“It was a hard game on court right to the end, but the winning margin and score didn’t match how we felt out there,” said Wellington U17 netball captain Charity Polu after he side had beaten Auckland to win Wellington’s third straight National U17 title.
The Wellington Black side successfully defended their title with a 41-29 win over Auckland 1 in the final, after edging Howick Pakuranga 28-27 in the semi-final earlier in the day.
Polu, who is year 13 at Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt, said both knockout games on the final day of the tournament were tough encounters.
“We were pretty confident going into the semi-final against Howick Pakuranga and we were up by a few goals throughout the match," said Charity who played wing defence all week. “We knew they had good, experienced players [Howick College and Saint Kentigern College were last year’s NZSS tournament finalists] so our plan was to play smart and stay composed. In the last quarter we held on to win.”
This game plan also paid dividends in the final. Auckland took the early initiative and led 11-8 after fast-paced, physical first quarter. But Wellington soaked up the early pressure, took the lead and pulled clear for victory. Star St Mary’s College shooter Saviour Tui was rarely rattled as she netted most of her shots before being subbed late in the match.
Earlier in the tournament, Wellington had wins over Dunedin (28-24), Selwyn (39-19), Waitakere 2 (40-20), Rotorua (56-16), Auckland 2 (40-26) and North Harbour 1 (44-22).
“We started the week slow, it was like we were just getting back into it, getting our connections right, and we only won our first game by 4 against Dunedin. Throughout the week we improved steadily.
“This tournament in general was a lot of hard work, we had to fight for everything, and so winning it was special for us. Last year we already had the teamwork there, but this year’s team improved the more we played and our dedication paid off.”
The team’s preparation had involved a series of live practice matches with the Wellington Gold side, who finished 25th of 42 teams.
Charity was co-captain of the winning Black side with Wellington East Girls’ College wing attack Sharnay Leef.
The Wellington team was represented by players from several schools, with St Mary’s and Samuel Marsden each contributing three players.
There were five players returning from last year’s winning team, Charity Polu, Lynette Sosefo, Paris Lokotui, Saviour Tui and Lauren Smith. Charity and Lynette were the two year 13s in this year’s team.
Charity, Saviour, Paris and Maddie Feaunati all made the tournament team from the Wellington Black side.
Charity also praised coaches, head coach Dion Te Whetu and assistant coach Irene van Dyk, their game sense team training clearly paying off as well.
“Irene helped the attacking end a lot, and because she had been in our position she always had the right words to say to us and she knew how far to push us.”
Howick Pakuranga beat Manawatu 49-25 in the playoff for third and fourth. Auckland 2 rounded out the top five with a 42-32 win over Waitakere 1.
Back home, Charity plays Senior A club netball for PIC.
The Regional secondary school competition resumes this week with third round matches on Monday night, combining the Wellington and Hutt Valley schools. Sacred Heart won the pre-season College Sport Wellington tournament and are top qualifiers for the upcoming Hutt Valley schools final.
Following that is the Lower North Island tournament, back in Palmerston North over Winter Tournament Week, with the top five schools to qualifying for the National Secondary Schools tournament in Timaru.
“Last year we came tenth at Nationals, which was pretty good for our team as it was the first time there for a few years.”
Charity is the second oldest of four siblings. Older brother Albert was in the winning St Pat’s Silverstream rugby First XV last year and now plays Premier club rugby for nearby Hutt Old Boys Marist and the next oldest Eileen is in year 10 and also plays netball for Sacred Heart College.
The Wellington Black netball team that defended their National U17 title last week was:
Coach: Dion Te Whetu
Assistant Coach: Irene van Dyk Manager: Melissa Salvador
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