Sarah McLeod-Venu Shooting for Netball Success

Wainuiomata High School’s Sarah McLeod-Venu was recently selected in the Central Manawa Beko League squad and has been captaining her school team to a winning run in Division 2 of the Wellington Regional school competition.

With the Beko League unfortunately cancelled over the weekend because of Covid-19 restrictions, Sarah is nevertheless starting this week preparing for a top-of-the-table clash on Monday with Wellington Girls’ College(a close 45-38 lose). We caught up her in a busy stretch of the season.

College Sport Wellington: First, how good was it to see the Pulse win the ANZ Championship again last week and how does their win inspire yourself and all the current secondary school players, particularly with a group of players just out of school you probably know or have played with or against in the past?

Sarah McLeod-Venu:  It was great to see the Pulse win, especially back-to-back. Seeing how their hard work paid off definitely inspires myself to strive to become a better netballer and I think the same would go for most young netball players, and yes, also watching the younger players that I’ve come up against play and win an ANZ Championship is very inspiring.

CSW: Congratulations on being selected in the Central Manawa National Netball League squad – how did this selection come about? Was this a surprise?
Sarah: Thank-you, it was all very swift and definitely surprising. I was only nominated to trial for the Central Manawa National Netball League squad a couple days before the actual trial, and found out that I made the squad the night of the trial. It was pretty overwhelming at the time as it had always been a goal of mine to play in the National Netball League but wasn’t expecting it to be this soon.

CSW: You are a shooter, have you always played down that end of the court?
Sarah: GS is my main position, but I do also play GA. Yes, I have always predominantly been a shooter since intermediate.

Do you have an earliest and a favourite netball memory so far?
My earliest netball memory dates back to intermediate when I first started playing, in year 7. I made the Hutt Valley Gold representative team which at the time came as a surprise. I think that’s where my love for the game began.

CSW: Wainuiomata High School is in Division 2, but won their first five matches. After a late, disrupted start due to Covid-19, have results gone to plan or above expectations?
Sarah: I’m stoked with our progress this year and so proud of all the ladies in our team. I think Covid-19 has made us treasure playing sport and has given us that extra drive to win. From the start of the season I was personally very impressed with our team and expected us to do well, however, the way our team is performing is exceeding my expectations. Our game on Monday against Wellington Girls is certainly a crucial game that will challenge us, but we will definitely go out and put our best foot forward and hope for a win! Note: Wellington Girls Won 45-38

CSW: How long have you been in the Wainuiomata High School Senior A team, and what is your leadership role in that team?
Sarah: I’ve played in our Senior A team since year 9, I was very lucky to be brought into the school premier netball quite early. I’ve had the privilege to be captain of the team for the past two years. There are some younger players in our team, I try my best to guide them and help them develop their skills.

CSW: What club  and competitions do you also play in outside your school team?
Sarah: I play for Ulalei in the Hutt Valley Netball Premier 1 competition, and recently played for Naenae Collegians United White in the zone competition. In the Hutt Valley competition we just recently lost our semi-final, so we are playing for 3rd & 4th this weekend. It’s been a great season with Ulalei though.

CSW: Tell us about your typical week on and off the netball court? How often are you training and how many games a week are you playing at the moment? You are also Head Student at Wainuiomata High School, so that must take up a lot of your time as well?
Sarah: A typical week for me is quite full on. I train four nights a week, play two netball games. I have also recently started playing for our Wainuiomata High School girls Senior basketball team, so I play basketball once a week and then of course have to keep up with school work. My role as a Head Student is definitely a big responsibility but I manage to balance it well.

CSW: There is still some representative netball scheduled to be coming up?
Sarah: We have a representative tournament coming up in September, it’s going to be a short season this year but I’m looking forward to it. Last year our U17 Hutt Valley team did really well, we placed 11th which was a big step up from the year before where they placed 21st. So that was a massive achievement for Hutt Valley netball and a highlight of the tournament. During that tournament I was very lucky to make the tournament team, which was definitely another highlight.

CSW: Do you play other sports, as well as netball and basketball for your school team?Sarah: Netball is my main sport, but I do also play volleyball and have recently started playing basketball [as above]. I also play indoor netball. I played for the Hutt U17s team early this year and went to Auckland for the National tournament where I was selected for the Indoor Netball New Zealand U17 Ladies squad, but this didn’t proceed due to Covid-19.

CSW: Do you have a role model or a mentor?
Sarah: I could name many people that have played a huge part in mentoring me over the years I’ve played netball and I’m so grateful to have such amazing support and guidance. One of my most influential role models would have to be my brother Leon, he’s one of the best leaders I know, and has paved a  pathway of opportunities for me and my little sister.

CSW: In school, what subjects are you doing this year in L3 NCEA, and do you know what you might be doing next year?
Sarah: I’m currently taking Physics, Maths, History, Art/Painting, and Design & Visual Communications. Next year I hope to continue progressing with netball and am planning to go to Victoria University of Wellington to study Architecture.


-Story courtesy of College Sport Media