Round full of surprises
Story by: JONATHAN MCKEOWN - Photo by: Chris Symes
Fling the form book out the window and predict the unpredictable as the third round of Nelson Netball's premier division delivered some astonishing outcomes.
As the upheaval subsides and the dust settles on a thrilling round, Jacks OPD remain undefeated, Waimea are contemplating relegation and Prices Pharmacy look like contenders.
First up on Saxton Stadium court one it was two-time defending champion outfit Richmond Robbie's Bar and Bistro taking on a struggling Prices Pharmacy team. Cue the unexpected.
From the opening whistle you could see the desire on the faces of the Prices team who shot out to an early 9-4 lead and Richmond looked rattled.
Sarah Steele was a machine at goal keep for Prices, she jumped for everything and kept at it all night as her height and determination put pressure on the usually unflappable Nicki Rampton.
"I thought the girls' defence was strong. Sarah had an awesome game, she's a true leader within the circle," said Tom Alesana, assistant-coach for Prices Pharmacy.
"It was really good for us to get out there and be hungry for the ball and treasure it as much as we wanted to."
Prices led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter and when Richmond closed it to 26-24 at halftime you got the feeling it was only a matter of time before standard service resumed and Richmond took control.
However, just as soon as the reigning premiers put together a nice set of passes to make scoring look a trifle, Prices would pile on the pressure.
They pounced on any loose passes or simply picked up an unforced error to convert for a run of three goals.
"We talked about it before the last quarter that when we turn over ball on our pass, it converts to two points for them so that was disappointing," said Richmond co-coach Cindy Turipa.
"I think they caught us by surprise. I don't think we were complacent but we were confident before the game and Prices put us under pressure and we panicked."
At three-quarter time Prices led 37-33 and although Richmond got back to level terms in a pulsating final period of play, their usual finesse was found wanting.
Prices pulled away for a 53-47 victory to hand Richmond their first defeat and deny them a bonus point in the process.
On court two both Wanderers Taylors A and Waimea College Senior A made no secret this was a target match.
Both teams went into the game having posted no wins but in very contrasting fashion. Wanderers had suffered two heavy defeats with Waimea only losing by an average of four goals. Cue the unanticipated.
Wanderers pulled a Tasman representative player out of "unregistered" air to fill out their empty goal shoot stocks and Motueka's Courtney Clarke was a tower of strength inside the scoring zone.
"The attacking circle was definitely a lot better but I guess having Courtney in there who's had a lot of experience helped that big time," said coach Jared Lock.
"We had a very good training on Tuesday, we picked on three or four issues and we fixed every one of them tonight. Mid-court, especially driving to the ball, they just changed completely from the last two weeks."
But as much as Wanderers improved, Waimea weren't their usual tenacious, zippy selves.
It seems a harrowing schedule this week upset their rhythm and found a few fatigued.
"You've got to look at it within the context of what the girls have been doing this week," said team manager Lyn Fleming.
"We had the trip to Christchurch on Sunday, played two games and came back on the same day. We had girls who then went to rep trials the next day and then they went on school camp and some of them only got back today."
If you weigh up that schedule and the ability of the other sides to bring in players of a higher quality, the odds were stacked against the college side.
A patched-up and fired-up Wanderers side led from start to finish to record a 47-41 win. Waimea will now need to beat Richmond or Prices if they hope to avoid relegation.
In the late game Stoke NBS came up against an unbeaten Jacks OPD Richmond side, and many of the players from the earlier games settled in to watch what was surely going to be a close game between the traditional rivals.
Jacks finally put together a 60-minute performance to trounce a shellshocked Stoke 79-51.
Stoke were forced to reshuffle through a few disruptive injuries, but the writing was on the wall long before that. Jacks looked every bit title favourites moving with ease through the court and shooting the lights out.
"We couldn't get any momentum in the first half as we had one injury after another and the girls didn't adjust well to having to make changes on the court," said Stoke coach Priyani de Silva-Currie.
"It's always hard to play catchup netball but we certainly tried.
"There were some girls who put their heart and souls into the game tonight and didn't put their heads down but some people didn't cope so well."
Jacks coach Robyn Leonard was thrilled to be on top of the ledger with two games to go in the first round.
"The biggest thing for us was consistency throughout, that's what we've been lacking the last few weeks, a bad quarter where we've let the other team in.
"We talked about that before the game, not to let them back in if we get ahead, and I'm pleased we achieved that."