In a match up that not many would have picked at the start of the week, Trust Waikato Hamilton City and Manawatu will meet in today’s final of the 2017 Netball NZ U19 Champs in Wellington.
After narrowly dropping an early pool match to the well-performed Manawatu, Hamilton City have gathered momentum to register four straight wins in advancing to the final, despatching Dunedin 45-32 and last year’s winners Wellington 30-25 in Wednesday’s quarter and semi-finals.
"I’m thrilled, this group has been an awesome bunch of girls to work with and just looking forward to tomorrow now," delighted Hamilton City coach Rebecca Gabel said afterwards.
Surprise package of the tournament Manawatu brushed aside Christchurch 40-23 in this Wednesday morning’s quarter-final and overcame Waitakere in the semi-finals with a polished 36-29 win to book their place as surprise finalists.
In the their semi-final, defending champions Wellington made the better start to lead by three goals at the first break before Hamilton City gradually assumed a grip on proceedings.
With two ANZ Premiership players and three who played in the Beko Netball League this season, Hamilton City held an advantage in the experience stakes in what was a hard-fought and entertaining spectacle.
Both teams were strong defensively, the ball swinging back and forth for long periods without a goal being scored but for Hamilton City, WBOP Magic shooter Amorangi Malesala was a key cog. In the end, it was Hamilton City's ability to stay composed under pressure that won through.
"It was a really well-contested game between two evenly matched teams," Gabel said.
"It was a physical game and I was really proud with how my girls stood up to that and held their own.
We’ve basically only had one training where we’ve had all squad together, so this week has been about building our combinations and making the most of every opportunity to get our connections going.
"It’s been a lovely team to work with. There’s a group that’s come through together from U17s and a number that play club together, so that’s helped a lot."
The 2017 Netball NZ U19s final between Hamilton City and Manawatu will be played at 4:30pm, Thursday 13 July at ASB Sports Centre in Wellington.