Above left: Jana Niedermayr and Above right: India Ralph with school teammate and Central Hockey U18 teammate Kaleigh Morris. PHOTOS: Sacred Heart Girls' College and Hockey NZ.
A pair of year 12 Sacred Heart College, New Plymouth students won national titles for Central teams in their representative tournaments last month in Wellington.
Jana Niedermayr (football and futsal) was part of the Central U16 Futsal side that won their maiden Age Grade Nationals title, beating Auckland 4-3 in the final, and India Ralph (hockey) was part of the Central U18 team that won a three-peat of National U18 hockey titles, defeating Auckland 3-0 in the final.
Both will be lining up for their school’s respective football and hockey First XIs in Winter Tournament Week in early September.
College Sport Media caught up with both for a double profile – questions and answers below.
College Sport Media: Congratulations on winning your tournaments over the school holidays – what were a couple of personal and team highlights?
Jana Niedermayr: A highlight for me personally would have been being named MVP of the team in the game against Auckland, and winning was the major team highlight. Plus scoring in the other games of the tournament. The game was close the whole time. I think we got the first goal but were playing catch up until the end. it was a high intensity game and resulted in the "stronger" team being played mainly, I was lucky enough to be in that team so I got a little extra game time most of the games. Going into the game we knew it was definitely going to be our hardest game and it could have gone either way. Luckily we got some nice goals which made us fight harder for the win and raise our intensity.
India Ralph: I have many highlights playing for Central in the National U18 hockey tournament. Definitely one of my biggest highlights would be making the final and going on to win for the third time in a row. Another huge highlight for me and the team would be the Central U18 boys securing a spot in the final, it was an awesome experience to have both central teams playing with the final.
From the Central U18 girls campaign I took away many valuable life lessons. My coaching team that consisted of Verity Sharland and Georgia Barnett taught me the true meaning of teamwork and worked hard to encourage our team to display these values on the field. Being given the opportunity to play for a team that puts their body on the line for each other is something I will always cherish and I have definitely continued to develop as a player as a result of this environment.
Within my team we had a lot of discussion around what is going to get us to the final, and we always came back to the theme of teamwork. As a team, before every game we would reflect largely on quotes that my coach Verity had selected. The quote “the strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team” was something that always stuck with me and really influenced my perspective around the game of hockey. My coaches and management team made it very clear that as a team if wanted to win for the third year in a row we needed to do it together. We had to have the desire to put everything out on the field for one another, it couldn’t be individual efforts that would gain us a spot in the final. I have been taught through this campaign to not dwell on my mistakes as it distracts me from what really matters. Throughout the 2 years that I have played for Central I have learnt the true essence of living in the moment.
CSM: Who were the other players from your school and from Taranaki in your winning tournament teams?
Jana: I was the only player from Sacred Heart Girls' College New Plymouth. However there were three other girls from Taranaki in the team that I also play football with: Eve and Tessa Barry and Amelia Simmers from New Plymouth Girls' High School.
India: Four Taranaki Girls were named in the Central U18 Girls team that won the National U18 hockey title. My school teammate who also attends New Plymouth Sacred Heart Girls College, Kaleigh Morris and Kate Atkinson and Natalia Roughton from New Plymouth Girls’ High School.
Three Taranaki Boys were named in the Central U18 Boys team that came second in the National U18 hockey tournament. Branden Russ and Daniel Foss from New Plymouth Boys’ High School, and past Francis Douglas Memorial College student, Liam McSweeney.
CSM: What positions do you play and have you always been that position?
Jana: In football I play as a centre back (CB) or a full back (FB) on either side. Occasionally I have been played as a winger, but I have played defence my whole life. Although it was only in the last couple of years that I began playing full back not just CB. In futsal I mainly play fixo but occasionally play flanker as well. In futsal the players are meant to be constantly rotating so positions change throughout the play.
India: I play several positions on the hockey field, but I prominently am a defender. I play screen for school and club league and wing half for Central. I have always played a defensive role from a young age, I think this was influenced by my sister [see below]. My sister is a forward, so I always had to play as a defender in the garden when we practiced.
CSM: Tell us about what football/hockey teams you play for, as well as for school?
Jana: I currently play for the football club Palmerston North Marist in the Wellington league. I hope to make the National Age Group Team for the National age group tournament (NAGT) and the central womens team again to play in the national women league (NWL). Highlights for me would be making tournament team at NAGT, making the NZ ID camps since I have been 14 in preparation for selection for the FIFA U17 World Cup, making the NZSS u17 team to go to Dallas April 2019 and being named a MVP and making the U16 NZ team that went to China. However due to me not being born in NZ [born in the USA] but only having had a NZ passport for less than a year I have had to apply for dispensation with FIFA and was therefore not allowed to play. I am still waiting for dispensation.
India: I have represented Taranaki in rep hockey for many years. Although I haven’t represented them in the past two years, I still have many highlights from playing rep hockey for Taranaki at a young age. I have played U11’s, U’13, U15’s for Taranaki hockey and always enjoyed the atmosphere of the tournaments. Playing for Taranaki has enabled me to build friendships with other players within my association that don’t attend my school. I have made so many close friends through the Taranaki hockey programmes and I have loved playing alongside such an amazing bunch of girls.
I play club hockey for Northern United. We recently beat Hawera in the final, securing us the fourth competition win in a row. I always look forward to playing club hockey because I get to play alongside some experienced players that have taught me a lot about the game. The competition within the club league is always strong and I enjoy playing against some experienced players.
CSM: Jana, tell us a bit more about your trip to Dallas last year?
Jana: The NZSS U17 team was an amazing experience. it was so cool being able to play against girls from different countries who play a different style of football. I learnt a lot throughout the tournament. Highlights of the trip would have been being named one of the MVPs and being scouted for potential scholarships. I have travelled to Australia for football with the NZSS u15 team in 2018.
CSM: Jana, what is coming up in representative football for you?
Jana: Rep football has recently started here in Taranaki. I am hoping to make the 03/04 feds team going to Wellington for NAGT at the end of the year. From that tournament I am hoping to make it into the NZ ID camps for the U17 World Cup in 2020. I am also hoping to make the central women’s team in the NWL. Qualifiers for the 2020 World Cup is in December so I am aiming to make that team as well. However my main goal is the 2020 U17 World Cup team.
CSM: India, Your older sister Hope Ralph is in the U21 Black Sticks and in the Black Sticks Development squad and your mum is your school coach, hockey runs in your family?
India: For as long as I can remember hockey has been a big part of my family. The amount of support from my parents growing up has been incredible, my mum has always coached me and my sister through school and club league and my dad can always be heard shouting from the sidelines. My sisters successes within hockey has definitely inspired me to continue to work hard. After making the New Zealand U21 Black Sticks and being named in the Black Sticks Development, I have never been so proud of my sister and her hard work. Although my sister hates it when I call her my idol, she is definitely someone that I aspire to be like. I have been very fortunate to grow up playing alongside my sister from school, club and regional hockey teams and she has continued to teach me a lot within that time. I have always admired my sister's passion for the game and I praise her for not giving up on her dreams. My sister’s strong work ethic is definitely something that inspires me every day, and I am always in awe to how she can juggle university on top of training at such a high level. My sister has always supported/encouraged me through hockey and has really opened up my eyes up to if you have the desire to achieve something and keep working hard, you will not go unrewarded. Although I complain when she forces me to go to the turf with her and makes me pace her on a bike when she goes running, I really wouldn’t trade it for anything. It makes me so happy to see that my sister is being rewarded for following her passion and I hope one day I can play alongside her.
CSM: Tell us about your school football/hockey and preparations for the NZSS tournaments in Winter Tournament Week?
Jana: Our school team plays against the New Plymouth Girls' high first XI who we recently beat. In preparation for nationals at the beginning of September we also play in exchanges with other schools such as Hillcrest and Palmerston North Girls’ High first XI.
We have been training for the tournament the whole year. Last year we came 17th, the year prior we came 27th I think and in 2016 we came 15th.
India: We have recently come off a 3-0 loss in the final of the school premier league game to New Plymouth Girls’ High School, who bring a high level of competition to the school's league and similar to my school team they display a strong desire to not give up and will continue to drive until the final whistle. Personally, I believe this makes playing against them not come easy to any team. As the Sacred Heart First XI Captain it is always an amazing opportunity to play against such a well put together side and although Girls’ High are considered our “rivals” their sportsmanship on and off the field and team spirit is valued by many teams. I have had the privilege to play alongside some of the Girls’ High players in rep team and regional tournaments and I can say that you can always count on them to bring some banter to practice.
It is definitely a goal for our team to re-earn promotion into Federation Cup. Last year, after we got relegated to play in the Jenny Hair tournament in 2019 we have been working on rebuilding as a team since. This year, we have had a lot of build-up games leading up to tournament, which has gained us more confidence in our ability as a team. I look forward to seeing how we go at tournament and if we have success within it.
CSM: After the school nationals, what is coming up before the end of the year?
Jana: After nationals school football is over. However that is the start of the reps/feds season with game days in Whanganui, Palmerston North and Napier. The NWL season begins afterwards as well. There is normally only a 3 week break after NAGT which is in December before trainings start again.
India: At the end of the hockey season, I start strength and conditioning training. Although the season will be over my desire to keep achieving makes me work hard on the off season and you can always see me hitting at the turf when I have the time. I have always preferred to continue to train hard in the off season because I believe it makes it easier to keep my skills consistent and helps me stay focused. I usually play summer league hockey with my friends for fun but otherwise I will just keep up my running to maintain my fitness and go to the turf in my own time to work on perfecting my skills.
CSM: Last, What are you doing in school and what are your favourite and least favourite subjects?
Jana: I am doing NCEA level 2. My favourite subject would probably be physics or chemistry. While my least favourite subject would be English.
India: I am Level 2 at. Although I enjoy all the subjects I take this year, I do specifically enjoy learning Chemistry and Physics. I wouldn’t say that I have a least favourite subject.
CSM: Thank you both for your time and good luck for Winter Tournament Week and for the future!
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