Despite losing three of their mainstays, it’s business as usual for front-runners Central ahead of their Beko Netball League clash against South in Invercargill on Saturday.
Having several talented cross-code exponents in their ranks has meant Central will lose Renee Savaiinaea and Ainsleyana Puleiata to the World Youth Rugby secondary schools sevens tournament in Japan this weekend while Rhiarna Ferris is in camp with the senior New Zealand women’s sevens team.
As members of the New Zealand under-21 squad, St Mary’s College students Savaiinaea and Puleiata are also in the frame for the World Youth Netball Cup to be played in Botswana later this year. Reshuffling their deck, however, has not set alarm bells ringing in the Central camp, who have also lost Tori Watt and Renee TeRiini to injury for the rest of the season, coach Natalie Milicich having faith in the team’s depth. ``We’re going to bring in a couple of our training partners for this week which is a great opportunity for them,’’ she said.
``They have been training with us all along so I’m confident the transition will be seamless. ``I’m still confident that we can actually get the win. Our midcourt and our attacking end haven’t changed. The only change is that defensive end and the players coming in have trained with us all season and will hopefully slip in with ease.’’ It is also likely Central will have the services of Pulse players Karin Burger (defence) and midcourter Sheridan Bignall, the senior team being in Invercargill at the same time for their double-header ANZ Premiership round.
South, who were last year’s inaugural Beko League winners, had a slow start to the current campaign, losing their first two outings before following up with two wins. ``They are quite strong in all areas of the court and have been slowly building their combinations which is evident in their last couple of results,’’ Milicich said. ``We’re not 100 percent sure what we’re up against but from my own personal experience it’s a tough environment to play in. They always have great supporters down there so we’ll just have to stay tight as a unit, make sure we don’t get distracted and that we stay on track.’’
An added bonus for Central is the return of Kelsey McPhee from injury, the tall shooter adding impetus and variety to the attack line. Unbeaten to date, Milicich believes Central are far from a done deal and there’s plenty more to come from her team. ``It’s probably easier to say when you’re winning but the challenge remains to keep doing the work in the background to keep getting those wins,’’ she said. ``We’ve had two or three good quarters in most of our games but we need to put four together, so there’s definitely more to work on.
We absolutely need to keep reinventing ourselves and there’s no way we can afford to sit back. ``The focus remains on always looking ahead and at how we can progress and keep building on our foundation.’’