Georgina Salter hopes her inexperienced Otago netball team can temper their youthful enthusiasm with a little more patience as they go into Thursday’s vital final pool play match against North in Rotorua.
The month-long Perry Foundation netball championships culminate with finals on Friday and Saturday. But the top six first grade teams have their last round robin match to survive on Thursday, with just four points separating the top five teams.
Defending champions Auckland-Waitakere, who beat North 51-50 in last year’s final, top the table with 13 points with North second on 10. Otago, Waikato and Southland, on nine points, are all within reach of the finals.
Salter’s team have a must-win match tomorrow afternoon against an ominously strong North team including recent Silver Ferns Vilimaina Davu and Temepara George, and Samoan international Catherine Latu.
Otago feature a swathe of lesser-known names — at least for the moment. Goal keep Jess Moulds and defenders Hannah Broederlow and Jaimee Power have played for the national under-21 team, while midcourter Phillipa Finch and shooter Jess Tuki have turned out for New Zealand A.
Salter wants more restraint — at the right times — from her team, in a bid to cut down what she sees as a too-high error rate.
“Sometimes the speed they play the game at means a higher level of errors,” Salter said. “If they cut the ball speed back, they can reduce the error rate.”
She said her players saw the speed of netball at international level, and in the newly established trans-Tasman league, but weren’t yet equipped to replicate that pace.
To win against North, Salter said, “we need to get a bit meaner, a bit harder and keep our passing game under control”.
In other first grade games tomorrow, Waikato need a win over high-flying Auckland-Waitakere to secure a semifinals berth, while Southland will be looking to secure their spot with a win over bottom-placed Western.
In the first grade’s second division, Canterbury top the table on 16 points and should have no trouble downing Eastern in tomorrow’s final round robin match.
Bay of Plenty (13) and Wellington (12) should also easily qualify for Friday’s semifinals, although both will be looking for a psychological edge when they clash in pool play on Thursday.