A year can be a long time in secondary school sport.
Just ask the New Plymouth Girls’ High School Senior A netball team, who recently put aside the heartbreak of missing out on qualifying for the NZSS national tournament by one place and one goal in 2017 by finishing second at this year's Lower North Island Netball Secondary Schools (LNISS) tournament during Winter Tournament Week.
With the top five finishing teams qualifying for the 16-school NZSS tournament every October from the LNISS zone, NPGHS lost 28-29 to Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt in the 5 v 6 match at last year’s LNISS tournament played on home courts in New Plymouth.
That loss was the end of the line in 2017 for NPGHS, while Sacred Heart went on to finish a respectable 10th at nationals.
NPGHS captain Boston Falaniko said last year’s close finish was especially strong motivation for the senior players to do well in 2018.
“There are four year 13s in our team and because it was our last year we really wanted to make nationals and that was one of our top goals all year,” said Boston. “We just stayed committed to that goal and worked hard and it paid off for us.”
At the recent LNISS tournament played at Vautier Park, NPGHS won their first eight matches straight to book a place in the final on Friday against Manukura.
“We made a bit of a slow start actually, just getting our connections right and it felt like we hadn’t been playing for ages. But once it got to Wednesday and Thursday we started to connect well and our team bonding with each other was really good and we started playing some good netball and that is what got us to the final.”
NPGHS missed out 20-22 to Manukura in that decider. How did the final pan out? “The first three quarters we were down but for the last quarter we put in the hard work and came back, outscoring them 7-1.”
Manukura leapt to a 10-4 lead after the first quarter and hung on against the fast-finishing NPGHS to win the LNISS title for the third consecutive year and they finished third at last year’s NZSS tournament.
Centre and wing defender Boston Falaniko, wing defender and goal defender Brooke Neilson and defenders Isla Vink and Parris Mason were all named in the tournament team after the final.
For NPGHS, qualifying for the NZSS tournament is a feat the school last achieved in 2013 when currently injured Silver Fern defender Kelly Jury was in the team, a year before the current year 13s started secondary school.
The NZSS tournament has been running 1993. NPGHS finished seventh in 1999, sixth in 2001, fifth in 2002, third in 2003, sixth in 2004, seventh in 2006, seventh in 2007, sixth in 2008 and 12th in 2013.
Last year Howick College won their first title, breaking the stranglehold from recent seasons by their Auckland rivals Saint Kentigern College and Mount Albert Grammar School.
This year’s NZSS tournament is in Timaru from 9-12 October.
NPGHS has also had a positive year playing in the local competition. “We were in the Premier 2 club competition, playing against clubs around New Plymouth, and we won the final. This means that next year the team will go up to Premier 1.”
Some players were also in the Taranaki U17 team that finished eighth of 42 teams at the Central Zone representative tournament at Vautier Park in July. “We won all our games to qualify for the top 4. We had to win against Palmerston North to stay in the top 4 but we lost which was unfortunate - but finishing eighth was still the best we had finished in a long time.”
Boston and Parris both made the tournament team from the U17 tournament.
Boston also plays touch and indoor netball, Parris also plays Touch and basketball , Brooke plays rugby sevens .
Last year Boston went to South Africa with the New Zealand indoor netball team.
Boston said that next year she is moving to study in Wellington next year, and will look to continue her netball career there.
New Plymouth Girls' High School LNISS results:
Beat Tawa College Won 44-10
Beat Horowhenua College 63-6
Beat Whanganui High School 36-27
Beat Inglewood High 29-11
Beat Wellington Girls 30-18
Beat Hastings Girls High School 37-19
Beat Palmerston North Girls High 27-19
Beat Wellington East Girls 37-23 (semi-final)
Lost to Manukura 20-22 (final)
LNISS tournament – five teams qualified for the NZSS tournament:
2. New Plymouth Girls’ High School
3. Napier Girls’ High School
4. Wellington East Girls’ College
5. Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt
At the end of last year, Vika Koloto found a new home on the netball court.
“I only recently switched from goal shoot to goal attack, “she says. “Late last year the main goal attack in our school team got injured and I had to step up into that position.”
“It’s really fun, I love it. I found I like the extra movement and space and feeding goal shoots. I found I got a lot more fitter and everything was perfect for me when I switched positions.”
Last month the Baradene College year 12 player was selected in the NZSS netball team that plays in Canberra from 1-5 October against the Australian U17 squad and an England U17 side.
This will be the first time she has represented a New Zealand team and it is believed that she is Baradene College’s first NZSS netball representative.
Selection was a surprise for Vika. “It was quite a big shock. There was a development camp in the school holidays and they picked the squad from that, and I was quite surprised to get in,” she explained.
The initial squad went their separate ways until the U19 and U17 tournaments. “A few days after the U17 tournament the team was named and my name was there.”
Vika’s Auckland team finished runner-up to Wellington at the U17 tournament in July. The final was hard-fought and intense throughout, before Wellington pulled away to win 41-29. This was the fourth straight year these two teams had met in the national U17 decider.
From the Auckland U17 team, Vika and Killarney Morey from Epsom Girls’ Grammar School were selected in the NZSS squad. Vika is also eligible to play the U17s tournament again next year.
Last week Morey’s EGGS team won the Auckland secondary schools competition, beating Saint Kentigern College 39-37 in an extra time final.
Baradene finished eighth of 12 teams, but Vika said there were plenty of positives. “Last year we were 11th so we have come up three places. We have got a very young team. Out of 12 players in our team we only have two that are leaving us and we have got four year 10s and a couple of year 11s.”
Vika is Baradene’s vice-captain this year and she has been in the team since year 10.
Baradene won four games and lost seven in the round-robin series but some of those losses were close. “At one of the early season tournaments we only lost to Epsom by three, which we were quite excited by, and even with St Kent’s we were with them the whole game but lost to them in the last quarter.”
Baradene scored 355 points and conceded 363, and in competition play their losses to EGGS and St Kent’s were 28-34 and 30-37 respectively. “There were some good games but we always end up losing in the last quarter.”
Next up for Vika’s school team is the Upper North Island Secondary School (UNISS) tournament in Mt Maunganui that runs all next week.
Baradene will need to finish inside the top six to qualify for the 16-team NZSS tournament, which is being played in Timaru this year from 9-12 October.
Last year Baradene came 10th at UNISS, but the year before they finished sixth and played in the NZSS tournament in Lower Hutt. They finished down the table, but as recently as 2012 they were third and in 2013 they were fourth. The NZSS netball tournament can lay claim to being one of the most competitive tournaments on the sporting calendar.
Netball is Vika’s main sport, but she also plays volleyball and has played that for Baradene for the past four years.
Vika is part of her school’s sports programme called BEST, which stands for Baradene Elite Specialist Training.
She is also one of several up and coming netballers in the NZEPP programme, for aspiring netballers developing into Beko players in the Northern Zone.
“We did heaps of training with them and Fast5, and I was lucky to train with the Northern Comets Beko team during pre-season.”
Vika has been playing netball since she was nine, starting out as a defender but soon moving to goal shoot and latterly goal attack. Her goal is to play Beko netball, but with another full year of school to come her focus next year will be on leading the growing Baradene Senior A side and continuing to develop her own game.
Georgie Edgecombe has won two national sporting titles for her school and representative sides in basketball and touch and has played alongside some of the country’s top up and coming female players in both those sports.
But putting her sole focus into netball has paid dividends for Georgie with her recent selection in the 14-strong New Zealand Secondary Schools team.
Georgie, a goal defender or goal keeper and occasional wing defender, joins the NZSS team at the end of September before travelling to Canberra from 1-5 October to play the Australian U17 squad and an England U17 side.
The St Peter’s School, Cambridge player been selected as one of two netballers from Waikato Bay of Plenty in the NZSS team, alongside Khiarna Williams who goes to Trident High School and played in the region’s Beko side this season.
Georgie is back playing after recently being sidelined by a short, sharp injury.
“I played for Hamilton City at the National U17 tournament in the school holidays - but I got injured in the first game,” she says. “I dislocated my patella in the last 30 seconds of the opening game.”
Her team won that match over Hawke’s Bay Black 32-22. They went on to finish 10th of 42 teams without Georgie on the court, although she was able to contribute in other ways. “I was a bit of a defence coach for the rest of the week!”
The New Zealand team was named after the U17 tournament had concluded and the good news is that Georgie was back playing last week. “I am on the recovery now and it is nearly all better and I had my first three quarters back on court last Thursday.”
St Peter’s School Head Girl Georgie is also the leader of her school Senior A netball team. “I have been in the team for three years and I have been the captain for those three years as well.” This year she is captaining a young side. “Our team is made up of mostly year 10s, but they have lots of potential.”
St Peter’s play in two competitions. On Monday nights they play in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty school competiton and on Thursday nights they play Waikato club netball in the Premier grade. “This is against players such as Laura Langman and WBOP Beko and Magic players, so it is a good learning opportunity for us and our young players are gaining plenty of experience.”
The big tournament coming up is the Upper North Island Secondary Schools (UNISS) tournament in Mt Maunganui this time next month in Winter Tournament Week.
St Peter’s heads into this year’s UNISS seeded 19th and needs to finish inside the top six to earn a spot at the coveted NZSS tournament later in October.
Georgie started playing netball when she was about eight or nine. “I started in primary school with my friends and had a lot of fun. I realised once I got into intermediate and into secondary school I really enjoyed it and grew passionate about it and wanted to take it further.”
Her upcoming trip with the New Zealand Secondary Schools team will be her third netball tour of Australia. “I have been on two school netball tours there before. Last year we went to Sydney and we spent about four days playing school, club and rep teams, and in 2015 we did the same.”
With a background in other sports, netball is Georgie’s sole focus now.
“I have played basketball for St Peter’s. I am not this season, but I did in 2015 and 2016.” St Peter’s were national NZSS champions both those years. Teammates Charlisse Ledger-Walker and Ella Bradley are current NZ U17 basketballers.
“My other main sport has been touch in the summer. I played in the 2017 U18 Waikato team.” This team were national champions and members of that side are in the NZ U18 side for the Youth World Cup and others are in the NZ U18 girls sevens rugby side going to the Youth Olympics in October.
Being Head Girl of St Peter’s and a newly minted NZSS netballer means there isn’t a lot of downtime for Georgie. “I have got a pretty full schedule.” Academically, she is doing five NCEA level 3 subjects, geography, economics, maths and English.
She was asked to trial for the WBOP netball team at the start of this year but she decided not to given her already packed schedule. For now she is just concentrating on an exciting few months coming up with school and representative netball and finishing her time at St Peter’s on a high.
A 14-strong New Zealand Secondary Schools netball team has been name today and will travel to Canberra from 1-5 October to play the Australian U17 squad and an England U17 side in an internatonal age-grade series.
The 2018 New Zealand Secondary Schools Team is:
Addi Albert Jones – Mt Albert Grammar (Northern)
Bianca Nagaiya – Epsom Girls Grammar School (Northern) Read more
Charity Polu – Sacred Heart College Lower Hutt (Central) Read more
Georgia Stroud – Villa Maria College (Mainland) Read more
Georgie Edgecombe - St Peter’s School Cambridge (Waikato Bay of Plenty)
Greer Sinclair – Epsom Girls Grammar School (Northern) Read more
Khiarna Williams – Trident High School (Waikato Bay of Plenty) Read more
Killarney Morey – Epsom Girls Grammar School (Northern)
Nanise Waqairo – Howick College (Northern) Read more
Olivia Burnham – Villa Maria College (Mainland) Read more
Paris Lokotui – Queen Margaret College (Central) Read more
Saviour Tui – St Mary’s College (Central) Read more
Tayla Earle – Saint Kentigern College (Northern) Read more
Vika Koloto – Baradene College (Northern) Read more
The NZSS team includes a number of Beko Netball League players who have stood out in the national league including Paris Lokotui and Saviour Tui who are in the Central side, as well as Waikato-BOP shooter Khiarna Williams
New Zealand Secondary Schools coach Mary-Jane Araroa said the squad had impressed during performances at the National Development Camp in January as well as the National Age Group Championships in July.
“This is such an important age-group for the development of Netball in New Zealand and it’s exciting to help these players realise their potential,” she said.
“The athletes named in the New Zealand Secondary Schools team have stood out at a number of events and we’re looking forward to working with them to help them take that next step.
“It is always a challenge to play Australian teams but we’re looking forward to that challenge with this exciting group of athletes.”
Head coach Araroa and assistant Charissa Barham will name their Captain and Vice-Captain at a later date.
“It was a hard game on court right to the end, but the winning margin and score didn’t match how we felt out there,” said Wellington U17 netball captain Charity Polu after he side had beaten Auckland to win Wellington’s third straight National U17 title.
The Wellington Black side successfully defended their title with a 41-29 win over Auckland 1 in the final, after edging Howick Pakuranga 28-27 in the semi-final earlier in the day.
Polu, who is year 13 at Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt, said both knockout games on the final day of the tournament were tough encounters.
“We were pretty confident going into the semi-final against Howick Pakuranga and we were up by a few goals throughout the match," said Charity who played wing defence all week. “We knew they had good, experienced players [Howick College and Saint Kentigern College were last year’s NZSS tournament finalists] so our plan was to play smart and stay composed. In the last quarter we held on to win.”
This game plan also paid dividends in the final. Auckland took the early initiative and led 11-8 after fast-paced, physical first quarter. But Wellington soaked up the early pressure, took the lead and pulled clear for victory. Star St Mary’s College shooter Saviour Tui was rarely rattled as she netted most of her shots before being subbed late in the match.
Earlier in the tournament, Wellington had wins over Dunedin (28-24), Selwyn (39-19), Waitakere 2 (40-20), Rotorua (56-16), Auckland 2 (40-26) and North Harbour 1 (44-22).
“We started the week slow, it was like we were just getting back into it, getting our connections right, and we only won our first game by 4 against Dunedin. Throughout the week we improved steadily.
“This tournament in general was a lot of hard work, we had to fight for everything, and so winning it was special for us. Last year we already had the teamwork there, but this year’s team improved the more we played and our dedication paid off.”
The team’s preparation had involved a series of live practice matches with the Wellington Gold side, who finished 25th of 42 teams.
Charity was co-captain of the winning Black side with Wellington East Girls’ College wing attack Sharnay Leef.
The Wellington team was represented by players from several schools, with St Mary’s and Samuel Marsden each contributing three players.
There were five players returning from last year’s winning team, Charity Polu, Lynette Sosefo, Paris Lokotui, Saviour Tui and Lauren Smith. Charity and Lynette were the two year 13s in this year’s team.
Charity, Saviour, Paris and Maddie Feaunati all made the tournament team from the Wellington Black side.
Charity also praised coaches, head coach Dion Te Whetu and assistant coach Irene van Dyk, their game sense team training clearly paying off as well.
“Irene helped the attacking end a lot, and because she had been in our position she always had the right words to say to us and she knew how far to push us.”
Howick Pakuranga beat Manawatu 49-25 in the playoff for third and fourth. Auckland 2 rounded out the top five with a 42-32 win over Waitakere 1.
Back home, Charity plays Senior A club netball for PIC.
The Regional secondary school competition resumes this week with third round matches on Monday night, combining the Wellington and Hutt Valley schools. Sacred Heart won the pre-season College Sport Wellington tournament and are top qualifiers for the upcoming Hutt Valley schools final.
Following that is the Lower North Island tournament, back in Palmerston North over Winter Tournament Week, with the top five schools to qualifying for the National Secondary Schools tournament in Timaru.
“Last year we came tenth at Nationals, which was pretty good for our team as it was the first time there for a few years.”
Charity is the second oldest of four siblings. Older brother Albert was in the winning St Pat’s Silverstream rugby First XV last year and now plays Premier club rugby for nearby Hutt Old Boys Marist and the next oldest Eileen is in year 10 and also plays netball for Sacred Heart College.
The Wellington Black netball team that defended their National U17 title last week was:
Coach: Dion Te Whetu
Assistant Coach: Irene van Dyk Manager: Melissa Salvador
Saviour Tui has a permanent grin throughout our 15 minute chat at St Mary’s College this week.
Little changes when she is on the court.
"She’s quite innocent on court and does everything with a smile. There’s always a smile on her face, no matter how intense the game is, she just pulls out the smile," says Netball Central Performance Manager and Beko Head Coach Pelesa Semu.
At 1.89m and year 12 at St Mary’s College, Saviour joined the Central Beko team for the first time this season and has become a regular starter in the shooting circle. Playing goal attack for the Central side, Saviour has played all five of Central’s matches so far and is shooting at over 88 percent, which includes netting 30 from 31 against the Marvels in round four.
Semu says little fazes Saviour. “She just shows great confidence on court and that’s probably reflective of the way she’s shooting.”
“She’s doing everything a coach wants in a shooter, just quite confident, looking to the post, really accurate and her shooting volume is pretty consistent. She’s in-form and playing pretty well at the moment.’’
She is one of a group of promising school-aged players in the Central Beko and Pulse squads, including her schoolmates, defender Renee Savai’inaea and midcourt Ainsleyana Puleiata (currently injured), and Wellington East Girls’ College shooter Tiana Metuarau and Paris Lokotui (Queen Margaret College) – who she shares the same birthday with.
Behind Saviour’s friendly persona is a steely work ethic and a desire to succeed.
“We started training in the mornings from 6am-7am, so I get up at 4.55am and catch the bus in to town for that, she says. “You get used to it and I enjoy it. I was really happy making the Beko team, the strength and conditioning programme has helped me a lot,” she adds.
Saviour was brought up in and lives in Wainuiomata, and morning and afternoon trainings are at the ASB centre in Kilbirnie.
“Saviour is one of those young players you just love to coach because she’s committed to the programme, wants to do well, always learning, always asking and nothing gets too big for her. She just takes it on the chin and keeps going,” adds Semu.
Her parents are right behind her. It was Saviour’s mother that introduced her to netball. “I think I started playing when I was about eight,” she beams. “My mum got me into playing and she has continued supporting me through all my games."
This carried through to representative teams she started making at a young age, and most recently to the Wellington U17 team she was part of last year that won the national title.
“Being part of that Wellington U17 team last year was one of my favourite moments - not just winning but we had a strong bond and got on really well.”
The Wellington team successfully defended the Anna Rowberry Cup, beating Auckland 34-25 in the final. Saviour, Paris, Ana and Renee all made the U17 tournament team.
She points to her netball friends as helping her succeed as well. “I admire my teammates, my coaches and everyone who supports me in my netball as well.”
Saviour is the only one of her siblings playing competitive sport. “I have a younger sister at St Mary’s College who doesn’t play sport and my older brother at St Bernard’s College is smart and doesn’t really either.”
She has always been an attacker. “I enjoy goal shoot and goal attack equally, and play goal shoot for school and goal attack for Beko.”
This is her third year in the St Mary’s College team, who hope to qualify for the National Secondary School Championships again. St Mary’s finished sixth in 2016 in Lower Hutt and seventh last year in Rotorua. Saviour made the tournament team both years.
She is a current member of the NZSS wider squad, from which he final squad will be selected to play matches against the Australian U17s in Canberra in September.
St Mary’s College are currently national rugby and basketball champions. Saviour says that the success of all the sporting students helps motivate others to do better and reach for the top.
Beko Netball Round 6:
Central versus Waikato Bay of Plenty
TSB Arena, Wellingon
Sunday 17 June, 2.10pm.
Three Villa Maria College representative netballers are also going places fast off the court.
All three are key members of the school’s Senior A netball side and are in the Netball Mainland Baby Beko squad, while also each excelling in other sports.
Georgia Stroud is year 13 and plays in the midcourt and is a middle distance runner and national U19 surf life saving champion. Hannah Glen is year 13 and a goal shoot and goal attack and a recent Maadi Cup rowing medallist. Olivia Burnham is year 12 and a defender and a track runner and Pathway to Podium athlete.
Georgia says that school netball has been underway since the start of this term. “We have been playing since the start of the term and this Saturday we have a promotion-relegation match to move up to the Premier 2 grade, which would be good as it’s really competitive this year.”
The Premier 2 club netball grade in the Christchurch Netball Centre competitions is the grade that the top secondary school teams play in. The leading Canterbury schools also play in the secondary school SuperNet competition on Wednesdays, which runs until late August and features a first round-robin followed by a top four-bottom four series.
Last year Villa Maria finished fourth in the School Sport Canterbury SuperNet competition, losing to Ashburton College 42-30 in the third placed playoff.
Making the NZSS nationals this year is a definite goal for Villa Maria, who have got a strong record at the national tournament but not in recent years, having won in 2008 and finished in the top four on three occasions prior to that.
Last year, rivals Christchurch Girls’ High School and St Andrew’s College were the two Christchurch schools represented at nationals, and to qualify this year Villa Maria must finish in the top five at the SISS Championships in Winter Tournament Week.
Representative netball tournaments are also in July. “Hannah and I just got named in the Canterbury U19s and Olivia has been selected in the U17s,” says Georgia who will be pushing for selection in the final New Zealand secondary school team that plays matches against the Australian U17s in Canberra in September. Georgia was the only Canterbury player selected in this year’s 23-strong initial NZSS squad following the camp in Cambridge that all three players were invited to.
The Netball Mainland Baby Beko squad that all three are in is unique amongst the six franchises in that it is the highest elite franchise squad for Mainland secondary school netballers. Unlike the other five franchises, school players are not eligible for selection in the Beko of Tactix squads.
As well as netball, Georgia is busy with two other sports. “Over the summer I do athletics and surf-lifesaving,” she enthuses.
In February at the National Surf Life Saving Championships in Gisborne, she won gold in the U19km beach run and backed that up with silver in the open women’s 2km beach run.
On the track, she’s a middle distance runner, racing the 400m, 800m and 1500m distances.
Georgia won the Senior Girls 800m at the SISS Athletics championships in Timaru in March, in a time that would have seen her medal at the NZSS Championships in December.
Also at the SISS meet in March, Villa Maria’s 4 x 400m team of Georgia, Olivia, Julia Burnham (Olivia’s sister and year 10) and Kate Davies (year 11) not only won the SISS title but they also set a new SISS record time of 3.58.16.
The NZSS Senior Girls 4 x 400m record is 3.58.41, set by Howick College in 2009, so the Villa Maria team is looking forward to competing at this year’s national championships in Dunedin. Last year they won silver at nationals, after winning this same event in 2016.
Georgia gets her sporting talent from her family. Her mother Helen is a former Black Ferns rugby player and Canterbury netball representative and the Villa Maria’s Senior A netball coach, while her father Alan is a former All Whites goal-keeper.
As well as being in the Baby Beko netball squad, Olivia is in her second year in the Pathway to Podium programme for athletics.
A 400m runner and hurdler, Olivia says the March’s SISS 4 x 400m win and record was good personal reward following a difficult past few months.
“I spent the summer coming back from a netball injury I got at the U17 nationals last year. I went over on my ankle and I was out for about six weeks. That also put my training back and it was really hard for me.”
Olivia is focusing on netball, while also training for athletics over the winter.
“It is quite hard switching between athletics and netball, they are two completely different sports so that is a challenge,” explains Olivia.
“It is just a matter of being able to keep the consistency with my training and balancing out netball and athletics.”
Hannah is kept busy rowing in the summer and playing netball in the winter.
“I got bronze in the U18 quad at Maadi Cup. The other crew members were Kathryn Glen, Charlotte Freeman, Madeleine Davidson and our cox Emily Beattie.
“Kathryn is my cousin who got named in the NZ Junior rowing team rowing team and won bronze in the U18 single sculls.”
Previously, the crew had won the U18 quad at the SISS rowing championships. “This put us in a good position going forward to the Maadi Cup, we all knew we had a chance to do well. We qualified sixth for the final and pulled forward and finished third.”
This is only Hannah’s second year of rowing, after winning bronze in 2017 in the U17 double with Kathryn at her first Maadi Cup.
Like Olivia with her athletics, Hannah says that the adjustment from elite rowing and netball is a challenge. “The crossover from the two sports is quite difficult, getting the footwork back as opposed to sitting down on a boat, and also because the two seasons clash as one finishes and another starts.”
Khiarna Williams is a welcome addition to the Waikato Bay of Plenty Beko development league netball squad this season.
On Sunday, the year 11 Trident High School goalshoot played the second half of WBOP’s competition opening game over Netball South, shooting 16 from 23 in the 47-39 win.
Waikato Bay of Plenty Performance Manager Ruth Aitken says that Khiarna is making a positive contribution to the WBOP Beko squad and brings maturity to her game that is well beyond her years.
“Khiarna is a tall, strong shooter with courage to go the post when she receives the ball and is composed under pressure and seems to really love the competitiveness of elite netball,” says former Silver Ferns coach Aitken.
“The key to her readiness for netball at this level is her coachability and her determination to learn and improve She has a really supportive family support network and also Trident High School and Whakatane Netball Centre have been really supportive of this opportunity for Khiarna.”
We recently caught up with Khiarna. Some questions and answers are below.
How are you enjoying being in the Beko squad and do you feel you are improving your game?
Yes I’m really enjoying it all. I definitely think that I’m improving my game – the structures that we are learning in training are really helpful. The calibre of netball is a huge step up for me from school. Personally, I think I am improving, just because I’m always learning new things.
How have the older players taken you under their wing?
All the WBOP players are really helpful and nurturing – especially some of the more experienced players and they are really good communicators and give really good feedback. But they also ask me for feedback – which gives me the confidence to say things to them as well.
Tell us about the process of you being picked in this squad and your selection reactions?
We had two selections for the Beko WBOP squad. Last October was the trial to make the wider training squad and then in February was the final trial to name the squad to play in the Beko competition. Both my selections were a really big surprise. I didn’t think I would have made them as there were lots of really talented players. But the second trial that was what stunned me the most. I just didn’t think it would be for me this year, being so much younger. It was a big surprise.
You were also selected in the NZSS squad earlier this year?
In January this year we had the Netball NZ’s National Development Camp which was held in Cambridge, and the NZSS squad was named after that camp. It was a really cool experience getting to know lots of different girls from the big schools like MAGS and St Kent’s. I learned a lot from the coaches as well. The squad is all busy training and playing in their home regions and we keep connected with a team app where we have activities to complete. After the NNZ U17 and U19 national tournaments in July, the final team will be named to travel to Canberra to play the Aussies.
You live and go to school in Whakatane - so is there quite a bit of travelling for you?
I am really lucky as I live near the Beko Coach, MJ. So most Tuesdays and Thursdays she picks me up after school and we travel to Cambridge for training. MJ drives and I just sleep!
You are a shooter - have you always been a shooter or have you played other positions?
I first started playing netball when I was five – and I played centre till I was about eight. Then I was moved to defence because of my height and I stayed in defence during the rest of primary school. In year 8 my rep coach (who was also my nan!) put me to shooter. It was a big surprise but it seemed to be quite natural for me and she taught me the basics of shooting. When I went to back to school I started playing both ends – defence or shooter, whatever the team needed. Then at Trident High School, my coach Te Ahuru Waititi kept me at shooter and that was when I really started to get confident. She has had a huge impact in developing my game.
Do you have a favourite netball memory thus far?
My favourite memory would have to be last year our Eastern BoP U15 team won B Grade at the North Island tournament. The year before we had an injury to our main GA and that brought down our confidence. We lost our semi and didn’t make the finals. But the next year, we all stepped up and we did the job, which felt great.
Apart being with the WBOP Beko squad, what other netball are you playing this season?
My school team plays on a Saturday in Whakatane and on Friday night at Harbourside. I am also in the Eastern BOP U17 rep team who will compete in Palmerston North in the July holidays. However currently the WBOP Beko programme is my first priority and when possible I am able to play for my other teams. The main tournament for school netball is the Upper North Islands (UNISS), after the Beko competition is finished.
Tell us about other sports you play and what successes have you had?
Yes I also play volleyball. Trident High School is very strong at both volleyball and netball. Last year when I was in Year 10 we won Junior North Islands and also the Senior Nationals. This year Trident also qualified for volleyball nationals again. These were held in March, so I was given leave from the Beko programme to play. Now the volleyball season is over and I am concentrating on netball, but I am looking forward to playing volleyball again in the summer.
Downtime is a precious commodity for Columba College’s Meg Sycamore who is currently juggling her two sports Touch and netball to a high level - and there’s a lot to look forward to with both over the next few months.
The year 12 student is fully committed to putting her best foot forward in both, being in the New Zealand U18 Touch squad preparing for the Youth World Cup in Malaysia in early August and being the youngest squad member of the Netball South Beko netball team that starts their national development competition campaign this coming weekend.
Selection came recently for both the Netball South Beko squad and the New Zealand U18 Touch teams.
In February, Meg was a key member of the Otago U18 team that won the national junior touch championships in Auckland. This was Otago’s maiden junior national touch title of any sort since the competition started in 2011. They won in a splash – their final against Waikato unable to be played because of heavy rain meaning they were awarded the title after beating them 7-4 in round-robin play.
Following that, Touch New Zealand selected 60 girls and 60 boys to attend a camp in the recent school holidays and former New Zealand U16 girls and U15 mixed player Meg made the team. Columba College teammate and fellow co-captain McKayler Moore will also be on the plane to Malaysia with Meg.
Columba College coach Dayna Turnbull is also the New Zealand Senior Women’s Touch captain so she will be keeping the pair and other Dunedin players busy with regular skills sessions over the winter.
The Netball South Beko squad selection came more of a surprise for Meg who plays either centre of wing attack.
“At the end of last year they named a Beko training squad, but I wasn’t part of this at all. Then I was picked to go the national schools development camp in Cambridge at the end of January and then I returned and was invited to trial for Netball South and was picked from there.”
She says her netball game has already come on in leaps and bounds just being part of the squad.
“I am shorter than everyone else so I have to work hard, but I feel I am getting so much better and that I have already learnt so much training with this squad because it’s so different to school netball, with the extra physicality and the skill level.”
Meg is one of three schoolgirls in Netball South’s Beko squad, along with Tanisha Fifita (Waitaki Girls’ High School) and Tyra Dunn (Verdon College).
This coming weekend Netball South plays its opening Beko match in Te Aroha against Waikato Bay of Plenty and then meets the Northern Marvels in Auckland in round two. Meg says she is not part of the opening match, but says she is sure to have a big crowd of friends and family supporting her when she plays at home or in Invercargill for the first time.
Meg says there are many similarities between training for netball and Touch at the same time. “The netball and Touch fitness components complement each other, so I’m not having to do too much extra fitness. But skill-wise it’s really different with the different balls so I like to keep my Touch skills up when not training for netball.”
In school competitions, Meg says Columba College’s Senior A netball team exceeded expectations last year, but they weren’t entirely satisfied with their finish at the NZSS Touch nationals in December.
“Last year we finished fifth at the school nationals and were a bit disappointed after coming second the year before [to Hamilton Girls’ High School]. This year we are hoping to do much better!
“We qualified fourth from the South Island [five spots available] for the NZSS netball nationals in December but we weren’t expecting this.”
In fact Columba College had to relinquish their spot at the NZSS netball tournament and sixth placed Ashburton College took their place.
One of the coaches had already booked a holiday at the same time, while Meg and three other players were already booked to travel with the school’s Touch team to a big tournament in Australia immediately prior to nationals.
Columba were subsequently knocked out of that All-Queensland Touch tournament by North Island rivals Hamilton Girls’ High School.
Meg says that Dunedin’s St Hilda’s Collegiate are big rivals on the Touch field and netball court. “Last year St Hilda’s were very strong in netball.” Both teams play Dunedin club netball on Saturdays and last year St Hilda’s played in a higher grade and convincingly won all their matches when they did meet on their way to winning the South Island title for the second consecutive year. In Touch, Columba was South Island champions in March, beating St Hilda’s 7-1 in the final.
Like last year several Columba players play in both teams, these being: Meg Sycamore, McKayler Moore, Maia Joseph, Abbey Anderson, Kate Turnbull, Madi Williams and Jess Cowie.
Last year was Meg’s first year in the Senior A netball team, while she has been in the touch side since year nine.
Meg says the support of her coaches has been immense in getting her to this level and hopefully higher in the future, not least Touch coach Dayna Turnbull who is also the head of sport at Columba College.
“Dayna has put so much time and effort into me as a person and a player and all the other girls that play Touch. She is such a good role model. She trains and works so hard and is always offering to help us.”
That’s not all Meg plays. She plays sevens rugby and basketball for her school when time allows and has a background in gymnastics, cross country running and swimming, where she won plenty of Otago regional age group medals and also collected an age group bronze at a national level in the 200m IM.
Netball New Zealand has selected a 23-strong squad for 2018, following the National Development Camp in Cambridge last week.
The squad, which includes two ANZ Premiership players is:
Player name- 2017 School - 2017 Zone
*Armani Lam – Mt Albert Grammar School – Northern Zone
Bianca Nagaiya – Epsom Girls Grammar School – Northern Zone
Bridie Burns – Sacred Heart College – Central Zone
Brooke Neilson – New Plymouth Girls High School – Central Zone
Ella Williams – St Cuthbert’s College - Northern Zone
*Georgia Stroud – Villa Maria College – Mainland Zone
Georgie Edgecombe – St Peter’s School – Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone
Greer Sinclair – Epsom Girls Grammar School- Northern Zone
Jess Gemmell – St Cuthbert’s College – Northern Zone
Khiarna Williams – Trident High School – Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone
Killarney Morey – Epsom Girls Grammar School – Northern Zone
*Leehava Saverio – Howick College – Northern Zone
*Nanise Waqairo – Howick College – Northern Zone
Paris Lokotui – Queen Margaret College – Central Zone
*Ruby Young – Mt Albert Grammar School – Northern Zone
Saviour Tui – St Mary’s College - Central Zone
*Taneisha Fafita – Waitaki Girls High School – South Zone
Tayla Earle – St Kentigern College – Northern Zone
*Teuila Sotutu – Howick College – Northern Zone
Tiuana-Marie Aiono - Queen Margaret College – Central Zone
Vika Koloto – Baradene College – Northern Zone
Franchise Players Eligible
Tiana Metuarau – Wellington East Girls High Schools- Central Zone
Renee Savai’inaea- St Mary’s College- Central Zone
NZU21 World Champion Tiana Metuarau and defender Renee Savai’inaea, who will make her ANZ Premiership debut this season, are still eligible for the squad and have been named in the group.
NZSS coach Mary-Jane Araroa said a final team would be named after the NZ Age Group Championships in July in the build-up to matches against the Australian Under-17 squad in Canberra in September.
“We are excited with what we have seen at the National Development Camp and opted to name a squad at this time to enable us to monitor and track these athletes over the next six months” she said.
Araroa said the National Camp provided the panel the opportunity to assess athletes from all over the country.
“Players were selected from all the national age group competitions, regional Secondary School tournaments and last year’s NZ Secondary Schools tournament which gave us the chance to observe a large number of athletes in one place.”
Not all players were able to attend the camp so the selectors reserve the right to consider athletes from outside this squad in the final selection process.
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