St Mary’s remain the team to beat in Wellington Senior A netball

St Mary’s College Senior A netball team have won the Wellington Regional Secondary Schools League (RSSL) each of the past six years. That’s a modern-day dynasty.

Having lost four 2021 school leavers, including last year’s captain Amelia Feaunati and NZSS squad member Temalesi Rayasi, and with a younger squad this year, St Mary’s will have to work harder than ever to try and win their seventh straight regional title.

St Mary’s started their secondary school season off last Thursday by winning College Sport Wellington’s one-day Paul Cameron Cup tournament in Kilbirnie.

The tournament format was seven matches throughout the day in two 10-minute halves per game.  St Mary’s had wins over St Catherine’s (28-6), Upper Hutt (25-10), Newlands (18-7), Chilton (29-4), Aotea (24-7), Queen Margaret (16-12) and then over Samuel Marsden Collegiate School (12-8) in the final.

This was a repeat of last August’s RSSL final in which St Mary’s beat Marsden 34-28, after winning 41-30 in their previous meeting in the round-robin of that competition.

This year’s captain and the school’s 2022 head girl, Erana Ngarimu, said last Thursday’s tournament was a fruitful day.

“It is an honour to play for St Mary’s, and our team was determined to represent our school with good spirit and our best efforts,” said Erana. “We used our pool matches to try different combinations, taking no team lightly and focusing on one match at a time. Our playoff game was tough, QMC had a strong team and our score stayed within 5 the entire game.”

“It is always a close game between us and Marsden, their squad is filled with strong players that overall make them a very dangerous team. At no point were we able to ease up, but it was good the girls could pull through and get the win in the end. A seven-peat would be a great achievement for our team and the girls are motivated to take out the RSSL this year.”

What is it going to take to do that?

“Our coach Pelesa Semu tells us to remain composed during our games which I think really helps. It’s important that we stay calm no matter who our opposition is, and we play to our structures with intensity and urgency. We bring values such as respect learnt from St Mary’s to our team culture, which helps us grow and develop as a team.”

The 10-player St Mary’s A squad this year is:

Ava Ekenasio (year 11)
Briana Parkes (year 12)
Caitlin Lafaele (year 12)
Charlotte White (year 12)
Erana Ngarimu (year 13), Captain
Kiara-Leigh Davidson-Korewha (year 13)
Natalia Savali (year 13)
Phoenix Schwalger (year 11)
Pierina Cusin-Tavite (year 12)
Teuila Bennis (year 11)

Head Coach: Pelesa Semu
Assistant Coach: Ranie Liua’ana
Managers: Ahi Schwalger & Anne Paton

The players lost from last year are Amelia Feaunati, Temalesi Rayasi (both noted above), Jessica Jackson and Lamai Mataiti. New players for 2022 are Ava Ekenasio, Briana Parkes, Charlotte White and Pierina Cusin-Tavite.

“Overall, our team this year is pretty young, which is great to see the younger talent from our school showing through and I’m really excited to see the rest of the season with this squad,” Erana enthused.

Netball Wellington Centre recently selected U16 and U18 squads and all of St Mary’s players are involved in these teams.

Said Erana: “from our team we have Phoenix Schwalger, Teuila Bennis, Caitlin Lafaele and Ava Ekenasio in U16 Black, Briana Parkes, Natalia Savali and Pierina Cusin-Tavite in U18 Gold, Charlotte White, myself and Kiara-Leigh Davidson-Korewha selected for U18 Black. This squad is currently in training for competing in the U18 Nationals at Christchurch in July.”

What will be the St Mary’s team’s strengths this year?

“A definite challenge for oppositions within our team would be our year 11 shooter Phoenix Schwalger, who has been in Senior A since year 9, and with a strong presence in the circle. Our midcourt with Charlotte White in WA and myself at centre brings a fast-paced attacking game. Another strength within our team would be our through-court defence, with our keeper Caitlin Lafaele consistently gaining turnovers leading from the back.”

Erana said that St Mary’s and Marsden will once more forge a strong rivalry throughout 2022.

“Marsden is definitely a strong team; one we won’t take lightly. As well as the RSSL competition, we will play them multiple times this season for our Saturday league matches, as they are the only other high school team in the Wellington Netball Centre Premier 1 grade, which will be no doubt present a series of exciting and close games.

As well as the local competitions, there are the LNISS and NZSS tournaments as a goal to work towards.

The NZSS tournament in Porirua was cancelled last year because of Covid and returns there this year.

Prior to that is the scheduled Lower North Island Secondary School (LNISS) tournament in Hawke’s Bay, in Winter Tournament Week in September.


CSW Premier Netball tournament results: