Tough start for to netball NPC for Canterbury
The last time Anna Thompson was the regular captain of a netball team was for her Marian College school side, but her latest assignment could prove much harder.
Thompson will lead the two-time defending champion Canterbury team in the national provincial competition beginning tomorrow, against Bay of Plenty, at the Lincoln Events Centre.
Three of her senior team-mates have retired or moved on and the side is so short of midcourters it had to appeal to Netball New Zealand for an 11th-hour injury replacement.
Adding to the difficulty of the task, this morning's light training will be the first time the full squad trains together because Thompson, Ellen Halpenny and Keshia Grant were all involved in last month's Silver Ferns trials, while young attackers Gemma Hazeldine and Sophia Fenwick only returned on Thursday night from the under-21 International Netball Series where New Zealand finished second.
On the plus side, Hannah Brand has returned to the team, although she will miss tomorrow's opener after breaking her nose in a rugby game, and Tactix players Keshia Grant and Bessie Manu have both stayed in Christchurch offsetting the losses of Maree Bowden, Anna Galvan and Charlotte Kight, somewhat.
"Absolutely it's going to be a big challenge this year," Thompson said.
"But we obviously want to try and make it three in a row. And while we've all been in different countries or different parts of the country, we've all been playing netball and I'm confident we can start well this weekend."
In their way is a tough Bay of Plenty side that features six players with ANZ Championship experience, one Silver Fern wider squad member and the younger sister of Silver Fern skipper Casey Williams, Lynaire Williams.
Thompson expected Bay of Plenty to come out firing tomorrow not only to start their own campaign on a high, but to take a shot at the defending champions.
Thompson is likely to spend most of this season at wing attack as the side, for this week at least, is desperately short of midcourters.
Bowden has retired, Kiley Hikawai is pregnant and Brand has been replaced by St Nicholas' Crystal Pratt for this week.
So Grant will play centre, Thompson wing attack - although Hazeldine and Fenwick can both fill in there too if need be - and one of the side's goal keeps, Bessie Manu or Jane Watson, will have to play at wing defence with the other joining Jo Trip in the defensive circle.
The Tania Hoffman-coached side is low on depth, although their top team is likely to again be more than competitive. Injuries would hamper the side's shot at three consecutive championships, although fit they are still one of the teams to beat.
Canterbury is in the top section, division one, alongside Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Auckland-Waitakere, Otago and the newly promoted Waikato.
Canterbury: Anna Thompson (c), Sophia Fenwick, Keshia Grant, Ellen Halpenny, Elizabeth Hayman, Gemma Hazeldine, Bessie Manu, Crystal Pratt, Jo Trip, Jane Watson. Bay of Plenty: Rachel Beale, Natalie Burt, Candyce Edwards, Kate Henwood, Simmon Howe, Halana Leith, Erena Mikaere, Harley Smith, Tessa Tiwha-Smith, Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, Arahi Wall, Lynaire Williams. Tomorrow's game starts at 1pm. -
- © Fairfax NZ News