America's third president Thomas Jefferson once famously said: "If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done".

Twelve months on from their 33-point thrashing in the Netball Whanganui Premier A1 final by the Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau dynasty, Kaiwhaiki had learned winning the ultimate game of the club season is all about removing the nerves of the occasion and just playing to the best of your ability.

This was exactly what they did on Sunday afternoon as the same seven players who started the final went coast-to-coast against the undefeated Kaierau's stacked roster of talent to pull off a stunning 66-64 upset after extra time for their first ever championship.

In front of an increasingly rowdy Springvale Stadium crowd, Kaiwhaiki went down 4-1 early in what would become a recurring pattern of the match – giving away small leads but eventually breaking the centre pass or sweating on a Kaierau midcourt turnover to push their way back.


Kaierau wing attack Karaihi Peina and goal keep Sarah Teki-Clark plucked intercepts from Kaiwhaiki's channels, but the underdog's centre Kahureremoa Aki got through enough, such as a nifty pass to goal attack Te Rangimarie Takiari-Cribb Maihi which saw them equalise at 11-11.

Maihi's shooting contribution under pressure cannot be understated, as Kaierau often doubled up on goal shoot Sharnarose Pehi, forcing Maihi to go from longer range and keep the scoreboard ticking over, which crucially meant Pehi had something left in the tank at the climax of the game.

At the other end, Kaiwhaiki's defenders Airiini Potaka and Javell Pereka were giving it everything against accurate goal shooter Te Reo Paki and her composed partner Rebecca Alabaster, with Pereka even lifting Potaka at one point to try and block a shot.

Potaka's pass knock down and regather set Kaiwhaiki up to nail the last two goals of the quarter for a confidence-boosting 16-16 deadlock, and Kaierau coach Walter Edmonds immediately made adjustments as Peina swapped with centre Hollei Gabrielsen while goal defenders Leigha Stormont and Sarah Teki-Clark likewise traded bibs.

Fortified by their lollies and bopping along to the in-house music which played in the breaks, Kaiwhaiki just kept living in the moment, as coach Te Rina Peina would implore them to maintain discipline and always look for the easy option.

Hollei Gabrielsen in action for Kaierau, who dropped the final after going through the season undefeated. Photo / Stuart Munro
Hollei Gabrielsen in action for Kaierau, who dropped the final after going through the season undefeated. Photo / Stuart Munro

Kaierau continued to showcase the skills, with Alabaster pulling in a nice one-handed collect along the back line and getting the rebound goal when Paki missed, but Kaiwhaiki wing defender Waimanawa Potaka-Osborne Whanarere was making them work hard and Gabrielsen getting pulled up for travelling didn't help, leading to a then-surprising 23-22 reversal.

Kaierau were galvanised and began to execute, with Paki pulling an awesome catch, spin and pass to Alabaster as the defending champs got out to their biggest leading margin at 30-25.

Wing defence Charlotte Hill showed amazing balance by reaching out for a one-legged intercept while not stepping in the shooting circle, but again Whanarere and centre Kahureremoa Aki forced midcourt turnovers, with Kaiwhaiki also getting intercepts off Alabaster and converting them to stay in touch at 31-29.

Kaierau made only one change for the third quarter but it was significant as Ashlee Murphy came into goal attack and took on an added playmaker role, which proved effective in the back end of the period after Kaiwhaiki had come back for a two goal lead at one stage.

Maihi managed an awesome bounce pass through three defenders for Pehi to make it 37-35.

Again Kaierau lifted a notch, as Murphy hit a long shot under pressure and Paki accepted a great long pass from Karaihie Peina to go back in front, which set off a sequence of quality passes for a 45-40 scoreline.

But again, Kaiwhaiki would not go away, breaking centre pass and then Pehi slotted from under the net at the whistle to trail 46-43.

Still, now they had a little breathing space, Kaierau made the call to move Paki back to goal keep to confront Pehi, with a fresh Suzanne Guilford coming into the shooting circle.

The two teams went goal for goal in the early stages, but Kaierau ultimately kept looking for the big sweeping pass and it came unstuck, with Pehi now running hot at 49-49.

Kaiwhaiki defender Javell Pereka looks to stop Kaierau's Ashlee Murphy from receiving the ball in Sunday's thrilling extra time victory. Photo / Stuart Munro
Kaiwhaiki defender Javell Pereka looks to stop Kaierau's Ashlee Murphy from receiving the ball in Sunday's thrilling extra time victory. Photo / Stuart Munro

Murphy fired a sweet pop pass to Guilford for 52-51, and when Pehi couldn't haul in a loose ball and Kaierau converted at the other end for 54-51, they could just about touch the trophy.

Kaiwhaiki slapped that hand away – getting a millisecond for breath with a timeout so Pehi could fix a loose bib, they got their goals and then forced a midcourt breakdown between Kaierau attackers, as wing attack Cara Blake ended up with a rebounding miss and sent the bullet to Pehi for a 56-55 advantage inside the last minute.

Guilford got the equaliser and with centre pass, Murphy received a chance for the winner, but it bounced agonisingly off the rim, and Kaiwhaiki worked the ball back, only to just run out of time under the net after Maihi was jostled but did not have one more second for a parcel shot.

It was a study in contrasts on the benches in the two-minute break before extra time, with Kaierau still anxiously swapping bibs as Peina again traded with Gabrielsen, a fresh Lucy Stewart came onto wing defence and, in a big call, Alabaster replaced Murphy.

Kaiwhaiki, meanwhile, were literally dancing to the music like it was a preseason friendly match.

Pehi just kept shooting as Kaiwhaiki had their rhythm for a 61-58 advantage, which meant Kaierau needed a turnover, with Peina hurting her leg as she tumbled out of bounds at 61-60 at the end of the first five minutes.

Kaierau again looked to change bibs until Nicole Dryden, working as ground announcer, reminded everyone there were no substitutions allowed in the extra time break, which may have upset the gameplan given the likes of Hill and Murphy were now chained to the bench.

Both sides missed shots, but Pehi's sweet pass to Maihi was converted and then a Kaierau turnover had the unthinkable approaching reality with Kaiwhaiki up 63-60.

Kaierau's defenders blocked out their net and Alabaster took Peina's feeds for 63-62, and then they converted regular possessions to draw level 64-64.

Te Reo Paki fights to keep the ball alive for Kaierau. Photo / Stuart Munro
Te Reo Paki fights to keep the ball alive for Kaierau. Photo / Stuart Munro

But Kaiwhaiki now had the centre pass with 30 seconds left and Pehi would not be denied – getting the lead goal under the net, then watching as a smiling Aki and Waimanawa just burned the clock down with short passes to each other outside the circle, before avoiding Kaierau's desperate lunges to feed their shooter for the finish.

Having mobbed her players, coach Te Rina Peina could only marvel at how a squad of seven had held off a group of ten.

"They just had to suck it up, to be fair, and pull it out."

Keeping themselves in the game, Peina's girls had been so composed inside the final minute of every quarter as well as extra time, finding Pehi with the key passes, as they embraced the underdog role with no burden of expectation and therefore no fear of failure.

"We practice for those sorts of things. Everyone played outstanding," the coach exclaimed.

"We didn't change anything we did today [compared] to on Mondays.

"We just relaxed, which is the best thing. This is Kaiwhaiki's first ever title."

In the minor playoff games, Phillips Electrical Whanganui High School finished third with a comfortable 55-35 victory over Mere Te Aroha, while Cullinane claimed fifth after beating Marist A1 57-45.

First Quarter: 16-16.
Second Quarter: 31-29 (15-13 Kaierau).
Third Quarter: 46-43 (15-14 Kaierau).
Fulltime: 56-56 (13-10 Kaiwhaiki).
Extra time: 66-64 (10-8 Kaiwhaiki ).