A passionate home crowd has spurred Waitakere 1 on to its first Netball NZ U17 Champs title in almost 10 years.
Waitakere 1 beat Manawatu Green 46-34 at Netball Waitakere headquarters in Auckland on Thursday.
They last stood on top of the U17 podium in 2010 (as Auckland Waitakere) but went through the 2019 tournament unbeaten to claim the Anna Rowberry Cup.
Coach Tabitha Winter said it was a great feeling to win the national title and she was delighted with her team’s focus during a tough final.
“It was a great final,” she said. “It was contested the whole way through and Manawatu made us work hard for it. But we focused on ourselves and kept that focus throughout the whole game.”
Winter had 11 players for the pool play before New Zealand Secondary Schools and ANZ Premiership shooter Grace Nweke joined the team.
She played a strong hand in Waitakere’s finals performance as Manawatu struggled to shut down the 1.93m shooter.
“It’s been a team effort throughout the week and the girls have known they could go on at any instance. They’re not even tired, believe it or not, but I am – it’s a tough week,” Winter said with a laugh.
Nweke proved a strong target for Waitakere in the final and their through court defence also stymied Manawatu’s flow through the mid-court in particular.
The two teams were drawn level with just over a minute left in the first quarter before a Waitakere intercept sparked the home side which netted three straight goals to go into the break with a 10-7 lead.
Backed by their supporters, Waitakere rushed out to a six-goal buffer before Manwatu closed the gap to four at halftime.
Manawatu defender Kara Adrole worked tirelessly against Nweke and Waitakere was forced to patiently work the ball into their shooter.
Waitakere’s pressure across the court started to pay dividends as the hosts started to dominate for a 34-25 lead with one quarter to play.
They held their composure in the deciding spell for a convincing 12-goal victory.
The win marked a commanding four days from the Waitakere which was unbeaten heading into the final having accounted for Wellington B, an Invitational side, South Canterbury, Dunedin, Hutt Valley and toppling Auckland 1 (40-35) in a tense battle to clinch a semifinal spot.
They overcame Eastern Bay of Plenty 41-29 in the semifinal for a spot in the last two.
Manawatu A Green had just the one loss on their pathway to the title decider, going down 25-37 to Eastern Bay of Plenty on the opening day.
From there the Yvette McCausland-Durie and Renee Matoe coached side bounced back with five convincing wins to set up a semifinal against Dunedin, winning the play-off 31-22.
Meanwhile, Eastern Bay of Plenty finished in third spot after beating Dunedin 43-23.
Manawatu A Green
Wellington A Black
Christchurch A Red
Trust Waikato Hamilton City A
North Harbour 1
Bayley's Hawkes Bay Black
Hutt Valley Gold
Manawatu B White
Wellington B Gold
Trust Waikato Hamilton City B
North Harbour 2
For a blueprint of what can be achieved on the national stage, the St Peter’s School Premier netballers can look no further than their Senior A Girls Basketball counterparts, who have won three of the past NZSS AA Champion titles.
The netballers are also in top form so far in 2019. Featuring some of their basketballers – including Tall Fern Charlisse Leger Walker – the St Peter’s Premier netballers recently beat Hamilton Girls’ High School 58-41 in the final of the Waikato Secondary Schools League competition.
St Peter’s turned a tight first half into a strong third quarter performance to lead 43-28 heading into the fourth quarter and maintained their margin to fulltime. Hamilton were the defending champions and were the only non-Auckland regional school in last year’s NZSS Championships in November.
St Peter’s captain Kataraina Ormsby was pleased with the win, in their fourth match over Hamilton GHS this year.
“Leading up and coming into the game we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. In the beginning of the game we held it very close until the third quarter where we pulled ahead. With the support and encouragement from our school, family and friends on the sideline we were able to come out on top.” said Kataraina.
“This was a huge accomplishment for our team after falling three points short against them last year,” she added. “I felt our girls worked extremely hard for this game and all the effort and commitment finally paid off. This was a great opportunity for us to enjoy it and use this as a milestone working towards UNISS [Upper North Island Secondary Schools] in August.”
As well as the Premier team, the St Peter’s Premier Reserve side beat Te Aroha College 64-32 to win their final.
St Peter’s co-coach Ange Russek said winning the Waikato Secondary School final was the accumulation of the last couple of seasons. “This was the team’s third year in a row as finalists and they were determined to maintain their composure and consistency they had shown in the lead up games to the final,” said Russek who coaches the team alongside Jess Elers.
Russek said that the players have been implementing on court what they have been working on in trainings. “They are learning to absorb the challenges during games, playing with confidence and executing our skills under pressure.”
Playing in the Open Hamilton City Netball Grade on Thursday nights indoors has been a great experience. “The level of intensity and skill of the opposition (Beko and Magic players in some teams) has given the girls the opportunity to play against some of the best players in our region. Currently sitting second out of 12 teams is a real credit to the girls.”
“These games are preparing them well for the UNISS where the goal is to qualify for NZSS.”
Last year St Peter’s finished 12th at UNISS after being seeded 19th heading into the tournament. Hamilton GHS finished fifth and went on to finish seventh at NZSS.
Russek said a well-balanced team is positive.
“The squad has a great mix of year 11 players through to year 13s. We will lose a lot of our senior players this year who are in their last season for St Peter’s. They have been an integral part of the team success, brining on and off the court leadership, intensity in training and expectations for success. Our Year 11 and 12 players are in their second year as Premier players, most coming through the successful year 9 and 10 Netball Academy at St Peter’s that is growing and developing excellent netballers across all positions.”
Captain Kataraina agrees.
“I think that we have such a strong foundation in our team with the skills and abilities of our senior players to support our up and coming stars. Our newest addition to our team Katie Te Ao has made a huge difference to our defensive end, right through to Atlanta Bruce and Sade Kaipara-Morrison who we can count on to finish it off every time. To have such young players with a lot of talent who can adapt and play under pressure has been a great learning curve for us all.
“However with the experience of our new coaches Jess Elers and Ange Russek we have learnt to build connections off the court, during trainings and outside of school. These connections are evident and effective while playing and becoming the new under dogs and being ‘unstoppable’ when it all comes together.”
The team also includes several cross-sport athletes – not least Leger-Walker (mentioned above).
Ella Bradley is also a NZ age group basketball rep. Captain Kataraina Ormsby; captain was a member of the NZSS netball squad, Waiata Jennings, Katie Te Ao, Atlanta Bruce, Sade Kaipara-Morrison and Sophie Waddell are all playing regional age group representatives for Hamilton City. Alana Paewai a Waikato age group basketball team member. Annalies Kalma is a Waikato Secondary School Volleyball rep and an Athletics NZ U18 representative, currently holding the fastest time for open women in the 400m.
“So a very talented team across a variety of sports, which is healthy for their physical development as teenagers and young women. They are getting a good variety of training without specialising too early. The strengths from their other sports definitely benefit netball and vice-versa.
“We are very aware that strong teams on paper cannot be taken for granted on court, and the girls are very humble. They are always striving to do better, take advice well and want to improve. These qualities, along with enjoying and responding to pressure bodes well for the business end of the season.”
Now that the Waikato Secondary School competition is over, the players are no less busy on court.
The team will continue playing in the Hamilton City Open competition, the representative players will be playing NZU17 and U19 National tournaments in the July holidays and then the team will play in the Auckland Points tournament.
“Managing player overload is a priority for this stage of the season, so good recovery routines, nutrition, sleep, managing their academics, enjoying friend and family time are just as important as the netball. Looking after their well-being and ensuring the are fit and healthy for UNISS are crucial for a successful UNISS campaign and qualification for NZSS.”
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