Netball: Otane into Eastern makes sense

By Anendra Singh

The Kupa smile is an infectious one so when player/coach Annemarie Kupa-Petera flashes it you have to focus.

She is the smiling assassin who is the architect of a netball juggernaut that no other team in the Eastern region is likely to stall, let alone stop this winter.

Banish any thoughts of some high-flying Gisborne outfit ruffling the feathers of Speights Ale House Otane after the Bay defending champions crushed Nga Hauewha (Gisborne) 78-22 and Wairoa Rikashade 83-23 in the Top Four competition in Taradale, Napier.

In fact, it's simply a case of wishful thinking as Hastings High School Old Girls' Huias, second on the Hastings Pak 'n Save Premier Netball League, overwhelmed Gisborne sides YMP (Gisborne) 72-38 and IMS HSOG 67-43.

Third-placed Physique walloped Wairoa 71-32 but were stretched against Nga Hauewha before pipping them 54-51.

YMP held fourth Bay qualifiers Havelock North Kauri to 38-38 on Saturday but bounced back to beat IMS HSOG 41-37 yesterday morning.

Kupa-Petera, who has been at the helm of the Central Hawke's Bay champions for the past decade, highlights the club will mark their 10th anniversary on July 21 at the Otane Town Hall where they are likely to find more effervescence in their champagne flutes.

Effectively, an undefeated Otane should make short work of Gisborne's top qualifiers IMS HSOG and Wairoa with a hand tied behind their backs and sporting an eye patch.

Sure, Kupa-Petera, in a long tradition of showing mutual respect to the opposition regardless of how wide the gulf is, emphasises Gisborne teams "come here with a lot of pride".

It'll take a lot more than pride for the flogging girls in all the regions to turn losses into victories.

"I found out a lot of players in Gisborne are moving around so they've lost some of them," she says, counting her stars to have a crop of youngsters peaking at the right time.

With speculation the Eastern team is on their last legs this winter, Kupa-Petera believes it's a good time to look at competing against Palmerston North clubs who contribute to the strength and prowess of the Western team during the national championship.

"For us to play as as a province against Palmy will be really good," she says as restructuring of the code here will see the premier team revert to a Hawke's Bay one and Gisborne retreating to their comfort zone of Te Tai Rawhiti.

"It's too hard to travel for 2 hours to train because our region's so big."

Which raises yet another question: Wouldn't it make sense to inject the entire Otane team as Eastern?

Anything else is detrimental to cohesiveness and an insult to common sense.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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