College Sport Wellington – 30 Years Strong

Three decades of co-ordinating college sport in Wellington is being marked this month, with the 30th anniversary of the formation of College Sport Wellington (CSW).

CSW has grown from humble beginnings on the first day of term two in 1989 in a single office in Karori to an established organisation administering up to 40 secondary school sports in the Greater Wellington region.  CSW’s first Executive Director, John Hornal, had been a teacher at Newlands College since the early 1970s and was Head of Phys-Ed and Sport at the time.  Hornal had over the years become frustrated with the lack of coordination and promotion of secondary school sport and in the mid 80’s shared this with his Principal at the time, Paul Richardson.  The lack of management around the overlap between the summer and winter seasons, the fees being levied school teams, and the lack of opportunity in ‘lesser’ codes added to the frustrations.

“You could have students playing the last game of cricket on one Saturday and the next Saturday playing a rugby football or netball grading match,” says Hornal. “Then each school’s sport – as an extracurricular activity – was at that time being managed by primarily school PE staff and a dwindling group of dedicated teachers then becoming overloaded with the introduction of additional assessment demands.”

In 1987 Paul Richardson initiated conversations about forming CSW with several of his principal colleagues including Bruce Murray (Tawa College), Richard Campbell (Paraparaumu College), Graeme Marshall (HVHS) and David Scott (Upper Hutt College).  Because the schools were going to be the employers and essentially funding CSW, the principals had to buy into it and they had to convince their colleagues that the concept was sound and viable.

At the time there was a model already in place in Canterbury, with a centralised office administering  their Wednesday afternoon sport. “Schools in Christchurch closed at 2.00pm on Wednesdays and ran their school sport. School Sport Canterbury managed that on behalf of the schools.”

At the same time, and unbeknown to the Wellington Principals, Auckland principals under then Auckland Grammar School head John Graham were considering a similar option to Wellington.  Coincidentally both Wellington and Auckland announced their appointments at the same time in Easter 1989. Hornal was appointed to the Wellington position and so College Sport Wellington was born – 22 May 1989 – the start of Term 2 in what was still in those times a 3-term year.  It operated out of a ‘dungeon’ room with a desk, a chair and a filing cabinet at the Wellington College of Education in Karori. There were no computers or sport management programmes. Everything was done on a typewriter using manual draw matrixes which were completed then copied and snail- mailed to schools. At that time not one school had a fax!

Hornal spent time convincing principals of the advantage of faxes (not only for sporting purposes) and before long all schools had invested in one. Over time College Sport Wellington has kept abreast and led much of the sport technology development available in NZ – website, Facebook, Twitter, and most recently an App and with those, comprehensive sport management systems that link to all these.  So, what formerly took 3-4 days to be mailed to schools and sport partners is now immediately available worldwide.

It was a gradual build. Hornal picked up the codes that some teachers were running under sufferance and discussed with regional sport bodies the opportunity to pick up their secondary school delivery. At the same time some new codes were introduced to the school menu – squash, bowls and golf were amongst the first new codes. This provided an opportunity to set up some structures that schools owned and were comfortable with, on an organised seasonal basis.

So, over the years, the menu of sports administered and managed by College Sport Wellington grew and developed to now be over 40, most in close liaison and consultation with their respective regional bodies.  As the CSW sport offerings grew so too did the staffing, office space and funding needs.  From the Teachers’ College there was a move to Cricket Wellington offices in Kent Terrace initiated by then Cricket Wellington boss Rod Moore; then a move to larger space further down Kent Terrace, then in with the newly established Sport Wellington in Adelaide Road and more latterly with Sport Wellington to its current headquarters in Thorndon Quay.

Jo Winter was an early staff member providing administrative support, followed by Ngaire Drake and Tracey Devereux (both 20+ years on still working for CSW). Subsequently Dave Mackenzie did a stint and when he moved on in 2015 David Fa’atafa stepped into his shoes. When Hornal retired in July 2017, former Cricket Wellington Operations Manager Bryan Dickinson was appointed to the role.

So, a mere seven staff over 30 years may be indicative of the satisfaction staff get from their roles.

“With this growth, schools too recognised the breadth of the work being done across multiple codes by ‘volunteer’ teachers. Schools moved to address this by appointing their own School Sports Coordinators – in most cases non teachers employed to the role.” The necessity for these roles can now be demonstrated with 62 school sports coordinators spread across the CSW schools.

An early catalyst that contributed to the growth and status of  CSW – and college sport in the region -was Saturn TV.  Saturn was a Wellington regional TV channel led by Roger Gascoigne, a former high school colleague of Hornal, and with Ken Laban, John Morrison and Terry Orchard as its primary commentators Saturn presented live coverage of college rugby, netball, football and basketball. This exposure was richly received by the wider Wellington community, and beyond with some envy.

“In 1993 we had our first televised Premier rugby final under lights at the Hutt Rec between Bishop Viard College and Hutt Valley High School. The ground was at capacity and the experience stunning. In the end a 19-19 draw was a great advertisement for youth rugby and the forerunner for finals events and days now across all codes. Sadly, Saturn TV was not sustainable and those halcyon days were lost.”

A second catalyst at the time was the foresight and support of the then Evening Post General Manager Ian Wells, himself with a strong passion for youth sport. So then began the scribing of a weekly College Sport page in the Evening Post and later the Dominion Post, a page widely read and the envy of other regions across the country. Linda Wood was the College Sport reporter for many years and wrote some great stories. Sadly again in the last five years that promotion of youth, sport and their school communities has been benched in favour of national and international stories that have comparatively minimal local interest.

After an initial period with the Interislander as its naming sponsor, the Evening Post and subsequently the Dominion Post, in varying ways took over that mantle for almost twenty years and that was a great relationship. WelTec then became CSW’s third primary sponsor for a four-year window and provided great support and investment in its activity.

Another key promotion of CSW since its inception has been the secondary school sports awards, to recognise the high achievers in the schools.  Hutt Valley High School runner Jonathan Wyatt won the inaugural awards held in 1990, in the hall at Hornal’s old school  Newlands College with  an audience of around 300. NZ Netball Captain Waimarama Taumanu and NZ Softball Captain Mark Sorenson were the guest speakers. Wyatt was that year’s national U20 and Australian U20 cross country champion, the NZSS 3000m champion and the winner of the 5000m at the Junior Olympics held in Japan.

“His prize as the winner was a sponsored return trip with airfares and accommodation for three – him, his Mum and his Dad – to the USA. He was the only one that ever got that prize! From then on it was the kudos that went with it and the trophy.”

Subsequently the evening moved to the James Cook Hotel, Duxton/Amora Hotel and is now entrenched as a glitzy event at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua with an 800-person audience.  Softballer Kiri Shaw was the second overall winner and the first female winner in 1991. Like her mother, Shaw became a NZ Softball stalwart and is now Head of Physical Education at Naenae College.  The awards went co-ed in 1995, with weightlifter Olivia Baker (Aotea College) the overall female supreme award recipient, and swimmer Oliver Young (Wellington College) winning the first male supreme award.

Since then, there have been a number of winners that have gone on to represent New Zealand at the highest level on the international stage;  including  Jerry Collins (rugby, winner in 1997), James Franklin (cricket, 1998), Jodi Brown nee Te Huna (netball, 1999), Nick Willis (athletics  2000), Victor Vito (rugby, 2004), rower Erin Monique Shelton (rowing, 2004), Samantha Lee (swimming 2008-2009) TJ Perenara (rugby, 2010) and Steven Adams (basketball, 2011), Daniel Hillier (golf 2015-2016) and Amelia Kerr (cricket 2016-18).

In 2002, water polo player Lachlan Tijsen from Rongotai College became the first back-to-back supreme award winner. In 2013, Sacred Heart College golfer Julianne Alvarez was the first athlete to win three supreme award accolades in a row, which was matched last year by Tawa College cricketer Amelia Kerr.

Another notable winner was sailor Josh Junior, who won out of Wellington High School in 2007. “He was the keynote speaker at the CSW Awards Dinner a couple of years ago after coming off the Americas Cup win as crew with Team New Zealand.”

Recognising success is not just about the elite sportspeople.

“We give out personalised engraved CSW medals to the winners of every grade of every code. So there is great satisfaction in seeing the kids walking around with their medals on after presentations. It is their reward they get for their hard work. In many cases it’s the only time they’ll cross the stage and shake hands with their principal.”

Sport has also developed considerably in the past 20 years for athletes with a disability and CSW is a national leader in the space. Hornal is passionate about this and in his retirement is now back part- time at Newlands College working in their Learning Support Centre with these students.

“Without doubt, the most outstanding athlete to come out of AWD secondary school sport in Wellington is paralympian blind swimmer Mary Fisher from Heretaunga College, winner of numerous Paralympic golds and a world record holder in her class.”

Hornal says that in modern times secondary school sport faces a number of challenges, not least issues around growing inequality and the financial haves and have nots, and around scholarships – which have been documented extensively elsewhere.

The rationale of how young people now choose their sporting pursuits has changed dramatically over the years. Gone are the days where the ‘traditional’ codes held centre stage as of right. Sports like basketball and volleyball were barely scratching the surface in the ‘90s; futsal never existed until the last decade (incidentally introduced by CSW with KiwiSport funding support). NZSSSC census data increasingly sees these codes now challenging to be the top secondary school participation codes. In Wellington the advent of the ASB Sports Centre at Kilbirnie in particular has been a revelation for youth sport providing a central hub and an affordable first class environment for many of CSW’s indoor codes – basketball, volleyball, futsal, netball, floorball and handball – where young people can enjoy their sporting experience and at the same time experience the social opportunities more sterile school gymnasia cannot generally deliver.

So from somewhat humble beginnings in 1989, the College Sport Wellington machine rolls on supporting the growth and development of young people and their sporting dreams in the Wellington region.