With a place in the grand final assured, Central are keen to maintain a clean sheet when they meet the Northern Marvels in Monday’s penultimate round of the Beko Netball League.
The clear front-runners throughout the season, Central are keen to avoid any hiccups ahead of the June 18 final showdown and are preparing accordingly.
Playing in their last home match of this campaign – a televised curtain-raiser to introduce the ANZ Premiership match between the Pulse and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in Palmerston North – unbeaten Central are looking to consolidate and fine-tune in the remaining two games of the regular season.
``For me, it’s looking at who’s going to start in that final, so they’re all still fighting for those positions which is healthy,’’ Central coach Natalie Milicich said. ``There’s plenty to play for individually, and for the players to make sure they make that decision hard for us when it comes to the final.
``I’ve probably said right through the season, we haven’t had the perfect game yet. We’ve only had one game in eight where we’ve won all four quarters, so there is still some challenges there and some goals that we’ve set for the game and one of them is to make sure we’re consistent throughout the four quarters.’’
Barring a string of unlikely results, the fourth-placed Marvels are destined to miss the grand final but have found some late form to emerge as spoilers. The introduction of Mystics players Brooke Watt and Tera-Maria Amani to their line-up in recent rounds has helped consolidate the Marvels and keep their slim chances alive. Both are expected to play against Central.
Central were 15-goal winners the last time the pair met six weeks ago but Milicich is reading little into that result and assuming a fresh start approach to the looming match-up. Both teams have also had a long two-week gap since their last matches and that could play a role on Monday.
``They’re a steady team, strong all over the court and it’s just taken them time to settle but they had a good win in their last game against (second-placed) Mainland,’’ Milicich said.
``We’ve both had a break and we’ll both probably take a little while just to settle back into game mode. It’s a televised game which is exciting for us and I think it will be a really good game because they’ve now found their feet and we need to make sure we counter that.
``They’re very individually skilled and now that they’ve got their combinations right, they’re looking pretty strong.’’
The lengthy break has been timely for Central in helping overcome several injury concerns, the team now back to full-strength apart from well-performed St Mary’s College sporting all-rounder Renee Savaiinaea who will instead be plying her trade in a national basketball tournament.