By JULIE ASH
Life could be perfect for Temepara Clark if her Counties and Manukau netball side won the national provincial championships next Saturday and she secured a place in the Silver Ferns squad.
Chances are Clark will be named in the 18-member New Zealand squad but the odds of Counties and Manukau winning the national title, with the championships starting in Palmerston North on Monday, are slightly longer.
As the only Auckland team in the running for the title, Counties and Manukau, who finished sixth last year, will square off against Waikato, Canterbury, Wellington, Otago and Southland.
Auckland Waitakere and Netball North will play off for placings 7-12 along with Tasman, Eastern, Bay of Plenty and Western.
"To be honest I think some people write us off just because we are Counties and Manukau," Clark said.
"But we have strength right throughout the team. We have a lot of height in the shooting circle with Monika Gabriel, strength at the back with Lorna Suafoa and a nippy midcourt. We also have a strong bench."
Canterbury and Waikato have dominated the event in recent times and after their results in this year's round robin derby games it would take a brave person to bet against them making the final. Canterbury thrashed Tasman 88-22, Counties and Manukau 66-41 and Netball North 56-38 in their pool while Waikato beat Bay of Plenty 87-39, Eastern 74-43 and Wellington 74-42.
Canterbury are the defending champions after beating Waikato 60-58 in overtime last year. That made up for the previous year's result when Waikato annihilated the Cantabs 55-23 in the final to win their second consecutive title.
With Silver Ferns Belinda Colling, Anna Rowberry, Julie Seymour, Anna Veronese and Vilimaina Davu available, the Canterbury side are not short of experience.
Waikato also have a handful of Silver Ferns and plenty of speed through the midcourt with Jenny-May Coffin, Amigene Metcalfe and Victoria Edward.
Otago and Southland are also in with a chance: "All of the teams are going to be tough. None of them have a lot of weaknesses," said Clark.
In the round robin derby games Counties and Manukau finished second in their pool behind Canterbury. They beat Netball North 62-37 and Tasman 88-22 but lost to Canterbury 41-66.
"We were really disappointed after our game against Canterbury," said Clark. "It showed plenty of areas which need work."
The Silver Ferns, a New Zealand under-21 and a New Zealand Academy squad will be named at the end of the week-long national champs.
The team to represent New Zealand at next year's world championships in Jamaica will come be selected out of that Silver Ferns squad.
Clark missed the Commonwealth Games teams this year but is gunning for a recall.
"Ruth (Aitken, New Zealand coach) voiced a few things which I need to work on but Counties and Manukau come first and anything after that is a bonus."