The work off the court has been as important as the skills shown on it resulting in a major turnaround in the fortunes for the Heller’s Mainland Beko Netball League squad.
The Peter McInnes-coached side will play in their first Beko league Grand Final when they meet Central in the title decider on Sunday.
Heller’s Mainland secured their place in the play-off with a convincing 64-47 win over the Northern Comets last week to finish second on the points table – a contrast to last season when they ended the round-robin on the bottom of the ladder.
Netball Mainland Performance Director Jen Hooper said it had been exciting to watch the progress of the athletes over their campaign which started with open trials – attracting over 80 players – and a competitive summer programme for 24 athletes.
“We wanted to have open trials to put it back on the girls to show that they were passionate for this,” Hooper said. “It was about re-engaging players and then helping them develop both on and off the court.”
Netball Mainland invested in the athletes including strength and conditioning, nutrition, athlete life and mental skills.
A final squad of 14 was named for the Heller’s Mainland side which included a number of players who have slotted into the region’s elite Silvermoon Tactix team to play in the ANZ Premiership when called on.
Hooper said the collaborative training environment between the Silvermoon Tactix and Heller’s Mainland had “resulted in a seamless transition for the movement of players between the two sides”.
She said it was a major shift within the Zone which had been rewarded with the performances in the Beko Netball League.
“It’s about growing capability and capacity in all facets of the organisation through playing, coaching, and umpiring which has been highlighted in the successful Beko programme.”
Mainland has been the only team to come close to Central on the scoreboard, falling by just three goals early in the season, and coach Peter McInnes remains confident if they played to their strengths they would be out to challenge Central’s unbeaten run.
“We ran them close in the first match-up with Central and have been building with each outing.”
The Grand Final will be played at The Trusts Arena in Auckland on Sunday with coverage on SKY Sport starting at 4pm. The game is preceded by the Silvermoon Tactix taking on the SKYCITY Mystics in the ANZ Premiership.
Heller’s Mainland 2017 Beko Netball League squad: Ellie Bird, Olivia Coughlan, Caitlin Dowden, Mahara Feala, Sophia Fenwick, Lily Fletcher, Bella James, Kate Lloyd, Lily Marshall, Kelera Nawai, Tiana Placid, Jess Shaw, Kayla Williams, Chloe Williamson. Head coach: Peter McInnes. Assistant coaches: Rachel Stead, Anna Galvan. Manager: Mandy Anderson. Physio: Amy Russell.