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The semi-finals of the national College Netball series are this Sunday and Monday.
Wellington Girls’ College plays defending champions Mount Albert Grammar School in Palmerston North on Sunday and St Kentigern College meets Southland Girls’ High School in Auckland on Monday.
This is the fourth year of the pre-season College Netball competition, with selected matches, including these two semi-finals played as curtain-raisers to ANZ Championship matches.
For Southland Girls’ High School (SGHS) it will be their first top four appearance, after they beat Christchurch’s Cashmere High School 35-24, St Andrew’s College 35-26 and St Margaret’s College 22-19 in their three College Netball South Island fixtures in March and April.
Former Australian netball international and former player and assistant coach of the Southern Steel Natalie Avellino is SGHS’s coach. Natalie explained that her team was looking forward to taking on defending Auckland competition champions St Kent’s.
“It’s exciting for our girls to be representing our school at this level,” she said. “We haven’t gone this far in the past and have always stumbled when playing St Margaret’s.
“We understand that St Kent’s are a good team and it certainly won’t be an easy game for us but that is a good challenge for us to look forward to.
“We don’t get opportunities to play North Island teams unless we get to nationals in October. The styles are also a little bit different, so it’s just a great challenge for our girls to come up against these other teams.”
Natalie said there’s plenty of sporting talent in the SGHS side.
“Our attack line has been going well. We lost two key defenders from our team last year so we have had to try and work hard with our young defenders coming through.”
“We have got a younger player coming through, Alena Saili, who is a very talented athlete.
“Alena is good at rugby sevens; she is currently in the New Zealand U17 touch team and she is also in our First XV. I am fortunate enough that I can play her anywhere and she can actually just slot in. She usually a midcourt player but has been playing as a defender for us as well.
“Her and her sister Fa’asipa Saili did an exceptional job when we played St Margaret’s in our previous match.”
Natalie said that Fa’asipa Saili is also in Southland Girls’ Senior A touch and First XV rugby teams and she is also a good volleyball player. Molly Wheeley is also in the New Zealand U17 touch team and Trisha Hopcroft was in the New Zealand U19 touch squad last year.
The majority of the netball team have recently been selected in Southland’s age-grade netball teams, while Laura Moffat (netball, currently injured and not playing in this semi-final), Trisha Hopcroft (touch) and Alena Saili (Sevens, touch and netball) are all part of the Southland Academy development programme.
The Southland Girls’ High School team travelling to Auckland to play St Kentigern College is:
Alena Saili , Anna Wells, Emily Henderson, Faasipa Saili, Jenna Kean, Jessica Dermody, Kerri-Ann Sinclair, Moira Macdonald, Molly Wheeley, Patricia (Trisha) Hopcroft , Sarah Marshall. Coach: Natalie Avellino
College Netball semi-finals
Sunday 17 May: Wellington Girls’ College v Mount Albert Grammar School, Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North.
Monday 18 May: St Kentigern College v Southland Girls’ High School, The Trusts Arena, Auckland