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