St Mary’s College, perched on the top of the hill overlooking Wellington’s Thorndon motorway, is currently in the fast lane of secondary school sport.
This time last year they didn’t have a First XV rugby team. Recently they came second in the country, beaten by Southland Girls’ High School in the Top 4 final. In the first week of the school holidays they came ninth at the NZSS AA Basketball Championships. Last week they came fifth at the NZSS netball championships and four of their players made the tournament selection - Saviour Tui, Renee Savai'inaea, Lyric Faleafaga and Ainsleyana Puleiata.
This week College Sport Media caught up with three of those four players, Renee Savai'inaea, Lyric Faleafaga and Ainsleyana Puleiata, who are also all in the St Mary’s rugby team. Renee also plays in the school’s basketball side, while Ainsleyana played in the school’s volleyball team that finished fifth in the NZSS Division 1 Championships in April.
College Sport Media: What year are you all in and what positions do you play in rugby and netball?
Lyric: Year 12 and I play right wing in rugby and goal keep in netball
Ainsleyana: Year 11 and I play left wing in rugby and centre in netball
Renee: Year 12 and I play lock in rugby and goal defence in netball
College Sport Media: How long have you been playing sport for, including rugby and netball?
Lyric: Rugby was my first sport; my dad got my sister and me [Dhys who is No. 8 in the St Mary’s rugby team] into rugby when we were five. We then had a break and it was netball since until last year when I started playing rugby again.
Ainsleyana: I started playing basketball first and then I went to netball with Lyric. I played the two together, but netball started becoming my main sport and then rugby come along.
Renee: I’ve been playing basketball and netball together the whole time, and now rugby, so continue to play all three together.
College Sport Media: What are the crossover benefits of all the sports you play in?
Lyric: I think the netball and basketball fitness helps a lot for rugby. Netball is a lot of running. For me, the rugby playing experience also helps on the netball court when it gets physical sometimes.
Ainsleyana and Renee: Building up and maintaining our fitness is the same for both sports so the crossover there helps a lot.
College Sport Media: Tell us about a favourite rugby match you’ve played in this year?
Lyric: I think it was winning against Aotea College in the Wellington final as that has been our hardest competition. This season there was heaps of back and forth. We played them three times and only lost twice and won once. People doubted us, because of the loss, but we all showed heart in the final and wanted to win.
College Sport Media: What about your 58-12 win over Feilding High School to win the Hurricanes region final?
Lyric: I know that 15s and 7s are different, but we had beaten them earlier in the year in the final of the Gordon Tietjens 7s. Plus we had seen them play 15s when they played Aotea College so we knew what to expect when we met them.
Renee: Our win over Hamilton Girls’ High School [22-17 on the opening day of the Top 4 tournament] was also special, especially when our captain [Monica Tagoai] got sin-binned near the end.
College Sport Media: What about having All Black Ardie Savea as one of your rugby coaches:
Lyric: Ardie Savea and Tuga Mativa [wing for Ardie’s club Ories] together have been really good. They can work with us and understand our fitness levels and help us out.
Ainsleyana: They have been great for us; they have definitely helped us improve this season.
College Sport Media: Congratulations on you all making the tournament team at last week’s netball championships. Tell us about the highs and lows of the tournament as a team?
Lyric: We were naturally disappointed to lose to Epsom Girls’ Grammar School in extra time and then to MAGS later that afternoon on the second to last day. Our team went through a lot this year, even with losing players, but we think it was just another obstacle that we had to overcome. Also all the older players in the team made sure that we kept our heads high after we missed out on the top four games.
Ainsleyana: The St Margaret’s game on the second day [won 38-18] stood out as a positive match for us because before that we weren’t really connecting as a team but we started playing in that game how we normally play.
Lyric: We lost a player in that game to injury [goal attack Dana-Jayne Mills] but Emma Ticklepenny came on played really well.
College Sport Media: It goes without saying you are all really busy with sport, but what subjects do you like at school?
Lyric: I like history and biology as favourite subjects.
Ainsleyana and Renee [together]: P.E. – so we can keep playing sport in class!
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