Sixteen of the country’s gun netball schools descend on Ashburton next week for the 2015 New Zealand Secondary Schools Netball Championships.
The competing schools are split into four pools of four for pool play on Tuesday and part of Wednesday, followed by the crossover rounds on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday. The final is scheduled for 1.40pm Friday.
Teams have qualified from the recent secondary school zone tournaments, with the top six teams from the Upper North Island tournament joined by the leading five from the Lower North Island and South Island tournaments.
The three winners of these were Mount Albert Grammar School (Upper North Island), St Mary’s College (Lower North Island) and St Margaret’s College (South Island).
The schools competing and the four pools are:
Pool A: Mount Albert Grammar School, Manukura High School, Roncalli College, Baradene College
Pool B: St Mary’s College, St Andrew’s College, Epsom Girls’ Grammar School, Napier Girls’ High School
Pool C: St Margaret’s College, Saint Kentigern College, Wellington Girls’ College, Southland Girls’ High School
Pool D: Wellington East Girls’ College, Cashmere High School, Westlake Girls’ High School, Waikato Diocesan
Mount Albert Grammar School is again the team to beat. The three-time defending champions have already won everything there is to collect this year at an Auckland-wide and regional level.
After winning their Auckland Secondary Schools Championship crown, MAGS won the Upper North Island tournament for the ninth year on the trot. In both finals they beat Auckland rivals Saint Kentigern College, winning 40-34 and 42-32 respectively.
MAGS also contain two players at either end of the court already signed up to play in next year’s ANZ Championship, captain and defender Holly Fowler (Northern Mystics 2016) and shooter Maia Wilson (Central Pulse 2016). Their support cast this year includes defender Elle Temu, midcourter Alanis Toia-Tigafua and shooter Caitlin Dowden.
At the start of June, MAGS also beat St Kent’s 43-32 in the final of the College Netball Series, broadcast on Sky TV. Previously, they had beaten Wellington Girls’ College 35-21 in their semi-final of this tournament, while St Kent’s had defeated Southland Girls’ High School 39-23.
As well as the leading two Auckland schools, other challenges are expected to come from the three Wellington schools, St Mary’s College, Wellington East Girls’ College and Wellington Girls’ College, and from the three Canterbury schools, St Margaret’s College, Roncalli College and Cashmere High School.
Last year’s beaten national tournament finalists St Margaret’s are the top ranked South Island school heading into the tournament – but only just. At the South Island tournament during Winter Tournament Week they beat St Andrew’s College in their semi-final, but were made to work hard to beat Cashmere High School in the final. Scores were locked up at 26-26 but they pulled off a one-point win with seconds to spare.
St Margaret’s Head Coach Helen Bryant said her team is looking forward to the National tournament.
“We know it will be a tough tournament again this year, so we will be doing our best to challenge the top teams again.” she said.
St Margaret’s lost to MAGS 26-41 in last year’s final.
Bryant said that first they need to finish as one of the top two sides in their pool to emulate last year. “We’ve got a hard pool, with Saint Kentigern College, Wellington Girls’ College and Southland Girls’ High School, so it will be a big ask of us to come through our pool and make the top eight.”
“We’ve got a good group of experienced players. In the shooting circle will be Maddie Lloyd and defensively will be Lily Marshall. And we have got the experience of Lucy Thomson and Olivia Mendonca through the midcourt.”
Of note, Olivia Mendonca and partner Ruby Willis recently finished sixth in the women’s coxless pair – just 6.5 seconds behind the winning Russian pair – at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Brazil.
Year 12 student Lily Marshall was a non-travelling reserve in the New Zealand Junior rowing team.
The Last South Island school to win the netball Nationals was Villa Maria College in 2008. Since then MAGS have dominated, with Manawatu’s Tu Toa wining in 2009 and 2011.
At the end of the week, a tournament squad will be named.
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