No love lost in netball battle

Tuesday December 15, 2015 Written by Published in Netball
Teiti Tupuna in action during the juniors’ workshop in Arorangi yesterday. She is one of the local players that will feature for the Cook Islands against the New Zealand Development sides today at 5pm. 15121421 Teiti Tupuna in action during the juniors’ workshop in Arorangi yesterday. She is one of the local players that will feature for the Cook Islands against the New Zealand Development sides today at 5pm. 15121421

There will be no love lost when the Cook Islands take on the New Zealand Development squad in the opening match of the historic netball series this afternoon at the National Sports Arena.

 

The two-match series, which ends tomorrow, is being held in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Cook Islands’ self-government in free association with New Zealand.

Both teams have named their best available squads for the crunch matches, starting at 5pm.

National head coach Dale Atkinson has retained the core of the side that represented the country at the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.

The Cook Islands side will be led by Ashleigh Iro following the withdrawal of former skipper Luciana Matenga, who has taken over umpiring and has opted to focus on her new role.

Iro will be supported by season campaigners Ana Salanoa and Moana Glassie who are some of the experienced players in the team.

Exciting Eri Short, who was unavailable for the Pacific Games, is back to add the depth in defence.

All-rounder Teiti Tupuna has also pushed her way into the squad, adding competition for the centre’s role.

Her speed and versatility is expected to provide the national team with a strong attacking option.

Atkinson is hoping for an inspiring performance from the national side despite lack of preparation.

The overseas players jetted into the country on Friday night and had just a couple of training sessions with the local players ahead of today’s match.

“It will be a good tussle and we are expecting everyone to work together as a unit,” Atkinson said.

“The players haven’t been trialed for participating in this series, but we have retained the core of the team that played in PNG together with some (local) players identified by Netball Cook Islands.”

With most of the squad members below 21 years, Atkinson said the series would provide them with a perfect platform to build on for the upcoming season.

She is also hoping to give the players from her wider squad a chance to impress her during the series.

“We haven’t come together to just play, but we want to play well and yes, we would like to come away with wins.”

New Zealand Development coach Kiri Wills is also optimistic of her team’s chances and hoping for a clean sweep in the series.

The visitors spent four days in camp before finalising their squad which will also include local girl Mila Reuelu-Buchanan.

“It’s a very good opportunity for us. We are privileged to come over and play the Cook Islands team and be at this beautiful place,” Wills said.

“I think we have brought a highly competitive side with a number of players who have represented New Zealand already in the New Zealand secondary schools teams.

“We are here to win because winning teaches you important lessons whether it’s about development or something else.

“I know Dale Atkinson from her time in New Zealand and I know that they will be competitive, so we are expecting to work hard and have a really tough contest.”

Experience in the top level competition will not be a worry for New Zealand Development side which has players who have played in the ANZ Championship.

Nineteen-year-old Jamie-Lee Price, who also trialed for the Silver Ferns, is one of their high profile players.

The Cook Islands versus New Zealand Development match will kick off at 5pm.

The National Sports Arena will be open to the public from 3.30pm, with juniors playing the curtain raiser match at 4pm.

Entry is by gold coin donation only in support of Netball Cook Islands.

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