Year of experience for Colleen Faleafaga at national netball trials

Practice made perfect for Colleen Faleafaga at the national secondary schools netball trials.

The St Mary’s College pupil benefited from the experience of trialling the previous year.

She missed the final cut in 2014 but received a more welcome phone call last week.

The year 13 was among four Wellington players to be selected for the 12-member New Zealand squad, joining the Wellington East trio of Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Marcelle Parkes and Tiana Metuarau.

“Because I trialled last year, I kind of knew what to expect,” Faleafaga said. “I’ve also grown in confidence from last year.”

Faleafaga had also ticked most of the boxes during her 2014 season.

She made the Aotearoa Maori squad that competed against the New Zealand schools side and later in the season was named in the tournament team selected from the national secondary schools championships.

Making the New Zealand team had been her main goal for 2015. “I’ve always wanted to wear the black dress.”

However,  she had some minor injury issues at the trials and was not certain that she had done enough to be selected. “I did have some self doubts and was nervous waiting to find out. The waiting was quite stressful.”

 Faleafaga’s selection was also a reward for effort.

There has been an increasing emphasis on fitness at top level netball and, with the secondary  schools trials coming early in the season,  Faleafaga had had to work hard to reach the required standard.

“We got some feedback after the trials last year and I was definitely much fitter this year. I wanted to be as fit as possible and my trainer worked out a five-week programme leading up to the trials. It took in skills and drills as well, and was not just about fitness.”

Faleafaga was also told after last year’s trials that she was probably too short to play in the defensive circle and started playing at wing defence more often but made the national team as a defender.

“Wing defence was a good challenge but was still quite new to me and I’m more comfortable and confident at goal defence.”

Faleafaga, who first played netball as a four-year-old, is the oldest of six children and has three younger sisters and two younger brothers.

The family now lives in Melbourne but Faleafaga, who was the only one at secondary school when the move was made, chose to stay at St Mary’s and lives with her grandmother, prominent netball administrator Elaine Wi, during the school term.

 She still has plenty of family support at St Mary’s, with three first cousins on the roll, including Lyric Faleafaga, who is a team-mate in the senior netball team.

 Secondary schools coach Julie Seymour was impressed by the progress Faleafaga and Parkes had made over the past year, after both had trialled unsuccessfully in 2014.

 “It was so nice that they had taken on board the feedback from last year and kept working at their game,” Seymour said.

“Colleen had definitely improved and was playing at the next level. She’s a lovely reader of the game, has good timing and anticipation and has worked really hard on her fitness.

“She’s not tall for a defender but we haven’t got too many giants in the defensive circle.

“She had also experienced the trials before. It’s such a nerve-racking experience and a mental challenge as much as a physical one.”

Seymour said Parkes had had “a really strong trial” at wing defence.  “The Australian teams always seem to have a dominant wing attack and Marcelle has the speed to close them down.

“She’s athletic and physically strong as well. The game has become more physical and players need to be able to take the knocks.

“Marcelle is also able to attack the ball and has a great training ethic.”

Reuelu-Buchanan also made the team last year and showcased her skills at the trials again. “It was good to see Mila come through again and I think the competition in the midcourt was even tougher this year,” Seymour said. “She was really strong against Australia last year.”

 Metuarau, 14, is the youngest member of the squad. “We debated taking someone so young but she was one of the standout shooters,” Seymour said.

“What impressed me was her maturity on the court. She coped mentally and you wouldn’t know she was a 14-year-old.

“She was very accurate and not afraid to put up shots from anywhere and has variations in her game.”