Rata coach hopes club will reassert dominance
Rata coach Fiona Ward is amazed it's been seven years since her club last got its hands on the symbol of Invercargill Netball Centre supremacy, the News Shield.
During the 1990s, the Rata club had a monopoly on the silverware, winning seven consecutive titles between 1992 and 1998.
Remarkably, they have only won three more finals since then, with their last triumph coming back in 2005.
Ward said her team were focused ahead of today's premier grade final against St Mary's, and were determined to reclaim the title.
"I can't believe it's been that long since we've won. Rata is my club. I was coached by Robyn Broughton and we used to win it regularly. We haven't won it in a while."
St Mary's have been the most dominant team in Invercargill club netball in recent times, winning the News Shield four times in a row from 2007 to 2010.
Today's final should be an evenly fought spectacle with little separating the two sides this season.
They drew their grading game, and then split their two matches during round-robin play.
Rata's strength lies in their midcourt, where they possess Southland centre and former ANZ Championship player Hayley Crofts, and talented wing defence Kendall McMinn.
They also have quality defenders in Rachel Fahy and Tegan Hunt, who work well in tandem.
The battle in the midcourt should be an intriguing feature of the game, with St Mary's boasting the experienced Whitney Areaiiti at centre, and hardworking wing defence Jo Telfer.
They will be missing the services of former Southland representative and Sting squad member Debbie Telfer, who is overseas.
St Mary's head into the final on a 13-game winning streak, with the team not having lost since their first round game against Rata.
St Mary's coach Rosie De Goldi was asking her side for a full four-quarter effort today, and said they had to minimise the effectiveness of the classy Crofts in the midcourt.
Rata have a youthful shooting partnership in Katie Heywood and Morgan Hunter, and St Mary's defenders Donna Warnock and Sara Bartley will no doubt look to put them off their games.
"Both sides have really good defences. Whatever shoots step up will win," De Goldi said.
"Our girls didn't come to play last year (in the final). Everyone has got to be up for it. The girls need to lift for the final."
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