A year can be a long time in secondary school sport.
Just ask the New Plymouth Girls’ High School Senior A netball team, who recently put aside the heartbreak of missing out on qualifying for the NZSS national tournament by one place and one goal in 2017 by finishing second at this year's Lower North Island Netball Secondary Schools (LNISS) tournament during Winter Tournament Week.
With the top five finishing teams qualifying for the 16-school NZSS tournament every October from the LNISS zone, NPGHS lost 28-29 to Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt in the 5 v 6 match at last year’s LNISS tournament played on home courts in New Plymouth.
That loss was the end of the line in 2017 for NPGHS, while Sacred Heart went on to finish a respectable 10th at nationals.
NPGHS captain Boston Falaniko said last year’s close finish was especially strong motivation for the senior players to do well in 2018.
“There are four year 13s in our team and because it was our last year we really wanted to make nationals and that was one of our top goals all year,” said Boston. “We just stayed committed to that goal and worked hard and it paid off for us.”
At the recent LNISS tournament played at Vautier Park, NPGHS won their first eight matches straight to book a place in the final on Friday against Manukura.
“We made a bit of a slow start actually, just getting our connections right and it felt like we hadn’t been playing for ages. But once it got to Wednesday and Thursday we started to connect well and our team bonding with each other was really good and we started playing some good netball and that is what got us to the final.”
NPGHS missed out 20-22 to Manukura in that decider. How did the final pan out? “The first three quarters we were down but for the last quarter we put in the hard work and came back, outscoring them 7-1.”
Manukura leapt to a 10-4 lead after the first quarter and hung on against the fast-finishing NPGHS to win the LNISS title for the third consecutive year and they finished third at last year’s NZSS tournament.
Centre and wing defender Boston Falaniko, wing defender and goal defender Brooke Neilson and defenders Isla Vink and Parris Mason were all named in the tournament team after the final.
For NPGHS, qualifying for the NZSS tournament is a feat the school last achieved in 2013 when currently injured Silver Fern defender Kelly Jury was in the team, a year before the current year 13s started secondary school.
The NZSS tournament has been running 1993. NPGHS finished seventh in 1999, sixth in 2001, fifth in 2002, third in 2003, sixth in 2004, seventh in 2006, seventh in 2007, sixth in 2008 and 12th in 2013.
Last year Howick College won their first title, breaking the stranglehold from recent seasons by their Auckland rivals Saint Kentigern College and Mount Albert Grammar School.
This year’s NZSS tournament is in Timaru from 9-12 October.
NPGHS has also had a positive year playing in the local competition. “We were in the Premier 2 club competition, playing against clubs around New Plymouth, and we won the final. This means that next year the team will go up to Premier 1.”
Some players were also in the Taranaki U17 team that finished eighth of 42 teams at the Central Zone representative tournament at Vautier Park in July. “We won all our games to qualify for the top 4. We had to win against Palmerston North to stay in the top 4 but we lost which was unfortunate - but finishing eighth was still the best we had finished in a long time.”
Boston and Parris both made the tournament team from the U17 tournament.
Boston also plays touch and indoor netball, Parris also plays Touch and basketball , Brooke plays rugby sevens .
Last year Boston went to South Africa with the New Zealand indoor netball team.
Boston said that next year she is moving to study in Wellington next year, and will look to continue her netball career there.
New Plymouth Girls' High School LNISS results:
Beat Tawa College Won 44-10
Beat Horowhenua College 63-6
Beat Whanganui High School 36-27
Beat Inglewood High 29-11
Beat Wellington Girls 30-18
Beat Hastings Girls High School 37-19
Beat Palmerston North Girls High 27-19
Beat Wellington East Girls 37-23 (semi-final)
Lost to Manukura 20-22 (final)
LNISS tournament – five teams qualified for the NZSS tournament:
2. New Plymouth Girls’ High School
3. Napier Girls’ High School
4. Wellington East Girls’ College
5. Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt
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