The following has been written by outgoing Kaipara College Girls Rugby coach Callum Finlay, who is heading to Singapore for a teaching role.
It is an interesting and mainly sad proposition leaving Kaipara College Girls Rugby. Since taking over the reigns in 2015 there has been a lot to live up too.
In 2014 they had won the North Harbour Ten’s Championship under Sina Frost. They had won the North Harbour Sevens two years in a row and came 6th at the Condors Seven’s under the tutelage.
In 2015 Innes Kerr-Taylor handed me the coaching job of an extremely talented and already championship winning Kaipara College Girls Rugby team. It was a daunting concept and I was extremely lucky to have the great support of Innes and the parents of the players. The players warmed to me eventually and under the guidance of a great captain in Tara Mansell-Sawyers and natural leaders Rina Paraone and Sativa Tarau-Peehikuru the team went through the tens season undefeated. We played Hato Petra in the final, coached by Mark Tapsell which Kaipara narrowly won after Rina Paraone ran down a barn storming Pia Tapsell and stole the ball to seal the game. That makes 15 tens wins in a row since the middle of 2014.
From this 2015 season Kaipara College had nine players and one coach to be part of the North Harbour Under 18 Secondary School Girls team. This team had the expert tutelage of Black Fern Chelsea Alley and a man admired by many for his rugby knowledge, Mark Tapsell. These girls Tara Mansell-Sawyers, Carissa Mansell-Sawyers, Rina Paraone, Madi Wells, Caitlyn Cox, Georgia Logan, Anna Steele, Sativa Tarau-Peehikuru and Malia Hemehema were part of the first North Harbour Secondary School Girls Team to beat an Auckland Provincial team.
The 2015 season didn’t stop there for Kaipara College both the under 15’s and the open girls took out their respective sevens championships, the 3rd time in a row for the open girls. Both teams would look at taking on the National Condors sevens tournament. But before then the under 15’s then went on to play in a Northern Region 7’s competition finishing up in the top 4. The Open girls went to play in the North Harbour Club Sevens losing to East Coast Bays in the Final. From here we took on Condors after having a rough first day and losing Rina Paraone and Tara Mansell-Sawyers to injury we battled back and narrowly lost the plate final 7 to 5 against Wellington East Girls’ College.
After the let down of the Condor sevens in 2015 some of the girls got respite being a part of the North Harbour Under 18’s Girls Sevens that won the northern region. But for the rest salvation was on the way in the form of the inaugural Blues 10’s.
The Kaipara girls had a lot to live up to after the last great season of tens and sitting in a hard pool that included Mt Roskill Grammar and Otahuhu our tens streak might have failed. But the girls battled through the pool play to make the final, a TV game something we have lost twice before. 7-0 At the break probably written off by most but we took our chances and had a little bit of luck with Anna Steele scoring a great try with a minute to go and Georgia Logan scoring after the full time siren to seal us the inaugural Blues 10’s Trophy. This put our tens winning streak to 19.
After the Blues tens win we carried that form into the North Harbour Tens competition going undefeated and taking out the final against a talented Glenfield team, lead by outstanding players Mickayla Robinson, Rona Wharawhara and Florida Fatanitavake. But not only were we comfortable taking on North Harbour teams we took on the Auckland Secondary School tens Champions Mt Roskill Grammar defeating thm 45-19. That gave us 11 tens wins for the season and 30 undefeated since 2014.
These wins inspired the girls to challenge for something a girls team in North Harbour had never aspired to do before, that was challenge for the NZRU Top Four. We had played a friendly game against Southern Cross Campus earlier in the year to gauge how we might go at 15’s and were pleasantly surprised, so once we had won the Tens we asked the North Harbour Union if we could challenge for the Blues spot at Nationals. They were more than happy to help us out. So on a blustery September day we headed out to Southern Cross Campus and narrowly defeated a great team of competitors 17-15. We became the first ever North Harbour School to participate in the Top Four NZRU Nationals.
Once down in New Plymouth we had a tough road, facing a competent and outstanding Southland Girls side, who definitely put us through our paces in the first day, us losing 24-45. We then had to go up against reigning champions Hamilton Girls’ High School for the play off for 3rd and 4th. Low and behold with our 17 players and less than three hundred girls to choose from, we managed to beat one of the best rugby programs in the country 10-7. Luck had played its part and it was a great competition to be apart of.
Once back in North Harbour provincial rugby was back upon us and now with Kaipara having 13 girls and a coach now in the North Harbour Under 18 secondary School Girls, it was going to be a daunting season. But we prevailed winning the Northern Region Provincial Championship, another 1st. Id like to think some of the Kaipara College Rugby Values rubbed off on the other players, and that helped us get there.
It had been a long year of rugby so far for the girls and not much let up going in to the seven’s but they battled through taking our the North Harbour Secondary School Open 7’s tournament for the 5th year and coming a narrow second in the under 15’s. We again entered the club sevens and again lost to East Coast Bays Narrowly in the final. Then some of the girls took a break to play for North Harbour in the Under 19 Northern Region 7’s Tournament, there were 8 Kaipara players in the squad, and they again won. Three trophies for North HArbour Provincially that I’m happy to say Kaipara College Rugby had a big hand in (hope that’s not Immodest). Condors was just around the corner and again we thought maybe this will be our year, unfortunately we were in the pool of Death as only one team made it out of our pool into the top 8 and the rest of us were in the other finals. In saying that we had Southland Girls on the ropes at 12-0 only to have them come back on us. We did how ever battle back the next day and win the Bowl.
So we ended the 2016 year with only three defeats, two to Southland Girls’ High School and one to East Coast Bays Rugby Club. Not bad going if I’m honest, we also had some outstanding achievements: Rina Paraone made the New Zealand 7’s Development team and gained a scholarship to the university of Waikato, Sativa Tarau-Peehikuru gained a scholarship to Lindenwood University in the U.S.A and many of the girls have started working for the union and are part of the high performance program.
In 2017 Kaipara College Girls Rugby hit the ground running we had lost some great players but the vibe was positive and the future looks bright. We have six girls in the under 18 North Harbour elite development group, five girls playing in the North Harbour Under 15’s. We have won the Blues tens again and I can comfortably say we are the best tens team in the Blues region. We have gone undefeated in the first 7 games of the 10’s season. It brings our record up to 40 ten’s wins without defeat. We have an exceptional Leadership team of Madi Wells, Malia Hemehema, Merania Paraone and Anna Steele. The Kaipara College Girls Rugby Program loses a coach with me leaving but it doesn’t lose the pride, the prestige and the desire to do great things.
I look forward to seeing what great things they do next.
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