Providing perfect preparation for the Grand Final, Central Manawa will meet the Southern Blast in their final match of the Beko Netball League regular season in Wellington on Sunday.
Having already cemented their spot in the May 19 Grand Final in Christchurch, defending champions Manawa have the luxury of a game up their sleeve to bolster their build-up.
``As a Zone, we’re really happy to achieve a fourth straight Grand Final appearance,’’ Manawa coach Pelesa Semu said.
``Despite nothing riding on the outcome of this game, there’s still lots that we want to achieve. We want to beat Southern after coming off our only loss this campaign to them earlier in the season. We’ve come a long way since then and we want to show it.
``This is our last home game of the season as a team before heading down to next week’s Grand Final and there are a lot of factors that come into context as we continue our preparation which includes Sunday’s match.
``We also want to acknowledge our local support base. It’s always a great feeling to play at home.’’
Manawa are determined to focus solely on the game at hand and not let their minds drift to the following week where they will meet close rivals Waikato Bay of Plenty, who have also booked their place in the Grand Final.
Describing Southern as a nuggety team, Semu believes they will provide Manawa with a challenging dress rehearsal. They have shooter Georgia Heffernan and midcourters Kendall McMinn and Dani Gray in their ranks, all having had experience with their senior Southern Steel team.
``They will provide a hard-edged competitive challenge, have a lot of talent in their ranks and I think it will be a good game,’’ Semu said. ``And that’s just what we need.’’
The Manawa coach is pleased with the progress her side has made over the season, their confidence growing as a result while hitting their straps at the right time.
``There have been a lot of key moments during our campaign that have helped build our self-belief,’’ she said. ``The coaching staff have always had belief but the players have had to learn that through their experiences as the season has unfolded. And they’re now at a stage where they have confidence that they are good enough and deserve to be where they are.’’
With defence being a big focus and denying ball to the opposition, Manawa will also look to add the polish to their game in general while ensuring their decision-making in tough moments is on song, against Southern.
Well-performed in-circle defender Paris Lokotui, who was recently named in the New Zealand Secondary Schools team, is expected to return to action this weekend after suffering an ankle injury three weeks ago.