Kalifa McCollin

T&T senior netball team duo, goal-attack Kalifa Mc Collin and goal defence Daystar Swift, have been busy in training as they prepare for the resumption of the ANZ Premiership on June 19 in New Zealand.

Just one full round was played in mid-March before that country went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the opening round of matches, 28-year-old Swift, a Netball World Cup and Commonwealth Games veteran and her Robinhood Northern Stars fell to Northern Mystics, 55-59, while 24-year-old Mc Collin who competed for three seasons in the Vitality Netball Super League in England suffered a defeat with the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel to Splice Construction Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, 48-54.

The other teams comprising the ANZ Premiership are Goal City Tactix and Te Wananga O Raukawa Pulse

With less than four weeks out from the opening whistle, both T&T players said they were close to getting into top shape as restrictions with regards to team group training sessions have been eased.

When the league resumes New Zealand’s elite netballers will battle it out throughout an action-packed ten-week season with matches played every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, all broadcast live on Sky Sport 3.

A downside to the resumption of the competition is that it will be completed behind closed doors to the public, with all fixtures played at Auckland Netball Centre to ensure all Ministry of Health and Worksafe NZ COVID-19 requirements are met within a controlled environment.

The Robinhood Northern Stars, Northern Mystics and Splice Construction Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic will all commute by road, while chartered flights have been scheduled for Te Wananga o Raukawa Pulse, The Good Oil Tactix and Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel to allow for safe and controlled travel.

The season culminates with a triple-header Finals Series on August 23 with match-ups to be determined by standings after Round Robin play. Teams placed first and second on the competition ladder will meet in the Grand Final, following third/fourth and fifth/sixth classification matches.

Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie said despite the forced changes, it was exciting to see the ANZ Premiership returning to action.

“While the situation is not ideal, it has also allowed for ingenuity and innovation around how we continue to present matches as a vibrant spectacle and maintain maximum engagement with fans and viewers,” she said.

Commenting on her preparations for the start of the season, former University of T&T player Swift who will play back-to-back matches on the opening weekend versus Pulse (June 20) and Tactix (June 21) said training during the lockdown has been a blessing in disguise.

She said, “I was able to use that time to work on my fitness and upper body strength, areas I thought needed the most work. It also allowed me time to review footage of my upcoming opponents and work on game plans.”

Mc Collin who is expected to be in her team’s line-up for their June 20 clash with against Tactix also said her training has been great thus far. However, she admitted that she was just adjusting to the other aspects of the new normal in terms of social distancing in training.

She explained, “I’m still adjusting to sitting one metre away from my team-mates and not giving ‘high fives’ after drills, but the intensity has been pretty high and we’re working on building combinations at the moment.

“We’ve been doing a lot of skills and conditioning work as well as match play which allows us to maintain match fitness.

“During the lockdown, players have been working on their fitness so coming back in we weren’t far behind.”

Asked about the revised schedule, Mc Collin said, “It’s quite hectic but I think it’s in the best interest of everyone that the games are only 48 minutes long, instead of one hour, giving players time to recover if they have back-to-back matches.”

“For sure playing shorter matches will take some getting used to, playing 12 minute quarters, but with the specifics and scenarios that we’ve been practising, we’ll be ready to hit the ground when it’s game time.”