Central win national league netball final over Mainland
Central completed their perfect national league season by beating Mainland 43-41 in the grand final.
Central, who lost last year's final to South, had won every game in the regular season this year and it was no different in Sunday's final in Auckland, overcoming an early Mainland lead to lead the rest of the way.
Defender Karin Burger was named player of the final, having put in a big effort at the defensive end for Central.
"We've had it sort of easy the whole season with big scores," she said. "We knew they were going to bring it.
"We were ready for it. We probably made it a little bit hard for ourselves but we got the win in the end."
She said they held their composure when the pressure came on and trusted each other as Mainland rallied.
"We worked hard for every ball and you could see people putting their bodies on the line out there. It was really good work from the girls."
Mainland led 5-1 in the early stages, but Central swung back to lead 13-12 after the first quarter, and were up 25-21 at halftime.
Central led 33-26 with a quarter to go, but Mainland rallied late in the game and won the final quarter 15-10 to close the gap to just two goals by the end of the match.
Burger has been part of the Central Pulse squad this season, as has centre Sheridan Bignall, so having those two for the final strengthened the Central lineup.
Midcourter Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was a work-horse for her side up front and backed up well in the middle by Kimiora Poi and Bignall.
Defenders Burger and Renee Savai'inaea shut Mainland down on attack in a telling third quarter and shooter Jermaine Howard-Vallance stood out.
Howard-Vallance was a strong target for her feeders and after a nervous few opening minutes, when she missed her first two attempts, showed a steady hand under pressure.
Mainland goal keeper Olivia Coughlan used her long lean well.
Mainland had the services of goal shoot Ellie Bird, who has had a stint with the Mainland Tactix this season, and Bird's work in the shooting circle gave their attack a boost.
Burger said it was hard defending against a tall shooter but because they were mobile they were able to mix up their defence.
Central midcourter Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was named player of the year.
Central 43 (Jermaine Howard-Vallance 33/45, Eseta Autagavaia 5/6, Kelsey McPhee 5/7) Mainland 41 (Ellie Bird 31/33, Tiana Placid 10/17). Q1: 13-12, HT: 25-21, Q3: 33-26.