St Mary’s netball focussed on season ahead
By their own admission St Mary’s College had a disappointing end to 2018, the Wellington Regional champions failing to finish inside the top five of the Lower North Island Secondary Schools tournament (LNISS) and missing out on nationals.
But that is in the past and the Senior A team has a revitalised group of new and returning players focussed on a big year ahead in 2019.
The early shots in school competition netball were fired last Thursday at the ASB Centre, with St Mary’s winning the College Sport Wellington Premier tournament, receiving the Paul Cameron Cup.
Co-coach Tash Tawhara said this was a pleasing result for the team. “We lost five senior players last year and we have got a relatively new team with some players coming up either from the Senior Bs or the Junior As and we have a mix of ages to build depth for the future,” said Tawhara.
“Our goal at this tournament was to put out the performances on court that we have been practicing, and to make it to the final and then to have a tight win against Queen Margaret College was very satisfying.”
St Mary’s had wins over Mana College (36-7), Aotea College (28-7), Heretaunga College (30-17), Onslow College (35-10) and Wellington Girls’ College (23-10) in the quickfire round-robin, and then Wellington East Girls’ College (16-13) in their section playoff and then Queen Margaret College (16-14) in the final.
Samuel Marsden Collegiate pipped Wellington East (15-14) in the 3 v 4 match while last year’s Premier tournament winners Sacred Heart College, with a new-look team, defeated Heretaunga (24-12) in the 5 v 6 decider.
Playing a series of short-sharp matches in a short space of time also presented challenges. “Playing these short games one after another is very difficult. Our girls are used to playing four 15-minute quarters on a Saturday, so it was really just like them moving from one court to another to play the equivalent of two full games. But fitness is good and all our players got good time on court.”
Tawhara is in her second season coaching the team and is joined this year by new manager Darrell Doig and co-coach Dion Te Whetu who coached the Wellington U17s to a third successive national U17 crown last year.
Both St Mary’s and Queen Margaret’s NZSS players Saviour Tui (St Mary’s) and Paris Lokotui (QMC) were present last Thursday but not playing as they were involved in Central’s 49-46 BEKO Development League final win over Waikato Bay of Plenty on Friday night. Goal Shoot Saviour shot 36/39 in the win and goal defence Paris was a key defender in the final.
The Wellington Netball Centre Club competition involving the Wellington City schools, is a month old and St Mary’s are sitting on the top of the table of Premier 2, and will move up to Premier 1 for the second part of the season if they stay on top. That will see the schoolgirls playing against all the BEKO and franchise players in several games.
But it is at the secondary school level where St Mary’s destiny lies.
“We missed out on nationals last year, so our goal this year is to keep grinding through our structures and our plays that we do at training and make the NZSS nationals.”
They must finish inside the top five teams at LNISS to go on and contest the NZSS Championships in Nelson in October, along with the top five qualifiers from the South Island and six from the upper North Island.
This year’s LNISS tournament is being hosted by the Wellington Netball Centre at the ASB Centre in Winter Tournament Week in early September.
The other two tournaments many of the leading players will be aiming for are the NZ U17 Championships in Auckland and the NZ U19 tournament in Invercargill, both in July.
The St Mary’s 2019 Senior A netball team is:
Maddie Feaunati (co-captain)
Sharnay Leef (co-captain)
Dion Te Whetu