Wellington thrash North Harbour in national netball champs final

Wellington have sent the national provincial netball championships out with a bang.

The competition is about to fall victim to Netball New Zealand’s high performance review and won’t be staged next year. In fact there’s a good chance Wellington will be the last name ever engraved on the trophy.

If the tournament’s never resurrected there will be no dispute that the last champions were worthy ones, after Wellington beat North Harbour 59-38 in Friday’s final at the ASB Sports Centre in Kilbirnie.

It was a commanding performance and no-one was prouder at fulltime than Wellington’s coach, Dion Te Whetu. He’d been unequivocal before the event started about what his goal was and he well and truly achieved it.

“With this being the end of the NPC tournament, I’d made it my mission for Wellington to win it,” Te Whetu said.

That brought additional pressure, but nothing Te Whetu couldn’t handle.

“I’m that type of person that thinks if you’re brave enough to appoint a male coach in a woman-orientated sport, I’ll make sure I repay you.”

Wellington’s last title came way back in 1996 and they didn’t look likely winners after the scores were 14-14 after first quarter of the final. Then wing attack Whitney Souness took a bad knock to the knee trying to retrieve a ball as it went out of court.

Instead of being a blow to the team, Te Whetu felt Souness’ injury upset North Harbour’s planning. They had far less idea how to play replacement Crystal Wilkinson and by halftime Wellington were 30-18 up, then 45-24 at three-quarter time.

Shooters Ameliaranne Wells and Te Amo Amaru-Tibble enjoyed an armchair ride, despite being matched up against a pair of Silver Ferns in Temalisi Fakahokotau and Phoenix Karaka. Karin Burger and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit were doing a fine job in the defensive circle for Wellington and then there was wing defence Claire Kersten.

“Claire Kersten should be in an ANZ [Championship] team, hands down,” said Te Whetu.

“She’s so professional, a great team person and so many people have been saying she should be in an ANZ team. Her phone would definitely be ringing if I was coaching one.”

In Malia Paseka, North Harbour possessed one of the most athletic shooters around. But, thanks to the work of Kersten and company, North Harbour’s feeders battled to find her.

Wellington picked up eight intercepts and 19 deflections and were then able to drive down court and turn the majority into goals.

Souness was hobbling around with the aid of a crutch at fulltime, but Te Whetu was confident there was no structural damage and that the wing attack would be fit for the start of Silver Ferns trials on Sunday.

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