There were some rough introductions and a rude awakening in the opening round of netball's Southland Wide League in Winton.
Established in 2004 with the aim of raising the calibre of netball across the province, the 2014 edition of The Hits-sponsored league is likely to be the last under the current format with Netball South set to reconsider it for 2015 and beyond following the establishment of the Otago/Southland zone.
In the opening round, Northern Tavern St Mary's Men started to break down Central Southland College in the first quarter and never let up, winning by a hefty 72-20.
Despite a number of debutants in the ranks and limited training, the men unleashed a credible performance.
Lone Star United appeared set to attain a similar score line after notching up a 14-6 advantage over Uppercuts Butchery Limehills at the first spell. Switches at halftime ignited the Limehills attack and, with defender Sonia Donnelly snaffling turnovers, centre Kerri Neylon and attackers Megan Mitchell and Rachel Langford propelled the newcomers back into the game. Despite winning the second half, the initial deficit proved unsurmountable and United earned a 50-34 win.
Depleted by injury, Northern Tavern St Mary's took on an enthused but slow-starting Southland Girls' High School.
With some lacklustre defence from St Mary's failing to claw back possession, Girls' High took the win 47-38 on the back of a tenacious defensive effort.
Gore-based Ex High endured a torrid tussle against Rata A but emerged victorious 40-39.
The Ex High defensive end was upstanding and capitalised on a few basic errors by Rata who actually had 11 more attempts at goal.
Saturday netball returns to Invercargill's ILT Stadium today with a full schedule for the two Premier divisions. The Premier B top-of-the-table clash between Rata Stubbies and Northern Tavern St Mary's B is scheduled for 1.20pm and will determine which challenges for promotion to the A division next weekend.
In Premier A, Girls High Senior A will likely force their Senior B counterparts into the bottom position on the table to face relegation. If Senior A notch up the win - and Rata A topple St Mary's A - the youngsters could sit at the top of the Premier table midway through the season.
- The Southland Times