Up to this year, Epsom Girls’ Grammar School has never had a New Zealand Secondary Schools netball representative.
Last month that all changed when not one but three of their players were named in the 12-strong NZSS team to travel to Australia in September to attend the Netball Australia 17-and-under training camp and play in a round-robin tournament with three other teams.
Greer Sinclair, Bianca Nagaiya and Tamara Leoni are all in the NZSS squad for the trip to Canberra.
Greer is Year 12 and in her second year as captain of EGGS and said that hard work and a healthy team culture has paid off for the trio’s selection. “Bianca [also Year 12] and I got a trial last year but neither made it, but we worked hard throughout the year and all three of us were selected which rewards our extra effort.”
Year 13 Tamara was also a member of the Aotearoa Maori Netball International Secondary School (AMNISS) team that won the International U19 Schools Challenge tournament in Fiji in May – beating the Australians twice (30-26 and 40-28).
“We also have two girls in our school team that were in the Cook Islands U21 team that competed in the junior world championships in Botswana recently [won by New Zealand], said Greer.”
The Cook Islands U21 representatives were Nina Tai Roberts and Celeste Patutama. Amie Hucker was a recent NZ U15 Indoor representative that competed at the Junior Worlds in South Africa last month.
Last year EGGS were winners of the Carole Craighead Trophy for best overall school results in the Auckland Netball Secondary Schools competition, reflecting the development of their netball programme.
Greer, Bianca and Tamara have all been part of Auckland representative teams in recent seasons, with the U17 side finishing runners-up to Wellington two years running, this year losing 25-34 to them in the Anna Rowberry Cup final. Greer and Bianca made the U17 tournament team.
The last round of the Auckland Secondary Schools Premier competition was played earlier this evening, with EGGS beating Westlake Girls’ High School 39-31 to finish third. St Kent's and Mount Albert Grammar School met in the grand final that followed.
The win for EGGS over Westlake this evening reversed their 35-40 defeat to them earlier in the round-robin, after early beating them comfortably in a pre-season tournament.
It’s the first of three major competitions that EGGS hope to compete in in 2017, for the third consecutive year, with the Upper North Island Secondary Schools (UNISS) Tournament and the New Zealand Secondary Schools tournament to come.
“Our goal is to try and beat our record from last year when we finished fourth, fourth and fourth.” Greer explained before this evening's match. “We want to try and work on getting a top three placing this year.”
First goal achieved.
The top six teams from the UNISS tournament qualify for the 16-team nationals, being played in Rotorua in early October.
Last year, EGGS were beaten by Palmerston North’s Manukura in the playoff for third and fourth. Greer and Bianca both made the tournament team.
Greer said that MAGS and St Kent’s are again amongst the teams to beat at UNISS and nationals.
“MAGS are really close rivals, but we have had some close games against them this year and they have lost some games such as their one-point loss to One Tree Hill College who we beat by 14 the next week.”
“It’s really close competition, and when we are playing MAGS and St Kent’s we just need to get right the mental side of it.”
Greer has been in the EGGS Premier team since Year 9. She was vice-captain in Year 10 and captain for the first time last season. There’s currently a good balance of young and senior players in the squad. “Our team ranges from Year 10 to 13 and we have one Year 9 development player, so we have a good mix.”
Greer is a specialist defender, with goal defence her preference, Bianca is a specialist attacker with goal shoot her most common position and Tamara plays both goal shoot and goal keep.
Greer and Bianca have been playing netball all their lives. Bianca is Auckland born and bred, while Greer is from Waiuku who started at EGGS as a boarder but now lives in Auckland.
As well as netball, Bianca plays tennis. “Last year I was in the top tennis team at school, but nowadays I just play tennis with my dad and more for fun.”
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