Proven performers and rising teenaged talent a feature of Central Beko squad
Retaining a consistent core of proven talent and the emergence of exciting untapped potential highlight Netball Central’s squad of 16 to contest this year’s Beko Netball League.
Finishing runners-up in last year’s inaugural Beko competition, a solid core of seven (including training partners) has been retained for the 2017 edition which is spearheaded by four players in the New Zealand under-21 squad and rounded out by a quartet of secondary school players.
Eleven players have been named alongside five training partners, all 16 having the opportunity to make the match-day 10 when the competition gets underway.
The four secondary school players – Ainsleyana Puleiata, Danielle Tafili, Renee Savaiinaea and Antonia HeiHei are subject to approval for eligibility from Netball New Zealand.
``With the four secondary school players in there, it’s a very young squad and with so much young talent in the Zone, there were some hard choices to get to this point,’’ Central Beko coach Natalie Milicich said.
``I’m very excited to be coaching such a young vibrant group of players at this level. They are great to work with and now it’s about having that talent and being able to get the best out of it.’’
The Beko League, which will run alongside the elite ANZ Premiership, proved an instant success in its first year, being created specifically to prepare younger players in the high performance environment and as a result, making the transition to the higher level more seamless.
Now that it’s bedded in, Milicich expects the intensity of the Beko League to click up several notches this season. She is intent on retaining the standards of last year where the aim is another top-two finish.
``The longer you have something like this, the gap gets narrower where the players are transitioning from a good competition to the higher level,’’ she said. ``And that’s absolutely my focus, we want another couple of players to be moving up to the Pulse next year.’’
Following trials on January 29, the squad was cut to 20 before the final 16 were selected, the players having been in full training mode for some time.
Ahead of the competition-opener on March 25, Central will have a pre-season outing in Auckland on March 18-19where they will play their two Auckland counterparts as well as the Waikato Bay of Plenty Beko team.