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