Zora Flourishing in Fearless Hutt High First XI
Story courtesy of College Sport Media
Hutt Valley High School (HVHS) only has 28 registered female football players, but there is a culture of optimism that continues to produce excellent players.
Mark Oates has been a physical education teacher at the College since 2001 and has coached the First XI since 2012. In that time HVHS have won two Capital Football titles and in 2014 were ranked in the top four of New Zealand. Graduate Maya Hahn played for the Football Ferns
HVHS have made a flying start in 2022 winning their first three matches, outscoring opponents 13-1.
Zora Tavernet plays on the wing or in midfield and embodies the ethos HVHS is trying to embrace – and that is skillful, attacking, possession orientated football that is fun to play and helps with longer term development rather than ‘parking the bus’ for short term gain.
“I started playing football with my family when I was four at the local park, as my father has always been a big football fan. I joined a club at seven. I think my strengths as a player would be my passion for the sport and my spatial awareness. I try to make sure I keep an eye out for my teammates at all times, in order to find them quicker when I receive the ball,” Zora said.
It’s this unselfish attitude which has made Zora an invaluable player in the team, though she hasn’t always been the best at handling pressure.
“I’ve always put a huge amount of pressure on myself and having coaches who wholeheartedly believed in me despite mistakes has encouraged me to push myself and give my best to make them proud.
“My best memory playing for HVHS happened in 2020 when we beat Onslow College 3-2. We were losing 0-2 at half time and, being very disappointed in myself, I cried throughout the break and decided I couldn’t go back on the field. However, the coaches and my teammates refused to accept this and encouraged me to go back onto the field. I somehow got an assist and scored our second goal. Seeing how genuinely happy it made my teammates was so heartwarming and made me understand why football was so important to me.”
Zora is now captain of HVHS. She wants to lead her team by example and emulate her favourite player, Kylian Mbappe.
“As a French person, I discovered him at the 2018 World Cup and have been in awe ever since. He’s got everything I look for in a player, dribbling, finishing, and team oriented mindset. He’s one of the most well-rounded players out there; he’s got very good field vision, his passing is always accurate and he doesn’t hesitate to give a goal to a teammate instead of scoring himself.”
Zora played club football for a decade with a stint at Petone between 2018 and 2021 a real highlight.
“The people there are wonderful and I’ve always felt welcome. A highlight would definitely be our victory in the 2021 National Under-19 Tournament last year. The whole thing felt like a dream, getting to travel, compete and win with an incredible team was amazing. I scored the winner in our semi final and the last minute banger in the final from Captain Olivia Gibbs was unbelievable.”
Zora has taken a break this year to concentrate exclusively on secondary school football and her studies. Her favourite subjects are media studies and art painting.