Premier netball underway

Pelorus goal attack Meg Hocquard follows the progress of her pass at Stadium 2000 tonight. Photos Peter Jones

The rust was evident, but the enthusiasm undiminished, as Marlborough’s premier netballers got their season underway at Stadium 2000 tonight.

With changes aplenty taking place during the off-season the opening salvoes of the four-month competition were always going to be interesting.

Pelorus, Harlequins and the Tokomaru Mixed team each scored relatively comfortable wins on a night when coaches experimented with different combinations, ensuring all, their players got court time.

Tokomaru's Hana Wilson plots a way to the attacking circle.
Tokomaru's Hana Wilson plots a way to the attacking circle.

This made for some messy, inaccurate netball, almost a given at this early stage, but there was enough good stuff in between to suggest there is much better to come in what shapes as a relatively tight contest.

Pelorus opened the evening’s entertainment with a hefty 69-15 victory over Awatere, who got all 11 players on court and were better value than the score indicated.

Several newcomers have boosted Pelorus’s ranks, notably accomplished shooters Karli Murphy and Meg Hocquard, reliable midcourters Katie Bradley and Millie Wensley, plus former MGC defensive standout Portia Barcello. The return of Courtney Taufa has also added to the team’s versatility and overall strength.

They all played their part in a performance that marks them as a team to watch, dominating all four quarters defensively and scoring at a high percentage.

MGC player Fiaalii Solomona finds her balance before attempting a shot.
MGC player Fiaalii Solomona finds her balance before attempting a shot.

The closest match of the evening was between Marlborough Girls’ College and Harlequins, the students expected to have a big say in this year’s competition. In the end Quins prevailed 43-35 in a low-scoring clash.

Like Pelorus, Quins were also boosted by some new faces, notably goal attack Kelsee Hamilton, former MGC middie Ella Donald, the versatile Cerys James-Sitters and wing defence Sophie Robinson.

Possession was relatively even in this one but, with Hamilton and Liv Hodson steadier under the hoop Quins were able to establish a 10-goal lead by three-quarter time and hold on although MGC dominated the final quarter.

The reliable midcourt combination of Bridget Gane and Simone Pedersen ensured Quins made the most of opportunities, while centre Eleri James-Sitters and goal defence Mya Wiapo, MGC’s most experienced players, ensured the students remained within touch throughout.

No competition points were awarded in the final match-up, between defending champs, Tokomaru Crafar Crouch, and clubmates Tokomaru Picton Motordome, a mixed side brought into the competition to avoid a bye and to give the all-female teams some meaningful competition.

They surely did that tonight, downing Crafar Crouch 56-44, helped by the inclusion of 2020 Marlborough player of the year Haze Tepuia, who turned out for a final hit-out before heading to Christchurch to play in a men’s league.

Tepuia signed off with a 100 percent shooting effort, helping his side to a 27-24 lead at halftime before donning a defensive bib.

Luke Richardson stepped into the goal attack role, his 14 goals from 15 attempts ensuring there was respite for the all-female side, who were led superbly by the Wilson sisters in midcourt and Gemma Hika, who carried the brunt of the shooting duties.

The fact they were able to draw two of the four quarters against such lofty, accomplished opposition will have given the champs a big shot of confidence as the premier season heads into two weeks of play outside the stadium.

The next round will be played at the Stadium on Tuesday, May 11, followed by two outdoor matches at Lansdowne Park, on Saturday, May 22 and May 29. This is due to resurfacing work at the Stadium.

Scores:

Pelorus Edridge Contracting 69 (Paige Lovell 27/36, Karli Murphy 25/33, Meg Hocquard 17/28) Awatere Clarence River Rafting 15 (Ashley Childs 10/20, Emma Pilcher 4/13, Tori McCulloch 1/8). Quarter scores (winning team first): 22-4, 18-3, 14-2, 15-6.

Harlequins New World 43 (Liv Hodson 30/42, Kelsee Hamilton 13/22) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 35 (Fiaalii Solomona 28/41, Zoe Scaife 4/5, Mele Moli 3/7) Quarter scores: 9-10, 15-8, 10-6, 9-11.

Tokomaru Picton Motordrome 56 (Haze Tepuia 18/18, Ricci Higgins 24/37, Luke Richardson 14/15) Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 44 (Gemma Hika 34/50, Wiri Bristowe 10/16). Quarter scores: 13-10, 14-14, 18-9, 11-11.

Standings after round one: Harlequins 3, Pelorus 3, MGC 0, Awatere 0, Tokomaru Crafar Crouch 0.