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Waicol relishing underdog tag

Celtic United
vs Wairarapa College

Wairarapa Netball Complex, 1pm

Wairarapa College go into today’s Netball Wairarapa Holmes Construction Premier One final against unbeaten Celtic United as underdogs to complete the threepeat of championship victories.

For the third straight year, the two teams will clash in the decider at the Trust House Wairarapa Netball Complex. Waicol won a thriller 53–52 in 2021 and backed up with a 47–37 triumph last year.

To win three in a row is tough enough for a club side, let alone a college team, where there are yearly influxes of young inexperienced players, and that point is not lost on Waicol coach Keely Riwai-Couch, who is happy to claim the underdog role.

“We’re just stoked to be there. I don’t know if any other college could do that,” Riwai-Couch said.

“Two in a row was like whoah, but now having the opportunity for three in a row, I’m absolutely buzzed for the girls, and the likes of Sovaia [Sabutu] would’ve been in for all three. We went into the season saying, let’s see how this pans out, and there was work to build, and that’s what we’ve done right to the end.”

Riwai-Couch is uncertain of her final lineup, saying there are clashes for some players, and she’s working on their availability. However, she believes there is depth in the squad to cover absences.

On the other side of the court, victory in the final would mean everything for Celtic after the disappointment of the past two years.

“It would be a well-deserved reward for our hard work and dedication,” player-coach Elleshia Clarkson said.

“Being beaten in the last two finals has humbled us and made us even more determined to improve. We’re ready to give it our all and show our growth.”

Like Waicol, the Celtic lineup won’t be confirmed until close to the start time. However, Clarkson said they are likely to be without two players injured during the tough semifinal win over Harcourts, but there is the depth in the squad to cover their potential absence.

She added that the closeness of the semifinal score [44–41] was a good confidence boost, but there was no fear of complacency creeping into the closely-knit team.

“We are always looking for new ways to play and better our game. We genuinely enjoy making game plans together, and it’s just so much fun, so complacency is never an issue.

“After discussions at training, we all agreed that composure and grace will get us through. Our growth as a team has been significant this season, and we trust the process and believe our game plan has been building from the first training this season.

“We are very confident in our team’s ability to come out on top,” Clarkson concluded.

Celtic have had the better of both encounters this season, winning their first-round clash 46–31 and taking out their top-four meeting 41–34.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2022

Wairarapa College 47–37 Celtic United

2021

Wairarapa College 53–52 Celtic United

2020

Harcourts 43-37 Carterton Red

2019

Harcourts 41-37 Wairarapa College

2018

Harcourts 46-43 Carterton Red

2017

Celtic United 38-37 Harcourts

2016

Harcourts 43-37 Carterton Red

2015

Harcourts 45-31 Celtic United

2014

Harcourts 45-31 Pioneer Blue

2013

Harcourts 43-30 Celtic United

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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