Mana and Bulldogs Verdelho battle to stay alive in finals

MANA won’t be low on fighting spirit in this Saturday’s Bathurst Netball Association A grade minor semi-final but they will be down on key personnel.

UNAVAILABLE: Saphai Mitai-Ngatai (right) is injured and won't play this Saturday.

UNAVAILABLE: Saphai Mitai-Ngatai (right) is injured and won't play this Saturday.

Untimely injuries to Bathurst opens representative duo Saphai Mitai-Ngatai (ankle) and Madeline McAlister (finger) will make Mana the underdogs for a tough meeting against Bulldogs Verdelho.

The absence of Mitai-Ngatai and McAlister against the defending champion Bulldogs will throw several junior players into the deep end for the knockout contest.

Regardless of how the match plays out, Saturday’s game will be a special one for the club as they celebrate their first A grade finals appearance.

The team narrowly missed out on a finals place in their 2017 debut season but this year booked their spot with several weeks to spare.

Mana coach Michael Germech, facing off against his former club, admitted it’s going to be a big ask for his team to progress in the finals.

“Both ourselves and Bulldogs haven’t fielded the strongest teams in the competition and have had hiccups through the year so, rightfully, we’ve finished third and fourth,” he said.

“It’s tough for us with two of our better players missing through injury. We’re down on strength but we get to play finals.

“For some of our younger girls that means they’re going to have to play much more on Saturday but it will be a great experience for them.”

Bulldogs and Mana have played out some of the most competitive matches of the A grade season.

Back in round three Bulldogs edged home 35-29 over Mana but the tables turned in the second meeting to the tune of 49-41.

The two sides were denied another meeting a fortnight ago due to the weather.

Germech said the best chance of finding victory will be to get combinations working inside the Bulldogs’ circle.

“Any team with Grace Broadfield and Kate Burns at the defensive end is going to be an impressive team,” he said, referring to the Bulldogs duo.

“They’re one of the best defensive combinations in the competition.

“Losing Saph means we bring in a less experienced shooter and it makes the equation harder to solve.

“We know what we need to do to be competitive. The question is how well we execute it. We have a couple of people playing out of position so that’s going to be a big test.

“I look forward for the opportunity for our girls to play in finals. If we play well then the result will look after itself.”

Mana gave themselves a tough but welcome lead in to the finals series by facing Panthers last week.

Germech’s side showed promise against the competition’s number two side in a 56-34 loss.

The Bulldogs-Mana game gets underway from 2.30pm.

The winner will stay alive in the competition and face the loser of the Panthers versus Collegians major semi-final.