The Harcourts team celebrate their 2019 Wairarapa Premier netball triumph over Wairarapa College at Masterton’s Trust House Netball Centre. PHOTOS/MARCUS ANSELM
A storming second half performance gave Harcourts a hard-fought 41-37 win over Wairarapa College to take the 2019 Premier netball title.
Trailing by six goals at halftime at the Trust House Netball Centre, the experienced outfit earned their ninth title in 10 seasons by taking the third quarter 18-11, then edging the students again in the final quarter.
The WaiCol team flew out of the blocks and their pacey, quick-passing play shocked the champions.
They raced to a 12-6 first period lead. They kept up the pace in the second quarter to lead 18-12 at halftime.
Harcourts player-coach Geraldine Carroll later said the message at the break was a reminder to have fun and play their own game. Whatever was said worked.
Harcourts stormed level soon after the third quarter restart. They then edged in front and showed championship winning spirit.
Points rained down in the third period and when play was halted it was 30-29 to the defending champion. The title holders then held their nerve in the final stanza with an 11-8 advantage.
Centre Katie Alsop, one of the veterans of the team’s recent successes said, “We weren’t gelling at the start – we threw away a lot of ball.
“But we picked it up and worked hard for it. The girls really fought to the end and showed they could do it. They were awesome.
“Thanks to Hubba [Carroll] for being there all the time. She’s been our kaumatua, our chief, keeping us going.”
Carroll said the halftime message came from the team and was simple.
“They pretty much decided they just wanted to go out there and have fun. They play their own netball. And they did.”
Carroll praised the school team.
“They’ve put a lot of top teams under pressure and their results show that,” she said. “We’d better go do some recruiting!”
College coach Melissa Cullen said her team were “obviously pretty devastated” but would use the match as a learning experience.
WaiCol now head off to the Lower North Island Secondary School Championships in Wellington.
“It speaks heaps to Harcourts’ experience, on how they nut out a game,” Cullen said.
“The girls will take it as a learning experience. What we’ve talked about is how we’re feeling now and not wanting to repeat that next week.”
Cullen said the match had been “fantastic preparation” for the forthcoming schools’ event.
“To have had to build up to this final and have had a final like that is just fantastic for us. The style that they play, the determination they play with – really nice netball – and they’re starting to think more.”
Only two of the WaiCol team are in Year 13 so Cullen said there was an opportunity to build on the success this year.
Prue Hamill, of the champions’ title sponsor Harcourts Hamill recognised the defeated finalists’ efforts.
“You have to say full marks to the college. Because Wairarapa College played like they did, it was not an easy game for our girls.
“At the beginning they were put off their own game, and they had to get it back.
“What Melissa’s done with that team is fantastic. They are young, but they will have a great team next year. And to have someone like Melissa who’s so passionate and so devoted, it’s fantastic.”
Hamill said Harcourts values of “courage, determination and fun” were vital to the comeback and their sustained success.
Two of the team – Alsop and Hope Phillips – had returned from having children, and Sarah Watson had overcome a career-threatening injury to return to the squad.
“Those girls are part of our Harcourts family. I have my sports girls and my business lot. Our values are doing the right thing, being courageous and having fun.
“Those three values have to come out. I think there was a talk to the younger ones that they just had to have the personal belief. They had to believe in themselves, dig it in and get gutsy.
“[Earlier] WaiCol were the ones that wanted it, they were hungry, and we just had to get that hunger and desire back. And they did it. They stepped off at halftime, had a bit of a team talk and they just raced into it.”
WaiCol will be joined at the Lower North Island Secondary School Championships in Wellington by Chanel, Kuranui, Makoura and Solway colleges, and St Matthew’s Collegiate for tournament where play started yesterday.