Though the forecast was for snow, the roof of the new stadium did not crossed the mind of any netballer in Invercargill; they were all just glad to be indoors.
One team that froze out its opposition in the Premier A division was St Mary's A, who pressed their advantage early against a slow-starting Southland Girls' High School senior A to go out to a 10-point lead early in the game through some great vision and accurate feeding by Amy Dawson.
The high school girls started to whittle away the lead before the halftime whistle with the replacement of Alena Saiili in the centre with powerhouse Laura Moffatt. But, after the restart, goal shoot Bailey Smith went down with a knee injury and, with the school's Senior B team playing at the same time on the adjacent court, coach Natalie Avellino was limited for replacement options. Girls' High never found the same rhythm to broach the eight-goal advantage and the St Mary's defence made the most of the change to win 46-57.
Rata Red followed suit in the second game of the round to give the St Mary's All Stars a chilly reception. Taking a large first-quarter lead by placing pressure on every passer and receiver, Rata forced the All Stars into several errors, particularly in the centre, to make the lead 17 points by the half. Rata Red eventually won 62-42, though at times were disciplined by the umpires for overly aggressive play as the All Stars held their own in the latter half of the game.
Southland Girls' High School's Senior B team will be disappointed with their 35-47 loss to Bluff, though Bluff again played their ring-in card, listing and playing former Rata shooter and Southland player Greer Campbell on the score sheet for a second time this season after Kendall McMin made a brief appearance in the earlier rounds. The experience of Campbell added to the strength of the shooting circle with Amanda Wilson and added a further centre pass link for the midcourt.
In the Premier B division, St Mary's B and Verdon Senior A again showed their dominance with wins: St Mary's B winning 66-38 over an experienced St Mary's Black, and Verdon winning 69-43 over Premier newcomers Otatara Stars. With a promotion/relegation challenge on offer to the top team in each grade, St Mary's B's win over Verdon by two points in the second round puts them in poll position for that challenge. Rata Stubbies had an at-times scrappy win over Collegiate gold by 37-20.
On the first day of the secondary school grades, four Southland Girls' High School teams competed in grade one, though the biggest win in the grade was by the Verdon Junior B team, who had a 25-6 win over Southland Girls' High Diamonds.
The umpires were welcomed to the first full day of the season with new attire provided by Jennian Homes Southland. With 70-plus umpires registered with the Invercargill Netball Centre, having a team kit donated was an added bonus, centre administrator Julie Erskine said. "It helps them look like a team too. The red tops for our development umpires help to keep them looking official too".
The premier division and all school netball takes a break this weekend, with only open grades first to sixth playing because of court availability and Queen's Birthday Weekend.
- The Southland Times