Initiative adds to motivation

Alex Taal (left) takes a shot at goal under pressure from Ellen Kirkwood as the Otago team trains...
Alex Taal (left) takes a shot at goal under pressure from Ellen Kirkwood as the Otago team trains at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin last night. Photo: Linda Robertson
New opportunities are always exciting.

You appreciate them and you make the most of them.

That is the approach of several players turning out for the two Dunedin teams in the South Island senior netball championships, beginning today at the Edgar Centre.

A joint venture by Netball South and Netball Mainland, the tournament is aimed at adding a further step to the South Island's pathway.

It provides a level between club netball and Beko League, as well as giving senior players a representative team to strive for.

That would be complemented by the return of a national open championship next year.

Dunedin Gold's Lisa Lin - who played in the Beko League last year - was one of several players excited by the developments.

"I think it is absolutely fantastic," she said.

"The last time I played for age groups was 2016, before coming to Dunedin, and then last year for Dunedin also.

"There is a huge gap from when you leave school which is age groups, and then the next level is Beko.

"So having this new initiative is great to continue playing netball and having the motivation to keep pursuing it."

The opportunity to represent Dunedin was significant as well.

Dunedin Blue co-captains Bridget Thayer and Zoey Flockton had been out of age-groups for several years.

Both had played Beko League, but said it would be special to wear blue and gold again.

Meanwhile, for Dunedin Blue's Sarah Watkins it had the added significance of giving her a chance to represent the region for the first time.

"It means a lot," she said.

"I'm super proud to represent the region that has supported me and my netball over the last three years."

The flow-on to the return of the NPC would also be significant.

Dunedin Gold captain Julia Law, who was in this year's Southern Beko League team, felt it would keep players motivated and raise the standard across the country.

"I was very excited when I heard NPC was coming back as I have never had the opportunity to play NPC, but have heard a lot of positive things about it from other players involved," Law said.

"The return of NPC will be to encourage more players of an older age range to keep playing and enjoying the game they love at a high level.

"It also provides a further pathway opportunity - outside of Beko and training partners - for players to reach the premier level.

"That will, in turn, raise the standard of Beko and franchise level."

Meanwhile, Dunedin Gold coach Toni Wall said the re-introduction of senior representative teams was "hugely important".

She agreed it would encourage players to stay in the game by giving them additional opportunities.

The Dunedin teams are two of 12 from around the South Island in action.

Games begin at noon and carry on through the afternoon, the last round starting at 6.15pm.

Playoffs begin tomorrow, before Sunday's final at 1pm.

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