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.
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