Reducing the number of teams and divisions in this year's Harbourside premier netball competition is one change implemented to create a stronger season for those vying for top honours.
Round three of the 16-week competition gets underway this week and, so far, three sides are dominating as unbeaten teams.
Among them are last year's competition winners, Ngongotahā - a team who doesn't train but are knowledgeable in their game and know each other well, and Mount Allied - a team who have come off second best for the past three seasons and are hungry to go one better with their new-look squad consisting of all new players, bar one. Tauranga Sports are the third unbeaten team in the season so far.
Harbourside Netball Centre manager Tracy Walters says changes have been implemented for this year's competition to create a stronger season. The modified premier competition now includes two divisions of eight, instead of three divisions of six, and the removal of the maximum number of college players a team can have, which was previously three.
"The objective of the Harbourside board is to create a competitive premier league," Walters says.
"There has been some good games, and we are about strengthening it, but there have been some large scores, and this has been going on for a while. The whole thing around making the premier competition with less teams is that there are some very talented people, but they are spread out among a lot of clubs."
Eyeing their fifth consecutive title, defending premier champions Ngongotahā have reclaimed their position as the team to beat in 2019. The squad does not train but Ngongotahā director of netball Kim Watson-Tanga says the team's success has a lot to do with the culture.
"They have all the knowledge in the world and they do their own fitness. They play clever netball and read each other's minds. How we are as an entire club, we make sure everything is tied to the codes. It is about bringing through the mana and the pride," Watson-Tanga says.
"They are a very close-knit bunch of ladies that have played together as reps and have probably been together for 10-15 years. As the girls get a bit more mature, we have slowly been able to bring in some young ones. It is about the mix and we are a competitive club, the defence sometimes gets a little bit physical, if the opposition demands it."
Rebuilding is the focus for 2018 runner's-up Mount Allied, who have entered this season with a near-new team, with player-coach Michelle Tenbroek the only remaining team member from last season.
"It can be a bit frustrating, but teams change every year," Tenbroek says.
"We have a broad range of ages in the team, with the youngest at 17 years old through to the oldest at 41."
Allied have placed second in the competition for three consecutive years and are working to gel on and off the court.
This week, Mount Allied resume their season after a competition-wide, two-week break against Mount Sports Pressies tomorrow. The break is two weeks of five where the premier competition pauses due to, with the exception of Easter, venue conflicts at Trustpower Arena, highlighting another area of concern for organisers of the competition.
"Some of the barriers we have are a lack of indoor courts," Walters says.
"It has numerous breaks throughout the season and there are five weeks where the arena is unavailable. Playing outdoor is possible, but we may not get the players, we could potentially lose them to somewhere like Hamilton."
Premier Womens League Division 1, Thursday, May 9:
Mount Sports Pressies vs Mount Allied.
Ngongotahā vs Bubbys.
Tauranga Sports vs Rangiuru Red.
Wahine Toa vs R.I.S.E.