A valiant third quarter comeback from Whangaruru was not enough to deny The Bubz the Whangārei premier netball title, winning 56-40 on Saturday night.
The Bubz, who were out to an eight-goal lead at halftime (27-19), began to lose their way in the third quarter of the competition final at ASB Stadium. Whangaruru fought their way back into the game and levelled the score at 28-all with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Both teams gave strong defensive performances which made both attacking ends work hard for their goals. The Bubz' defenders, Sue-Ann Nesbit and Alisha Takimoana, proved too good for Whangaruru's attackers as The Bubz ran away with the game in the fourth quarter.
"I'm really happy, just grateful for the opportunity to be in this position but happy that we won," Takimoana said.
The Bubz' goal-keeper, who was also the team's captain, said it was good to have a closely contested game against a hungry Whangaruru outfit.
"We always knew [Whangaruru] were going to be hungry, you don't come to a final to muck around so it was just good contesting," Takimoana said.
"I think when we follow our own structures and keep composed and support each other like we do as a whanau, we knew we still had it."
The Bubz coach Alb Baker said Whangaruru's third quarter comeback was partly due to his plan to put a number of more inexperienced players on the court at halftime.
"Those girls that we put on don't normally get as much court time as we probably should give so the opportunity was there for them," he said.
"I think they did well, they came back into it in the second half of that quarter and we were able to maintain a seven-goal lead."
Baker said the team congregated at about 11.30am at the Te Rito marae in Moerewa on Saturday to help build team unity and spirit before travelling down for the 7.15pm game.
"We didn't focus on the technical stuff, it was part of showing some vulnerability I think which set our girls up for a really good final."
Whangaruru captain Morgan Taurua said she was proud of her team for putting their bodies on the line as the underdogs in the final.
"We just had the mentality to just push ourselves as hard as we could, it was our last game, our motto for this game was 'nothing to lose', which is what kept us going," she said.
Whangaruru coach Sophie Tua said she was glad her girls got back into the game after halftime against a strong opposition.
"We made [The Bubz] really panic and we knew we had nothing to lose coming into this because no one expected us to be here, so it was just about going out having a crack and making it interesting for everybody."
Tua hoped her relatively new team would learn from this season come back in 2020 as a more experienced and competitive unit.
In the premier reserve final earlier on Saturday, Whangaruru won a nail-biter against Manawanui Red which went into extra time. With the scores tied up at 52-all after the fourth quarter, Whangaruru were able to clinch the title, winning 57-55.