Apart from a score to settle, the finalists of the most elite Hawke's Bay Netball competition believe they have little to lose when they face each other in Napier this Friday night.
Defending champions Napier Girls' High School Senior A will face Otane Thirsty Whale in a repeat of last year's final when the schoolgirls created history in claiming both the club championship and shield titles in just their second season.
"Isn't that exciting for us," said Otane player/coach Tammy Kupa after grinding out a 44-38 victory over Hastings High School Old Girls' Proactive Huia at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, last Friday night.
"We love this final. It's awesome for both teams because we train pre-season together and feed off each other so it's awesome that both teams have made it again," Kupa said before the final against NGHS who overwhelmed All In Tremains Elusive 61-48 in the earlier semifinal of the Karamu Holden Super 8 competition.
NGHS and Otane play at 7.45pm at the PG Arena, after the 3rd-4th playoffs match between All In and Huia from 6.15pm.
Perennial powerhouses Otane will be clocking up their 17th consecutive final, having clinched the crown 13 times, but Kupa doubted her troops would take an attitude of exacting revenge.
"It's almost like we've won with both teams in the final," she said, after they last won the crown in 2017. "I know there was some talk about how All In had rigged the semis but for us it was awesome because we didn't have to meet Napier Girls in the semis and knock each other out."
Kupa felt Huia were a hungry side but played a different brand to the other playoff contenders.
"They are quite a man-on type of netball team so we needed to adjust and, I think, we did in the end [but] it wasn't easy."
The Farmers manager of the Hastings branch said NGHS and Otane tended to adopt and open style, endorsing the mentoring philosophy she, sister Annemarie Kupa and New Zealand Secondary Schools coach Charissa Barham embrace.
"I think the only thing they'll have on us will be youth so they'll just keep going, and going and going," Tammy Kupa said, emphasising the need to go to the final buzzer and not sit on their laurels. "They're very fit so we'll need to keep up with them," she said. "It'll probably be our composure that'll need to kind of come across the line with us."
Smart netball will be on Otane's agenda. Kupa said players could clock up marathon distances on the court but the lack of sixth sense, making sound decisions under pressure and composure would be the difference.
"It's more so Rees [sister Annemarie] won it last year so I need to win it this year," she said with a laugh.
Otane had started sluggishly trailing 10-8 to Huia in the first quarter before buying insurance policies of 14-9 and 15-10 in the following two spells before taking their foot off in the final quarter, losing 9-7.
Kupa stuck with goal attack Melissa Te Huki (93 per cent) and Chris Leppien (81) to find consistency in form after experimenting for the best part of the season for a team 88 per cent shooting.
Conversely the load (30 from 39 attempts) appears to have taken its toll on Huia captain who shot 77 per cent in the GS bib while Hannah O'Keefe and Laike Baker, sharing the GA bib, added eight goals in total to contribute towards a collective 83 per cent shooting.
Having lost twice to All In, NGHS turned the tables on their opponents with a 14-13, 14-11, 16-11 and 17-13 quarterly report, erasing memories of their six-goal-lead choke in their last outing.
Captain Janayah Lewis was outstanding with a 91 per cent success rate in the GA bib with 40 from 44 attempts while GS Caitlin Smith backed up admirably at 88 per cent (21/24).
"This game we knew that we had to keep pushing the whole hour [for fear] of them coming back in the end because they [All In] had a good game as well," said Lewis, revealing NGHS were a more cohesive side now.
The teenager said even the support from the schoolgirls' bench played a pivotal part.
"Even though we were up by about six or seven goals I didn't think we had it won until we had about two minutes to go."
Lewis said Anne Marie Kupa wasn't at the game but Barham, who had left at halftime to attend a NZSS meeting, and fellow mentor Brigitte Hollander had left them to their own vices.
"Charissa had given us some tips but she had told us before the game that in the semifinals you can't do too much coaching and just let us play.
"During the quarters and halftime it was mainly our team just talking about us keeping on pushing up to the end," she said.
Lewis embraced the coaching gesture, mindful the spoon-feeding process had to stop and the schoolgirls had to take ownership.
She felt they needed to drag Big Mo to their corner against a resurgent Otane.
"For us it'll be about sticking to our processes because it's working for us."
For All In, GS Kathleen Tuaputa-Nahora (93 per cent) and GA Rhandell Sharrock (83) took charge with season sharp shooter Pania Rowe adding 11 goals for a 100 per cent returns in the final two quarters.
In the playoffs for fifth place, Central Sports Vet Services flogged Outkast Optimise Physio flogged 52-28 despite an 11-8 fightback in the second quarter from the latter.
Central won the remaining quarters — 12-6, 16-7, 16-4 — respectively shooting 73 per cent as a team and Outkast managing only 49.
Central Sports flipped GS bibs between Tabitha Coddington (58 per cent) and Georgina Campbell (85) with Ailsa Castles (64) keeping the GA tag.
Raiha Falcon-Maxwell managed 50 per cent (15/30) in the GS bib while Shevanna Sullivan contributed 48 per cent (13/27) for Outkast.
In the seventh place playoffs, newcomers Toki Mana defaulted to Havelock North House of Travel Kauri.