Finals week for premier indoor netball did not disappoint. We again saw the teams play without any spectators under Covid-19 alert level 2.
While I was not allowed in the venue, I did stand outside and see some of the final for the premier championship live. The game was also streamed live on social media.
The final was between FTNC Premier, playing in their first final, and returning winners, University of Waikato Premier, who have won the competition for the past 11 seasons.
It was a low-scoring, strongly contested battle. Overall it was a game with goal-for-goal scoring, attacking with intensity and defensive turnovers by both teams.
There were several periods throughout the game where the ball went up and down the court without a goal being scored, so intense was the defensive effort by both teams.
There was nothing between the teams in the first quarter with University Premier having a one-goal lead, 9-8.
University Premier were able to increase their lead by one goal at halftime with the score 16-14 at the main break.
FTNC Premier clawed this back to be within a goal at the end of the third quarter at 22-23 but University Premier held onto their lead in the fourth quarter, the lowest-scoring quarter of the game and managed to increase the gap back to two goals at the final whistle.
The final score was 29-27, giving University Premier their 12th consecutive premier title.
For the champions, coach Rhiana Wheaton said the key to a win was sustaining the most pressure and remaining calm.
The move of Eden Anderson from goal shoot to goal attack changed the attacking dynamic with Anderson using deception and changing the timing of the play. She combined well with Ngawai Hawera at wing attack.
The defensive duo of Georgia Tong at goal defence and Lyanne Eukaliti at goal keep was again outstanding and they worked tirelessly to win turnover ball and made the opposition shooters work hard for every ball.
It was a great team effort with everyone working hard and doing their job.
For FTNC Premier it was the first time in 16 years they had made the final, so everyone involved was very proud, especially after such a close result.
Coach Maylene Meroiti felt the team achieved their goals throughout the season with no losses until the final and they did this with the same 11 players, week in and week out.
The final saw players exhibit a high level of skill, performance and camaraderie on and off the court.
With a few good matchups throughout the court; Georgina Speedy at centre up against Georgie Edgecombe, Jade Wharemate at goal attack against Georgia Tong, Hannah Ridling at goal defence and goal keep taking on Eden Anderson and Brooke Neilson at wing defence marking Ngawai Hawera, the game was definitely the highlight of the season.
Player of the day went to Hannah Ridling for strong defence in the circle and while at goal defence, flying from one side of the court to the other to pick up intercepts and tips.
On attack, Ridling's through-court drives were consistent and she was always available. Overall a worthy result for the team and club.
The game for third and fourth placing was tightly fought too, showing the depth of the competition and how close some of these teams are.
Hamilton Girls' High School Langman and Nottingham Castle Rangers had a game that was almost goal for the whole duration and the game could have gone either way.
HGHS Langman started well to lead at the end of the first quarter, 10-7.
Nottingham Castle Rangers clawed this back by a goal with the halftime score, 19-17.
Nottingham were then dominant in the third quarter to take the lead with the score at 25-24.
However, they were not able to maintain this with HGHS winning the final quarter to take the win, 33-32.
HGHS Langman stepped up their defensive pressure, particularly in the final quarter and capitalised on turnover ball. The team was led by outstanding defensive work from Veisinia Fakalelu and Liza Ball, interchanging between goal defence and goal keep.
The game was almost a repeat of the last time these two teams played, with HGHS Langman learning from that encounter and holding onto the ball in the dying seconds.
It was a great team game from the young school side, whose initial goal in 2020 was to make the top six.
Coach Kim Howard has respected the way the players have navigated through the lockdown, exams and playing without their families. Their ranking is a credit to them all and she couldn't be more proud of them.
For Castle Rangers, it was not how they wanted to finish off what has been a successful season. It was tough on the team to be playing off for 3rd vs 4th after the disappointment of such a close loss last week.
Errors on attack through court cost them the game but, as with every other game this season, the whole team worked tirelessly on defence and they had plenty of opportunities.
Coach Jan McLaren felt team's record this season is something to be proud of despite two close one-goal losses in the finals.
FTNC Premier Reserve were dominant in their game against Allied HOB Premier and led from start to finish. Allied HOB Premier won the final quarter but the damage had been done earlier in the game.
The score at halftime was 28-11 and the fulltime score was 43-25.
The game between Verdettes Marist Old Girls and St Peters Premier also lived up to expectation with nothing between these two teams in a see-sawing match.
Marist Old Girls had a one-goal lead at the end of the first quarter to lead 11 goals to 9. St Peters came back in the second quarter to win this and lead at halftime, 20-16.
Marist Old Girls fought back in the third quarter to come within one goal, making it 29-28, then they won the final quarter by two goals to take the win 41-40.
Iwi Karearea Premier ended their season on a high with a win over Waikato Diocesan Open A.
The first quarter was goal for goal with Iwi Karearea Premier leading by one. They increased their lead in the second quarter to be ahead 24-20 at halftime.
They further increased their lead in the third quarter and final quarter to win the game confidently 48-34.
In the game between University of Waikato Premier Reserve and Morrinsville College Open A, University won 37-28.
The halftime score was 16-14 so it was very competitive for the first two quarters. University Premier Reserve had a great third quarter which won the game for them.
Overall another great premier indoor netball season despite the delayed start, shortened games and restrictions due to Covid-19 alert levels. Everyone involved will be looking forward to a more normal netball season in 2021.
Indoor Premier Results – Finals Week 2
• Morrinsville Open A 28 vs University of Waikato Premier Reserve 37
• FTNC Premier Reserve 43 vs Allied HOB Premier 25
• Hamilton Girls High Langman Premier 33 vs Nottingham Castle Rangers 32
• Iwi Karearea Premier 48 vs Waikato Diocesan Open A 34
• Verdettes Marist Old Girls 41 vs St Peters Premier 40
• FTNC Premier 27 vs University of Waikato Premier 29