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Celtic, Harcourts expected to be front-runners

Action from last year’s final. Harcourts’ Katie Alsop [ in blue] trying to get the ball into the Carterton Red circle. PHOTOS/FILE

Eight teams will line up for Premier One Netball. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE takes a look at the teams.

CARTERTON RED

Last year’s beaten finalists start the new season with a less experienced side than the team who pushed Harcourts in a narrow 43-46 loss in the final.

Coach Trudy Hullena said the team had a lot of young players, having lost a few of their experienced players.

“We’ve gained three exciting players. Ex-St Matthew’s midcourt-defensive player Tanea Dudson and the Puhara sisters Jemma [WA-WD], and Cameron [GD], have transferred from Harcourts and Celtic respectively.”

Carterton Red skipper Julie Malcolm will be the linchpin of the side.

Hullena said captain, and versatile midfielder, Julie Malcolm, is the team’s linchpin.

She was reluctant to make any predictions and will take it game by game.

ST MATTHEW’S A

St Matthew’s coach Rachel Shearing is excited about the prospects of her team who have retained a core group of four players from 2018.

Kate Sims [GS-midcourt], Paige Smith [GD-GK], Hattie Vincent [WD] and Alex Julian [C-WA] add experience to the college side who often struggle to match the more experienced teams in earlier rounds.

Ruby Radford [GK-GD] is one newcomer Shearing believes has exciting potential.

Shearing is also pleased there are eight teams.

“We’ll get to play a broader range of opponents; we’ll have to play consistently and that will be good for the girls’ development.”

GLADSTONE HEAT

A significantly different team from the one who made last year’s semifinals will take the court for Gladstone.

Coach Josh Gubb said the team lost seven players and wanted to play Premier Reserves.

“We’ll compete as hard as we can, but we’ve had to bring players up from Premier Three so it will be a rebuilding year.”

Gubb named shooter Emma Harvey and defender Paige Drummond as the key players in the depleted squad.

CELTIC

Dayle Clarkson returns as coach of Celtic, giving the team their first coach in two years. She has assembled a strong squad capable of challenging for the top honours.

The versatile Kapa Matapuku who can play as shooter or defence has returned from Australia, Elleshia Clarkson [midcourt] is back from university, and Trisanna Campbell [midcourt-defence] has transferred from Gladstone.

“The coaching structure, including cross-code training, will really give us an edge and we’re expecting to make the top four,” Clarkson said.

CARTERTON LEGENDS

The 2018 Premier Reserve champions have been promoted to the top division after good form in grading matches.

Team organiser Deb Julian is excited about the eight-team competition.

“It will be more competitive and that’s great, especially for the colleges,” she said.

“We don’t train, and the aim of the season is to enjoy ourselves.”

Sinead Namana [utility], Danielle Sargent [mid] and Nelda Day [GS] are newcomers to the side who will threaten the more favoured teams.

WAIRARAPA COLLEGE A

Wairarapa College coach Melissa Cullen says she has the squad to seriously challenge for a place in the top four.

“We’ve got a core group returning and a few new exciting additions and it’s looking really positive.”

Camryn Potangaroa [defence], in her fourth year, and Georgia Cullen [shooter], in her third year, and second-year players Destiny Mila [midcourt], Molly Winchester [defence], and Aja Walker [shooter] give the college side a solid look.

Sophie Cusack [shooter], Tahlia Reiri-Terito [defence-midcourt], and Kowhai Hohaia [midcourt] are new players Cullen thinks will make an impact in their first season.

GREYTOWN HOLMES CONSTRUCTION

Greytown returns to the Premier One Division for the first time in many years and coach Janine Legge is not making any predictions on how the team will perform.

The team is based around several players who have played in the Wellington region and others returning to the game.

“A lot of the players have been out of netball for a few years,” Legge said.

“Our emphasis is on being a team and we’ll give it a good, honest nudge, but the focus is on having fun and enjoying our netball.”

HARCOURTS

Perennial champions Harcourts will start the warmest of favourites to retain their title.

Attempts to contact coach Geraldine Carroll yesterday were unsuccessful but if the team is anything like last season where they dominated the majority of opposition, Harcourts will be mighty difficult to topple.

The defending champions are expected to front-up with an experienced core of players along with some of the region’s best young players, giving them strength across the court.

FIXTURES

First round [all matches at Colombo Rd courts]

Last night – Celtic v Harcourts; St Matthews A v Greytown Holmes Construction.

Today noon – Wairarapa College A v Gladstone Heat – Court One; Carterton Legends v Carterton Red – Court Two.

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