Busy Netball Season Ahead for Wellington Girls’ Lili Clarke

After the disruptions last year, the 2021 netball season promises to be as busy as ever for Wellington Girls’ College’s Lili Clarke.

Lili, along with three other players from the Wellington region, was recently selected in the 2021 New Zealand Secondary Schools netball squad.

The other players in the 19-player squad are Torren Isaako (Aotea College), Rachel Price (Samuel Marsden Collegiate School) and Temalesi Rayasi (St Mary’s College).

The squad has been selected from the 85 players who attended three National Development Camps in January as well as the Zone feed forward process.

Lili found out about her selection whilst in class.

“I was in calculus when I found out I had been selected in the squad,” said Lili “One of my classmates who also went to the camp and she got the email saying that she didn’t make the team and she came over and asked me if I had got an email and I checked then and read I had made it.

“So It was awesome to find out about my selection in the middle of calculus in the morning!”

From this group of players, a team of 12-14 players will be named in the final NZSS team in August.  The schedule for this team is yet to be confirmed.

In the meantime, the squad members are on a fitness programme and receiving additional support from the NZSS coaching staff, Te Aroha Keenan and Pelesa Semu.

Lili said that making the squad was exciting but unexpected.

“I wasn’t expecting to get into the squad at all, because there were a lot of players that went to the three different camps this year with lots of talent. I was quite shocked, and excited to read my name on the list.”

This was the second year she had attended the annual Netball New Zealand Development Camps, but last year was different as Covid-19 and lockdown struck early in the year and all players were just grateful to be playing at all by the middle of the year.

After switching between the attacking circle and the defensive end of the court for the past couple of years, Lili is concentrating on being a defender this year, as she explained:

“When I was in year 11, I was in the Senior B team at Wellington Girls and they started putting me in goal shoot in that team. But at the same time, I was playing goal keep in my rep team.

“Last year I was playing goal shoot for my Senior A school team, but I think after last year and especially after not being able to play defence for the reps I realise I like defence more than shooting and I am sticking with being a goalkeeper/goal defender for all my teams this year.”

Lili also has a strong basketball pedigree and is an incumbent member of the Wellington Girls’ College Senior A basketball team.

“Netball is full on, with school and rep teams coming up, so I am just looking at sticking with the one team for basketball. I still really enjoy basketball, it’s a great sport.”

School netball starts early next term.

The annual College Sport Wellington one-day Premier tournament is on Thursday 13 May at the ASB Sports Centre.

All schools in Wellington play their respective competitions, then combine for the CSW regional competition from late June to late August.

Wellington Girls’ College beat Wainuiomata High School 37-28 in the Division 2 final last year.

Most of that team are returning this year, so they are hoping to build on that.

The Netball Wellington representative teams have also been recently announced, with U16 and U18 teams replacing the U17 and U19 age-group teams from this year’s scheduled representative competitions.

Lili has been selected in the Wellington Black U18 team, alongside WGC school mates Anna Tirikatene and Taylor Bryers.

Her previous Wellington team was the U17 Black team in 2019. They finished sixth in the 2019 U17 National Tournament, behind winners Waitakere.

Lili started playing netball aged eight.

“My main memories of netball from when I was young were loving goal attack. I think that was quite a favourite position for a lot of people.

“It was one of my teachers who recommended to my dad that netball could be a fun sport to play, and I remember thinking that netball was tennis. I didn’t know what tennis either, just that you hit a ball back over the net!”


-Story Courtesy of College Sport Media