With eight players returning from last year's National Netball League (NNL) winning team, Central Manawa have named a strong squad to defend the title in 2024.

Missing last season while recovering from a serious knee injury, reliable shooter Grace McLean makes a return to the Manawa side, while originally selected for Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in 2023, exciting midcourt talent Ainsleyana Puleiata is poised to make her return to play, subject to medical clearance.

Shooter Martina Salmon and midcourter Suraya Goss are the two newcomers to NNL level while defender Caitlin Lafaele, in her first year out of school, and in the mix last season before being ruled out with injury, also makes the step up.  

After guiding the team to their fifth tile in her first season as head coach, Ngarama Milner-Olsen is excited to have finalised this year's Manawa edition.

“It is great to have a solid base and experience with eight players returning from last season's Manawa squad, and we are also welcoming back two players who have had a year away from the NNL environment," she said.

“Additionally, we have two debutants which is exciting and who are all set to play their first NNL season.

“Our players are eager to start preparing for the upcoming season, and we are all well aware of the challenging task ahead of us. However, I believe in the potential and commitment of this team and am confident that they will perform to their best."

Adding to their experience, well-performed defenders Madison Thomas, Rachel Price and talented shooter Kiana Pelasio are Pulse training partners while midcourter Latonya Lole and shooters McLean and Salmon are apprentice training partners.

Identifying the talent spread across the team, which has an average age of 21, defenders Thomas, Price and Lafaele along with shooter Sarah Guiney are also NZ U21 squad members.

“I'm delighted to see another young but highly talented Central Manawa squad," Netball Central Director of High Performance Waimarama Taumaunu said.

“We envisage a long career for these young players and expect to see many of them becoming Pulse players in the future."

In a re-match of last year's Grand Final, Manawa open their season against the Comets in Auckland, on April 14.

2024 Central Manawa squad:

Shooters: Martina Salmon (Netball Wellington Centre), Sarah Guiney (Netball Wellington Centre), Grace McLean (Netball Wellington Centre), Kiana Pelasio (Netball Wellington Centre).

Midcourters: Latonya Lole (Netball Wellington Centre), Ainsleyana Puleiata* (Netball Wellington Centre), Suraya Goss (Netball Manawatu), Tyra-Jade Alexander (Netball Manawatu).

Defenders: Rachel Price (Netball Wellington Centre), Zalika Clarke (Netball Wellington Centre), Caitlin Lafaele (Netball Wellington Centre/Kapi Mana), Madison Thomas (Netball Manawatu).

*Subject to medical clearance