change to their attacking unit helped spark the Comets to victory over the defending champions in the opening round of the Synergy Hair Netball League.

Trailing for much of the match, Comets coach Michelle Parsons made a tactical change in the shooting circle with just four minutes to play as Tongan representative Marie Hansen entered the fray to help her side upset Central Manawa 57-53 at Pulman Arena in Auckland.

In what was a repeat of last year’s Grand Final, where Manawa pipped the Comets by two goals, there was little between the two sides and Comets co-captain Abbie Leger said her side needed to make a “shift” in the closing stages of the game to take the win.

“I think it was just some big time plays from some big-time players,” she said of the change. 

“We all really came together although there was a bit of a lull at times.  All the girls know that when we need to shift, we do shift, and I think that was evident today.”

Leger also spoke highly of her team’s versatility in a side which has made the last two Grand Finals but is yet to claim the major spoils.

“It’s so cool to have so much depth in our team and so many of our girls are so versatile,” she said. 

“It’s exciting – we just need to bank our wins now.”

Hansen, coming on at goal attack, made an impact up front and her combination with Crystal Maro ensure the Comets had a mobile circle which frustrated Manawa’s defence.

Both teams settled quickly into their work, but it was Manawa which made the most of any turnover ball, jumping out to a 9-5 lead.

The long reach of Manawa defenders Zalika Clarke and Madison Thomas proved troublesome for the Comets, and it took the hosts plenty of patience to work the ball closer to the post as they fought their way back into the opening quarter.

The timing of Manawa shooter Khiarna Williams, who is back at the elite level for the first time in two years, was good as her feeders found her with ease, the visitors maintaining a 17-16 lead at the first break.

Williams, who has an ANZ Premiership contract with Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse, was replaced for the second quarter with Martina Salmon teaming up with Sarah Guiney.

The Comets kept the same line and, despite trailing Manawa, were always in the game with the midcourt trio of Tori Kolose, Leger and Teuila Sotutu providing plenty of hustle through the middle.

Errors crept into the play of both teams as the halftime whistles approached but the hosts made a last push – through the sharp shooting of Jaelin Tulikaki – and levelled the scores to 30-30 at the main break.

The Comets made one change heading into the second half with Holly Mather picking up the centre bib and Leger moving to wing defence.

But it was Central which started the second half the stronger of the two teams as they opened another four-goal lead.

Simple triangles around Manawa’s attacking circle put the ball into good space as Salmon and Guiney shared the shooting load.

It was however a never-say-die attitude from the Comets as they showed plenty of resilience to stay on the heels of Manawa.

Their flow on attack started to falter in the dying stages of the third quarter, allowing Manawa to pull ahead 45-40 heading into the last turn.

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