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.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand