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Waitakere 1 unbeaten to claim Netball NZ U17 crown

A passionate home crowd has spurred Waitakere 1 on to its first Netball NZ U17 Champs title in almost 10 years.

Waitakere 1 beat Manawatu Green 46-34 at Netball Waitakere headquarters in Auckland on Thursday.

They last stood on top of the U17 podium in 2010 (as Auckland Waitakere) but went through the 2019 tournament unbeaten to claim the Anna Rowberry Cup.

Coach Tabitha Winter said it was a great feeling to win the national title and she was delighted with her team’s focus during a tough final.

“It was a great final,” she said. “It was contested the whole way through and Manawatu made us work hard for it. But we focused on ourselves and kept that focus throughout the whole game.”

Winter had 11 players for the pool play before New Zealand Secondary Schools and ANZ Premiership shooter Grace Nweke joined the team.

She played a strong hand in Waitakere’s finals performance as Manawatu struggled to shut down the 1.93m shooter.

“It’s been a team effort throughout the week and the girls have known they could go on at any instance. They’re not even tired, believe it or not, but I am – it’s a tough week,” Winter said with a laugh.

Nweke proved a strong target for Waitakere in the final and their through court defence also stymied Manawatu’s flow through the mid-court in particular.

The two teams were drawn level with just over a minute left in the first quarter before a Waitakere intercept sparked the home side which netted three straight goals to go into the break with a 10-7 lead.

Backed by their supporters, Waitakere rushed out to a six-goal buffer before Manwatu closed the gap to four at halftime.

Manawatu defender Kara Adrole worked tirelessly against Nweke and Waitakere was forced to patiently work the ball into their shooter.

Waitakere’s pressure across the court started to pay dividends as the hosts started to dominate for a 34-25 lead with one quarter to play.

They held their composure in the deciding spell for a convincing 12-goal victory.

The win marked a commanding four days from the Waitakere which was unbeaten heading into the final having accounted for Wellington B, an Invitational side, South Canterbury, Dunedin, Hutt Valley and toppling Auckland 1 (40-35) in a tense battle to clinch a semifinal spot.

They overcame Eastern Bay of Plenty 41-29 in the semifinal for a spot in the last two.

Manawatu A Green had just the one loss on their pathway to the title decider, going down 25-37 to Eastern Bay of Plenty on the opening day.

From there the Yvette McCausland-Durie and Renee Matoe coached side bounced back with five convincing wins to set up a semifinal against Dunedin, winning the play-off 31-22.

Meanwhile, Eastern Bay of Plenty finished in third spot after beating Dunedin 43-23.