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Premier One final expected to be a nail-biter

GA Sophie Cusack’s switch to goal attack was a masterstroke in Waicol’s semifinal win over Carterton Maroon. PHOTO/FILE


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The coaches of the two teams in tonight’s Netball Wairarapa Premier One final agree on one thing – it’s going to be a close, torrid affair.

Celtic made their first final in four years with a 51-50 win over perennial champions Harcourts, while Wairarapa College upset top qualifiers Jo Kelly and Co Carterton Maroon 44-41.

Celtic won both previous encounters between the two this season, the first a comprehensive 63-45 win, and the second a tight 59-52 clash. However, Celtic coach Dayle Clarkson was reading little into those results.

“Waicol will throw everything at us and the kitchen sink; young players can be very unpredictable and unconventional,” said Clarkson, who added that playing the students required a different strategy.

“No one strategy will do it. You need to keep them guessing and test their knowledge of the game, until they have exhausted their tool kit.

“Our advantage is that we have more extensive knowledge of the game because we’ve been playing the game for so much longer.”

Clarkson feels Celtic need to make only a few adjustments from the semifinal victory.

“We were very happy with our performance and know we have settled on a game plan and structure that that works to our strengths. We know we’ll need to continue to perform to the same level if we want to beat Waicol and produce the perfect game.”

First year Wairarapa College coach Keely Riwai-Couch is thrilled to be in the final, and said the girls were embracing the opportunity of playing the combative Celtic unit.

“We expect Celtic to be sharp from the first whistle, physically competitive, and although not a tall team, will push for every ball whether it’s high or low,” Riwai-Couch said.

“We are stoked to be in the final, and we are entering the game positive in ourselves and as a unit. We know we are more than capable of playing well enough to win the game.”

Riwai-Couch has the same eight players from the semifinal victory, with most interest centred on where she will start the shooters – captain and usual goal shoot Sophie Cusack, and goal attack Taylor Riwai-Couch.

Last week the pair swapped roles, a move which paid dividends for the students. Another boost has been the return to full fitness of the talented defender Sovaia Sabutu, who brings height and exceptional ball skills to the defensive end.

Celtic are missing Shaylin Hollow, otherwise the team is at full strength.

Celtic last won the title in 2017, which was their first championship since beating Kuranui College in 2009.

Waicol last played in the final in 2019, while their two previous occasions were in 2010 and 2011, losing all three to Harcourts.

The final will get under way at 6.30pm and will be livestreamed on the Netball Wairarapa Facebook page.

The teams for tonight’s final

Wairarapa College
GS Sophie Cusack [captain]
GA Taylor Riwai-Couch
WA Aja Walker
C Sian Wheeler
WD Mia Bartlett
WD-GD Charlize Carson-Butler
GD-GK Sovaia Sabutu
GK Jaime Blackburn

GS Rennie Hemara
GA Bailey Peterson
WA Darian Walker
C Elleshia Clarkson
WD Zara Coombe
GD Katarina Ngatai
GK Ngakita Ngatai
Subs: Ali Todd, Anna Garnett

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