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Semifinals at the YMCA . . . without a crowd

Teams that can re-establish their links through court the best will have an advantage tonight when Gisborne's premier grade netball semifinals are played at the YMCA tonight.

The four teams still standing at the business end of the premier grade competition were about to play the semifinal games four weeks ago, but then New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown.

“Back in August the players would have been psyched for that moment, but things might have changed since then,” netball commentator Sherrill Beale said.

“During the lockdown break, individuals would have been able to maintain their own fitness levels, but there hasn't been any team practice until last Wednesday.

“Netballers rely on their team connections through court — those invisible threads that help them move the ball through the court while trying to outplay their opposition.

“The teams who have recovered their links best will have the advantage tonight.”

The other factor tonight will be how well the individual players have been able to cope with the lockdown pressures.

The first of the premier semifinals starts at 6pm when table-toppers YMP Sunshine Brewery meet Whangara Old Girls.

“Those two teams have had tough tussles this season, so I expect this game to be the same, especially when you add the pressure of the losers finishing their season and the winners progressing to Saturday's final,” Beale said.

“YMP won by four goals last time they met, but it was only in the last few minutes that they pulled ahead.

“Both teams play a similar game, where they move the ball at speed and work as a team on defence, pressuring the opposition relentlessly.”

The second match begins at 7.45pm, with F45 High School Old Girls to play Claydens Waikohu (1).

“These two teams have also had close games when they have met this season, so another competitive game is expected,” Beale said.

“In the last game, it was virtually goal for goal for the whole hour and Waikohu (1) slipped through by a single goal.

“However, Waikohu 1 have been a little ‘up and down' in their play since then, while HSOG have been working well together for their recent games.

“Add the pressure of semifinals and it could go either way.”

Under the Alert Level 2 restrictions, the games can be played subject to restrictions.

“The most notable is that there are no spectators allowed, just the teams' players and limited numbers of their management group,” Beale said.

But supporters will be able to cheer for their team from their homes.

Gisborne Netball Centre will be live-streaming the games tonight through their Facebook page.

Semifinals time: Whangara Old Girls wing attack Nadia Whaitiri-White takes a pass as High School Old Girls wing defence Ana Naden looks to close down the options. Whangara play YMP and HSOG play Waikohu (1) in the premier-grade netball semifinals at the YMCA tonight. File picture by Paul Rickard