ON SONG: Premier League shooter Maddie Taylor provided major impact in her first-half appearance for West Leagues Balance 1 in the Greater Open Championship. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

West Leagues Balance 1 faced their first roadbump of the season last round, as they fell to Forsythes in a tight opening clash.

The two-goal defeat put the defending champions on the back foot early in their quest for a Greater Open Championship three-peat, and made their Round 2 fixture against BNC Whanau a “must win” according to coach Tracey Baggs.

West 1 delivered on that onus. Aided by the return of key players like mid-court star Tara Andrews, and Premier League shooter Maddie Taylor, Baggs’ outfit defeated BNC 58-35 to chalk their first win of the 2019 season.

Despite the margin stretching to nearly two dozen goals in the second round contest, Baggs believes the early fixtures of the season have been defined more by “who has their players available” than anything else so far.

“The first two weeks have been a reflection of which teams have got their full rosters on the court ready to go more than anything else,” she said after the 23-goal win.

“BNC definitely are not looking at their full cohort just yet, and I think the two big scores we saw on Saturday for Souths and Nova were because those teams have bedded their full complement in already.”

Read more recent news

Despite that, Baggs said she was happy to see the team score their first win of the year  heading into the early-season Easter break. Had the defending champions faced three weeks off without a win behind them, the West mentor said, it may have been a hard slog come May.

Hannah Cullen has made the move to West 1 in 2019, and has been impressive after the big switch.

“I think the win was very important mentally for our girls, especially considering none of them were happy with the result last week,” she said.

“Speaking to them after the game Saturday it was clear how crucial it was for us to pick up that win ahead of the break. They didn’t take the Forsythes loss as hard as me – I took until Sunday afternoon to come to terms with it – but they took it pretty hard nonetheless.”

The West Leagues boss, who has come into the 2019 season looking for that hallowed three-peat in the championship, also praised her squad for their “brilliant” transition as players came in and out of the playing roster on Saturday. In particular, Baggs pinpointed makeshift centre Andrews (replacing Premier League star Sophie Buckley), as well as rising star Hannah Cullen, as two key performers in the match against BNC.

Taylor shone in her return to the Greater Open Championship, as the entire West 1 outfit produced a “seamless” performance in their first win of the season. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

“Any changes that we made were seamless yesterday, and it was a massive credit to the girls that the team never felt clunky at any point, no matter how many changes we made,” Baggs said.

“Tara really stepped in well to replace Sophie [Buckley] too, and we had young Hannah Cullen play that role in the second half. It’s Hannah’s first year in the top team, and she did all the right things and made sure the team kept ticking.

“For me that’s really exciting, to know you can put any of these girls out on the court, and know they’re going to do a great job.”

Brooke Fenning has already had major impact in the offensive circle for Nova in 2019.

Also on Saturday afternoon at National Park, Souths clocked up their second straight win of the 2019 season, downing competition newcomers Junction Hotel in a 68-28 meeting.

Forsythes also stayed level at the top with their 2-0 record, the only other club undefeated thus far, as they came from behind against Maryville to scored a tight 48-41 win.

Finally, Nova Queens Wharf Thunder bounced back from their first round loss to net a 1-1 record with a 68-28 victory over West 2 in the early fixture.

The Greater Open Championship now takes a three week break over the Easter period. All Newcastle netball competitions return on Saturday, May 4.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: Souths, Forsythes (9), Nova, West 1, Maryville, Junction (7), West 2, BNC (5).