A lively and entertaining match-up is on the cards when unbeaten pair Central and Mainland come together in third-round Beko Netball League action in Wellington on Sunday.
Both teams have posted two wins from as many matches and for Central the clash presents their stiffest challenge to date.
``They’ve been tracking along very well,’’ Central coach Natalie Milicich said of her opponents. ``They have strengths with their height at both ends of the court, so we’re just going to have to come up with a game plan that’s going to combat that.’’
Mainland provide a very capable all-round team, spearheaded by their shooting combination, the towering Ellie Bird and goal attack Caitlin Dowden, who have proved a handful. The visitor’s midcourt has ANZ level experience and they are rounded out by a well-performed defensive end.
However, Milicich is confident Central have continued to show improvement in their progress and are up for the contest.
``There was a big step up from our team last weekend,’’ she said. ``We learnt from our start the week before, so we came out much stronger in the first quarter, our intensity lifted and we showed more consistency in winning each quarter quite well.
``Having that consistency across four quarters was a big improvement and something we had been looking for.’’
With Pulse midcourt training partners Kimi Poi and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan not coming back into the mix until just before the start of the Beko league, Central have taken a little while to gel.
``We are moving forwards and now starting to build connections at each end quite strongly. There’s still a bit to do on our transition and hopefully that will continue to improve this weekend,’’ Milicich said.
Facing their first real test of the season, there’s a strong emphasis for Central on ball retention and converting any gains to negate Mainland’s threat.
``We need to treasure the ball we do gain,’’ Milicich said. ``We only scored off 55 percent of our gained possession last weekend so it’s really important that we treasure possession and we stay focussed and composed because we’ll be under different pressure against Mainland.’’
Combined with that is the need to make good decisions at critical times which in a close contest often proves the difference between winning or losing games.
Pulse players Karin Burger (defender) and Sheridan Bignall (midcourt) will come into the Central team for the match.
``We haven’t got any standout areas, we just do grind away,’’ Milicich said of her team. ``The big thing for our team is trust and that’s something we will probably need to fall back on this weekend.’’
Another exciting element for both teams is that the game will be televised live following the ANZ Premiership clash between the pair’s senior teams, Te Wananga o Raukawa Pulse and Mainland Tactix.
The Beko Netball League is run over 13 weekends with the grand final to be played in Auckland on June 18.