With a place in the grand final on the line, it’s a boom or bust situation for Central Manawa against the Northern Comets in the Synergy Hair Netball League in Auckland on Saturday.

Coming into the last round of the regular season, Manawa sit in third spot, one point behind the Comets and Mainland at the top of the table, and needing a win to be in with a shot at the title.

'We can’t even lose with a bonus point, we have to win to secure our place for next week’s final, so it’s going to be a cracker of a match,’’ experienced Manawa attacker Renee Matoe said.

'They’re in the same boat, they have to win in order to make the final, so it’s basically, win and stay in the competition or lose, and go home. We’re in for a real challenge, we have to bring our best performance and leave it all out on the court.’’

Sitting pretty after an unbeaten run, Manawa came unstuck when upended by Mainland last weekend and now find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

"There were lots of different aspects that just didn’t align for us that day. It wasn’t one person at fault, we’ve all taken ownership and it was almost like the more you tried, the harder it got,’’ Matoe said of the match.

"It was a very uncomfortable position to be in and one we don’t want to feel this week coming into the Comets. As a result, we’ve had to do some pretty gnarly analysis and just taken responsibility.

"I have 100 percent faith in the work that we’ve done, through the pre-season until now, and it’s just about trusting in each other and believing in what we’ve done. It’s going to be a tough match and tightly contested and we just have to grind through the hard moments.’’

Matoe, 30, has had a new lease of life since returning to Manawa this year after a break, having previously turned out for the side in 2016, 2017 and 2020. A physical education teacher and Dean at Manukura School in Palmerston North, Matoe has clocked up plenty of road miles in getting to trainings in Wellington.

She has also bulked up her resume by learning a new playing position, being part of the Manawa leadership group and along with several of her team-mates, provided crucial cover for Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse during the challenging times thrown up by Covid, while also going on to make her debut in the ANZ Premiership.

"It’s so cool being back,’’ she said. ``It’s such a different perspective than when I was a bit younger and I definitely appreciate the opportunity more this time around.

"I’d never really had the opportunity to play wing attack, I’ve always just been a specialist goal attack. I definitely enjoy goal attack more but I’ve loved being able to be challenged in a different position.

"It was never really on the cards in terms of thinking that it was even a possibility to be part of the Pulse, so just being involved in that environment has been absolutely amazing.

"I’m so incredibly grateful to be given that opportunity to be alongside some incredible players and to still be learning.

"The coolest thing to me is despite my age, I’m still learning. It’s a game that is always changing, but I’m still learning new things. I’ve been able to have the best of both worlds, learn as a player and learn as a coach because I also coach at secondary school level (at Manukura) which has been awesome.’’