Renee Savai'inaea is a National secondary schools rugby and basketball champion and was recently selected in the New Zealand Secondary Schools netball team earning a place in the Pulse squad for next year. So what’s her preference?
“Netball,” the softly spoken Savai'inaea replies.
Savai'inaea intends to abandon basketball in 2018 which is remarkable given she was a member of the St Mary’s team that won the National AA title three weeks ago in Palmerston North.
Savai'inaea was named in the tournament team after top scoring for her school with 18 points in the final as St Mary’s denied St Peter’s Cambridge a three-peat success.
In a remarkable match St Peter’s captain Charlisse Leger-Walker scored an incredible 48 points as she almost single-handedly won the game by herself.
“I wished she would stop,” Savai'inaea laughs.
“We put one on her at the start and then it became two and three. Charlisse is amazing. It was a hard game.” Savai'inaea continues.
With 3.13 left, St Mary’s desperately snaffled three offensive rebounds and Savai’inaea hit a three-pointer to extend their lead to 64-55, the largest of the match. Leger-Walker scored seven points in a row to close the margin to 64-62, but Savai’inaea hit three free throws to guide St Mary’s home.
St Mary’s also defended their Wellington title and beat the same opponent Hutt Valley High School in the Zone 3 decider. Savai'inaea attributes St Mary’s win to teamwork.
“Nixon Penese is an awesone coach. He is relaxed, but direct at the same time. We had a real good culture where every girl had a role to play.”
Then there’s her rugby career, part of a world champion St Mary’s sevens team and now national champion 15s side.
“We beat Hamilton Girls in a tough semi-final, and were too complacent heading into the final. We thought we had beaten the best team.” Savai'inaea concedes when reflecting on the 2016 National top four rugby final between Southland Girls’ High School and St Mary’s.
St Mary’s was soundly beaten 46-29, but the First XV have bounced back hard in 2017 winning the National top four title and the Condor and Sanix World youth invitation sevens crowns.
Savai'inaea typically plays lock or on the side of the scrum and appears alongside several of her basketball teammates, including Te Araroa Sopoaga, the sister of All Black Lima Sopoaga.
“I really like rugby. I enjoy the physical challenge. My dad played in Wellington rep sides. We have a great culture where we are allowed to express ourselves,” Savai'inaea enthuses.
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