Another reshuffle at the top of the Beko Netball League table has left Central with a challenging assignment against new leaders Mainland in Christchurch on Sunday.
Central lost their grip on top spot after a surprise loss to South in their most recent outing, opening the door to be leapfrogged by Mainland and Waikato Bay of Plenty. With just two rounds remaining in the evenly contested league, Central now have their backs to the wall but are not about to throw in the towel.
With a slim spread of just three points between the first and third-placed teams, there is no room for errant ways as the battle continues to find the top two to contest the grand final later this month.
``We’ve put ourselves into a situation that we didn’t want to be in so the key word we’ve been focussing on this week is belief,’’ Central coach Pelesa Semu said. ``We know that we can take this game. It’s going to be a tough challenge but that’s what sport’s all about.’’
A frank and honest debrief following the South loss has sharpened the mindset and helped prepare Central for the must-win challenge ahead.
``Against South, we didn’t stick to the tasks that we set out to focus on, both individually and as a team. We didn’t want to become complacent for that game but we felt that’s exactly what happened and we were bitterly disappointed with our performance,’’ Semu said.
``Each player has taken responsibility for their performance and had to take a really good look at themselves and what they want to achieve. And now we’re in a situation where this game will define our campaign and our season.’’
There has been a positive response from the players at training this week and the coach has no doubts they’ll bounce back with strong conviction.
``I know that they will come back very determined,’’ she said. ``They were gutted by the loss and there’s a lot of positivity. It’s not about learning anything new but more a case of just tidying up the little things.
``Mainland have got key, experienced players in every area of the court, so it’s just about being smart and playing to our strengths, using the speed of the ball, keeping it wide and away from their defenders’ hands while making good decisions.’’
After a run of games at home, Central are back on the road for this one and Semi is making no bones about the tough challenge that awaits and the test of character her team faces.
``I have to keep reminding myself especially, that this is a really young team and many of them haven’t been in situations where it’s such high pressure and situations where it’s must-win for us to follow on with our campaign,’’ she said.