They’ve had their ups and downs but that has left Central well-equipped heading into Sunday’s Beko Netball League Grand Final against Waikato-BOP in Auckland.
Central are the first of the Zone’s representation to be lining up in a Grand Final after impressive seasons from both their teams with the Pulse to contest the ANZ Premiership Grand Final on August 12.
In making their third consecutive Grand Final, Central have an enviable record in the Beko League, winning the title last year and finishing runners-up in the inaugural season. With their backs to the wall on several occasions this year, the young team delivered when it counted, going on to clinch their spot in the last round of the regular season.
``We have come a long way this season and worked really hard to get here,’’ Central coach Pelesa Semu said. ``There is a real sense of unity among the team, they back each other up, they’re a very young team and they’ve learnt a lot about themselves and their development and as we’ve grown, so has their self-belief. We’re ready for this.’’
Waikato-BOP finished a closely-contested regular season, two weeks ago, in top spot. In matches against Central, there was little between the two, each posting a win and a loss.
In the two-week break leading up to the Grand Final, Central have stuck to task and maintained their normal processes with regular trainings and match-play situations. For many of the new-look and raw, young side that started the season, this is the biggest moment of their careers.
``After our last game, there was a sense of relief that we had made the Grand Final and a lot of excitement with what we’d achieved,’’ Semu said. ``At the same time, they know that it’s not over, there’s still lots in front of us and lots of work to do if we want to get the right result on Sunday.
``Having the two-week break has its advantages and disadvantages. There’s a feeling you want to carry on with that flow you’ve achieved earlier but also, the timing was really good mentally and probably physically for some of the players just to get a gauge of where they’re at and the opportunity to refocus on the position we are in.’’
Each team knows the other well and Semu doesn’t expect either to offer anything greatly different from their previous matches. The major difference is the one-off nature of the clash and the outcome could boil down to mental resilience.
``Our focus has remained the same,’’ she said. ``We know what their strengths are and we know what we’re up against. They’re quite a physical, nuggety team who play really good structured lines on attack and defensively they’ve got a good set-up as well. We just have to show that real intent from the outset of wanting to win.’’