With the school year about to get into full swing and a big year of sport coming up, here are six questions we’ve been mulling over recently.
How can South Island schools compete better at the National Top Four?
Southland Boys’ High School has suffered record defeats in their last two semi-finals at the National Top Four. A South Island school hasn’t made the final since 2012 and last won the title in 2006.
One of the most obvious differences between North Island and South Island teams has been the superior physicality of North Island sides. What can be done by the South Island to overcome this obstacle?
More pre-season and holiday fixtures against North Island sides?
Is the standard of competition so inferior in the South Island the leading schools need to establish a Super 8 or Central North Island model like many leading schools in the North Island have done?
What recruitment invectives can South Island schools provide to attract a better calibre of player and is this a fair and affordable method of success?
What can the New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby council do to help the South Island become more competitive?
Could Basketball become the next televised college sport?
Basketball only trails rugby, football and netball in terms of participation at the secondary school level, but is projected to outrank all those codes within the next 10 years. Basketball is the fastest growing sport among males under the age of 39 and the quickest growing sport in the Asian community.
Basketball is a game with universal appeal and its fast, simple and relatively inexpensive to play. The National Secondary Schools tournament has been streamed online for the past few years and produced genuinely thrilling matches. Could basketball broadcasting be extended? Production costs in a confined space are lower than that of rugby.
Basketball lends itself to ‘made for tTV’ events. Hire a court, reduce the length of the game and the shot clock and package a tournament in a three hour window, sounds easy doesn’t it?
Does McEvedy Shield need a change of format?
Wellington College won the famous Wellington athletics tourney by 90 points last year.
Rongotai College haven’t won the McEvedy Shield since 1989 and have finished last 20 times in the last 21 years. St Patrick’s College, Silverstream haven’t won since 2003 and have only triumphed twice since 1973.
Wellington has a considerably larger roll than the other schools so have always enjoyed a depth advantage. However their margin of victory has never been so lopsided. Is the onus on the other schools to get better and how can they achieve this?
Should McEvedy be expanded to include other schools, like it formerly did? Scots College have been clamouring to join for many years and their record at regional and secondary school athletics championships has been much better than Rongotai and Silverstream in recent times.
How will Isaiah Punivai fare at St Kentigern College?
Christ’s College captain and New Zealand Schools centre Isaiah Punivai will play for the St Kentigern College First XV this year. Punivai was the leading try scorer in the UC Championship in 2016 and a key figure in Christ’s first win over Christchurch Boys’ High School in 16 years in 2017.
Christ’s have been on an upward ascent recently and losing a player of Punivai’s stature is heartbreaking.
What will Punivai gain from his move? Will being around better players see Punivai improve or will he lose some edge with less responsibility?
Private schools poaching from private schools is a new precedent in the recruitment of players. Typically a player from a lower decile school will seek or be presented with an opportunity at a superiorly resourced school. What happens if private schools start actively recruiting off each other? How do state schools compete fairly in that environment?
What age is acceptable to sign an athlete for a full professional contract?
Sport is a career choice, but a short-lived one meaning the clamour for leading high school talent among professional organizations is intense. At what age should a young athlete be signed to a fully-fledged deal?
The recent dispute over Etene Nanai-Seturo involving the New Zealand Rugby Union and the New Zealand Warriors highlights the flaws of signing athletes too young.
Nanai-Seturo committed to a five year deal with the Warriors when he was 15 years old, but after making the New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby team last year had a change of heart and was forced to haggle his way out of a league contract through mediation to play Sevens rugby for New Zealand.
Some pro leagues restrict the competing age to 18. Should an athleteonly be signed when they reach that age? Is this a restraint of trade?
Which schools will rise up and win maiden NZSS titles in 2018?
Everyone loves an underdog. Unexpected victories, upsets over favoured teams on the way to championship wins and instances of maiden titles encapsulate what’s great about New Zealand secondary school sport.
Three such wins last in popular sports were Howick College winning their maiden NZSS netball title, Trident High School winning their first ever Senior Girls volleyball title and Hamilton Boys’ High School taking home the National Boys Football title (on the same weekend their rugby team lost to Hastings’ BHS in the Top 4 rugby final).
On the subject of netball, can a non-Auckland school win the NZSS netball tournament this year, and if so who will it be? Auckland schools have dominated the trophy each year since 2012 with MAGS winning a four-peat, Saint Kentigern College lifting it off them and Howick winning if off St Kent’s last year.
Wellington and Central sides are currently the leading representative teams. Manukura are very strong, while St Mary’s College are perennial contenders without breaking through. Both these schools are powerhouses elsewhere too, such as rugby, rugby 7s and basketball!
This year’s tournament in October is in Timaru, so it would be a fitting that a South Island school broke a decade-long duck (Villa Maria College in 2008) of winning the netball.
The Coast to Coast multisport event is one of the most demanding events on the New Zealand sporting calendar.
For a trio of Palmerston North Boys’ High School athletes it was all in a weekend’s work.
The team of Madi Hartley-Brown (cycling), Louis Morell (running) and Wade Bennett (kayaking) combined to traverse the 243 km and win the Coast to Coast Schools division, finishing eighth overall out of 53 in the three-person teams race.
All three were quickly back into the swing of things last week, either competing in the school’s annual Crest to Crest challenge (a week-long multisport challenge from the base of the Whakapapa ski field to the school’s crest in Palmerston North), hiking through the Tongariro National Park as part of their year 13 camp or back training for bigger events to come.
College Sport Media caught up with the trio on their return to the classroom this week.
Louis explained that they had spent much of their summer breaks preparing for the Coast to Coast. “Madi and Wade competed last year and signed up again, while I joined them late last year. We each trained separately throughout the holidays and came together to compete.”
The team met their expectations. “Palmerston North finished second of the boys schools teams last year so we were aiming to win this year, so we achieved our goal,” said Louis.
Louis and Madi were in action on day one. Louis’ run leg included a gruelling 33 km mountain run to the famous Klondyke Corner, after Madi started the event off with a short 2.2 km run and a 55 km cycle leg. “We had an early night and fuelled up to recover,” said Louis.
Madi said the experience of competing last year helped this time around. “Having been there last year, I knew what I was in for and knowing how it all works helped.”
Madi is an accomplished cyclist in his own right.
Last year then then year 12 won both the U20 road race and U20 points race at the NZSS Road Cycling Championships, and he is off to Tasmania from 23-25 March for the 2018 Oceania Road Championships.
At the Coast to Coast Madi had bike legs on both days. “The first ride on the first morning wasn’t so bad, but I had to do a 2.2 km run from the beach to start with that took it out of my legs a little bit.”
“The first ride of the second day was only short, but the last ride was tough because of headwinds and a 40 km dead straight road coming in Christchurch.”
“I’m training for the Oceania Championships at the end of March, so busy preparing for that, with Dylan Simpson from PNBHS in the team as well.”
Part of Madi’s training is cycling to and from school each day. “I live about 40 km south of school, so about three times a week I ride into school and ride home again in the afternoons. I do other training as well, building up to the Oceania Championships.”
Kayaker Wade acted as support crew on the first day, before an eventful 67 km kayaking leg across the central South Island on day two.
“I ended up doing the paddle in 4 hours and 49 minutes – but that was due to cracking my boat about 10 minutes in. So I had get out every 15 km and get in and empty the water out of it before carrying on!”
Other than that, conditions were good for the kayak leg other than some fog in the morning and a few tricky sections on the river.
Wade also plays canoe polo for the school and for a local club, but this was his biggest challenge. He hopes to do more of it in the future.
The trio thanked their support staff that helped them compete at the Coast to Coast event. Wade’s father for driving down and acting as support staff during the weekend, teacher Dan Parrott and John Livingston, the man who first approached PNBHS and got the students into multisport and into the Coast to Coast.
Meanwhile, the Greymouth High School team of Martin McDonald, Ben Williams and Max Rubbo – competing in the open men’s grade - finished three spots ahead of PNBHS in fifth overall.
The Christchurch Boys’ High School team of Euan Coates, Oskar Victor and Lewys Frances finished 11 minutes back in 10th overall, while the Rangiora High School trio of Ben Spark, Dominic Cleary and Jake Churchill were 21st.
The Greymouth High School girls team finished 33rd overall and won the girls school three-person race.
Matthew Clough of Ashburton College finished second overall in the two-day race, while Tiaan McKinnel of Roxburgh Area School was 11th overall.
The 2018 Winter Olympics start in PyeongChang , South Korea at the end of this week. New Zealand will be represented by a 21-strong team, including three current school-aged athletes and a couple more just out of school.
Meet the Kiwi teenaged athletes below and follow them in action over the next fortnight.
Where from: Queenstown (Wakatipu High School)
Disciplines: Slalom, Giant Slalom
About: The 16-year-old will be New Zealand’s youngest ever Winter Olympian, beating her teammate Nico Porteous (below) for that honour. Has made rapid progress in her debut season of FIS racing and is currently ranked 67th in the world for women’s Giant Slalom from 3,500 competitors. The USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin, Overall World Cup leader, is the only other athlete in FIS history who has progressed as fast as Alice in her first year as a FIS athlete. In 2017 she won the U16 Giant Slalom, finished second in Slalom in Slovenia, and was also the winner of the US U16 National Championship Giant Slalom.
When in action:
Women’s Giant Slalom First Run Sunday 12 February 2.10pm
Women’s Giant Slalom Second Run Sunday 12 February 5.40pm
Women’s Slalom First Run Wednesday 14 February 2.10pm
Women’s Slalom Second Run Wednesday 14 February 5.40pm
Where from: Wanaka (Mount Aspiring College)
Disciplines: Snowboard Slopestyle, Snowboard Big Air
About: 2016 World Championships silver, slopestyle. 2016 World Cup gold, slopestyle. Snow Sports NZ Snowboarder of the Year 2017 and Overall Athlete of the Year 2017 Won slopestyle gold in the Czech Republic last March. Two weeks earlier, the 16-year-old won silver at the Big Air world championships.
Women’s Slopestyle Qualifying Sunday 11 February 5.25pm
Women’s Slopestyle Final Monday 12 February 1.55pm
Women’s Big Air Qualifying Monday 19 February 1.25pm
Women’s Big Air Final Friday 23 February 1.25pm
Where from: Christchurch
Discipline: Freeski Halfpipe
About: Will be aged 16 years and 78 days old on the first day of the games. The youngest person in the world to land a triple cork 1440. Nico impressed the home crowds at Cardrona Alpine Resort this season with a win at the Continental Cup Halfpipe. He was also on top form at the 2017 Winter Games NZ where he qualified in second place for the Halfpipe World Cup and finished in sixth in the finals. Finished eighth in the Halfpipe World Cup event staged in Bokwang Phoenix Park, which was the official test event ahead of the Winter Olympics.
Men’s Halfpipe Qualifying Tuesday 20 February 4.55pm
Men’s Halfpipe Final Thursday 22 February 3.25pm
Where from: Wanaka (Mount Aspiring College 2017)
Discipline: Freeski Slopestyle
About: Was New Zealand’s flag bearer at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games, winning a silver medal in halfpipe and a bronze medal in slopestyle. He was subsequently named as a finalist for the Emerging Talent award at the 2017 Halberg Awards. Also participates in a variety of other sports including including running, surfing, mountain biking and adventure racing.
Men’s Slopestyle Skiing Sunday 18 February 5.10pm
Where from: Queenstown
Disciplines: Snowboard Slopestyle, Snowboard Big Air
About: A Youth Winter Olympian in Lillehammer 2016. He finished fourth in slopesyle and fifth in halfpipe. Born in the heat of Brisbane, he moved to Queenstown aged eight and took to the snow. Won a silver medal in the big air World Cup event in China in November, landing a backside triple cork. Eighth in the 2017 slopestyle world championships.
Men’s Slopestyle Qualifying Saturday 10 Febuary 1.55pm
Men’s Slopestyle Final Sunday 11 February 1.55pm
Men’s Big Air Qualifying Wednesday 21 February 1.35pm
Men’s Big Air Final Saturday 24 February 1.55pm
Where from: Based in the USA
Discipline: Snowboard Halfpipe
About: Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games, sixth in halfpipe and 13th in slopestyle. Based in Vail, Rakai is half Kiwi, half American and competes for New Zealand. He spent time living in Switzerland as a child and it was there he first learnt to snowboard, at the age of 7.
Men’s Halfpipe Qualifying Tuesday 13 February 4.55pm
Men’s Halfpipe Final Wednesday 14 February 2.25pm
Did you know?
Two more secondary school-aged athletes will be representing New Zealand at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in April, with the selection of gymnasts Stella Ashcroft and Stella Ebert.
15-year-old women’s artistic athlete Stella Ashcroft from Christchurch School of Gymnastics has been selected to the team for her strengths in vault and beam.
Though going into her first senior year Stella is no stranger to podiums. 2016 saw her take bronze at the Pacific Rim Championships, before collecting a gold, silver, and a team bronze at the Junior Commonwealth Championships.
Last year Stella medalled at the Houston Invitational in the US, Australian Championships and Classic competitions and at the NZ Championships. Stella’s first competition as senior will be at the World Cup in Melbourne this month.
15-year-old Rhythmic gymnastics athlete Stella Ebert is also selected to the team. Stella’s junior career has gone from strength to strength, with the young athlete making finals in all her 2016 international competitions. She won three bronze medals at the Junior Commonwealth Championships and placed first overall in all her domestic competitions.
Last year was Stella’s first taste of senior competition and she placed first in all domestic senior competitions she attended.
The pair are the youngest athletes selected to the New Zealand team so far.
Ashcroft and Ebert add to the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics team to make a total of 7 athletes in the gymnastics contingent.
The naming takes the total number of selected athletes to 92.
Gold Coast 2018 will be Stella’s first Commonwealth Games and first senior international competition. Stella’s hometown is Auckland where she trains at Xtreme Rhythmix under coaches Marnie Sterner and Erica Thorby.
The last two years saw Stella take first place overall in all of her domestic competitions, including competing senior whilst junior in 2017. 8th place at the Pacific Rim Championships (USA) and Emeralds Cup (Greece) and three bronze medals at the Junior Commonwealth Championships. Stella is the current New Zealand Rhythmic Gymnastics Champion.
When Stella is not training or competing, she enjoys photography, baking healthy snacks and watching her favourite YouTubers.
Gold Coast 2018 will be Stella’s first Commonwealth Games. Born and bred Cantabrian, she trains at the Christchurch School of Gymnastics under coaches Terry and Tamara Walker.
The last two years saw Stella take a gold, silver and bronze at the Junior Commonwealth Championships, a bronze at the Pacific Rim Championships and more than a dozen other medals at competitions in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Stella is the current NZ Junior Women’s Artistic Champion going into her first senior year.
When she is not doing gymnastics, Stella enjoys drawing, baking and surfing.
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