Girls rugby continues to increase in popularity. Here are five secondary school players from the five Super Rugby Franchises - who have caught College Sport Media's attention this year
Alena Saili (Southland Girls’ High School) - Southland Girls’ High School won the National Top 4 rugby title for the first time this year, beating first time finalists St Mary’s College Wellington 46-29 in the decider. Centre Alena Saili scored a first half hat-trick in the final and she would have scored a fourth try if not unselfishly popping a pass under the bar to captain Kendall Buckingham. Alena has consistently been one of Southland’s leading players for the past two seasons, in both fifteens and sevens, along with her sister and halfback Sipa Saili. Alena also played goal defence for Southland GHS at the NZSS Netball Championships in October and is also a current New Zealand age-grade Touch representative and recently won the Southland Secondary School Female Sportsperson of the Year award.
Ayesha Leti-L'iga (Porirua College) - Ayesha Leti-L'iga has a huge future in the game. Still only Year 12 at Porirua College, she played her second successive season on the wing for the Wellington Pride in the Women’s NPC competition this year. Nicknamed ‘Baby’, her strength, pace and composure under pressure belied her age. She scored six tries in six NPC games, including a hat-trick against Bay of Plenty. She missed Wellington’s semi-final against eventual winners Counties-Manukau as she was away on a school trip. At the start of the year she won a runners-up medal for Wellington at the National Sevens and she also played on the wing and fullback for her club side Oriental-Rongotai.
Jazmin Hotham (Hamilton Girls’ High School) - It was a re-building season this year for 2014 and 2015 NZSS champions Hamilton Girls’ High School, but they still put themselves in a great position to defend their title, eventually losing narrowly to both St Mary’s College and Kaipara College in the finals in Palmerston North. In qualifying for the Top 4, fleet-footed and pacey centre Jazmin Hotham ran in five tries in the Waikato final against Te Awamutu and then featured strongly in the Chiefs final against Tauranga GC. Jazmin is also a talented sevens player. Not just a promising rugby player, Jazmin has showcased her skills on the athletics track as a sprinter, on the football pitch and on the touch field as a member of last year’s NZSS Girls Touch team.
Kaylee Tavendale (Rangiora High School) - Lock or No. 8 Kaylee Tavendale spent her second season in the Canterbury’s Women’s NPC squad in 2016, making six starts in the locking position and coming off the bench once more. Since making her captaincy debut for Rangiora High School aged 15, Kaylee has moved on to playing senior rugby for the Christchurch club women’s team. Now finishing her final year of school, she has a big future in the women’s rugby game.
Rina Paraone (Kaipara College) - Rina Paraone was the captain and centre of the Kaipara College team that reached the Top 4 for the first time this year, narrowly losing to eventual champions Southland GHS and holding on to beat defending champions Hamilton GHS 10-7 in the playoff for third. Rina has all the attributes of a player who will go far in the women’s game, particularly strong and swift on her feet and organised in defence, and she was her team’s obvious leader. She played five games on the left wing for the North Harbour Hibiscus in this year’s Women’s NPC, scoring three tries. In October she was named the Most Promising Player of the Year award at the North Harbour rugby awards. Rina will be playing in the Condor Sevens for a third time next month.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand