WBC defence goes awry
The best-laid plans of mice and men – and Otago Oceana Goldrush coach Brent Matehaere.
If the 2012 Women’s Basketball Championship was previously unfolding as a game of cat and mouse between the defending champions and their several challengers, that trap seems to have back-fired.
When the competition began two months ago, Matehaere was confident his under-strength outfit had enough firepower to sneak through the opening rounds and regain their power in time to prevail in the finals on their home court at Dunedin’s Edgar Centre.
The first part of that prophecy was fulfilled when Otago edged Nelson Sparks – a rematch of last year’s WBC finalists – in their final preliminary game to seal a place in the six-team championship playoffs.
But with the field now descending on the southern city for this week’s season climax, Matehaere admits the Goldrush will have their work cut out. Gone are the stars that carried them to victory 12 months ago.
“If you look at what we had last year, when we thought we had it sorted and still have to fight for it, we’re severely undermanned this time,” he laments.
Stalwart Suzie Bates is concentrating on her role as NZ women’s cricket captain, while fellow internationals Patrice McKenzie (injured), Daneka Wipiiti (overseas) and Casey Lockwood (injured) are also non-starters.
But the Goldrush haven’t had those players all season. Perhaps the biggest losses are netballers Jodi Brown and Te Paea Selby-Rickett, who were instrumental in keeping the titleholders in contention last month, but are unavailable through commitments to their preferred code.
The only frontline survivor from last year’s winning effort is forward Samara Gallaher, but even she is dependent on a doctor’s clearance for concussion symptoms.
Matehaere’s only hopes right now seem to be the possibility that other teams are also below full strength and a playoff format that could allow a team to lose twice, but still claim the crown.
As for title favourites, two stand out.
“Hutt Valley have been the form team all season – they’ve lost just once to Waitakere,” says Matehaere. “They’ve done well and are well rounded.
“They’re not a team that have had players coming in and out. They’ve been consistent through the season.”
The other contenders are Otago’s old rivals, Nelson.
“The Sparks are in a similar situation in terms of consistency of players. They’ve got the size and they’ve got the old heads know how to get it done.”
The WBC finals begin tomorrow morning, when Otago face previous champions Harbour Breeze and Nelson take on Taranaki Trojans at 8.30am.
Women’s Basketball Championship
Edgar Centre, Dunedin
Thursday, August 23
Harbour Breeze v Otago Oceana Goldrush – Live Stats
Nelson Sparks v Taranaki Trojans – Live Stats
Waikato Wizards v Palmerston North Storm – Live Stats
Rotorua Lady Vols v Canterbury Wildcats – Live Stats
Hutt Valley Flyers v Harbour Breeze - Live Stats
Waitakere West Auckland Rangers v Taranaki Trojans - Live Stats
Kelvin Hotel Southland Pearls v Waikato Wizards - Live Stats
Canterbury Wildcats v Palmerston North Storm - Live Stats
Otago Oceana Goldrush v Hutt Valley Flyers - Live Stats
Waitakere West Auckland Rangers v Nelson Sparks - Live Stats
Rotorua Lady Vols v Kelvin Hotel Southland Pearls - Live Stats