Netting a second straight New Zealand Secondary Schools title will be the goal for St Kentigern College when they join netball’s leading schools in Rotorua.
The Auckland school is one of 16 New Zealand teams coming together at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua from October 10-13 to compete at the national secondary schools championships.
The defending champion Saint Kentigern College side, which won the title for the first time last year, returns along with last year’s finalists and fellow Auckland school Mount Albert Grammar School who will be another team to watch.
The annual tournament, which was established in 1993 and is one of the most keenly contested events on the Netball New Zealand calendar, sees 16 teams from the Upper Norther Island, Lower North Island and South Island go head-to-head over four days.
Three schools will be making their first appearance at the national tournament including Howick College, St Pauls Collegiate School and Queen Margaret College while Mount Albert Grammar School (MAGS) will be gunning for an unprecedented sixth crown.
Saint Kentigern’s look set to defend their title with two national secondary schools representatives in Tayla Earle and Tori Kolose as well as Ashleigh Garner who played in this year’s Beko Netball League.
They won their maiden schools crown last year with a thrilling one-goal finals victory, ending Mount Albert Grammar’s stranglehold on the tournament.
MAGS are again coached by Paula Smith who was also part of the Beko League this year and sees the return of Lahaina-Lee Upu-Toparea who is in the national schools side.
Last year’s mid-courter and defender of the tournament, Ainsleyana Puleiata and Renee Savai’inaea, will be back for St Mary’s College and both players are members of New Zealand’s Secondary Schools team.
Other teams to watch include Epsom Girls’ Grammar School and Manukura who both boast national players while St Hilda’s Collegiate School will be spearheaded by the Heffernan twins, Georgia and Kate, who both played at the Beko League level.
Former Silver Ferns captain Julie Seymour will have her coaching hat on for the week with St Margaret’s College from Christchurch while fellow former Fern Angela Mitchell will guide Ashburton College as they return to the top 16.
The four-day tournament will be an opportunity for national selectors Kiri Wills, Mary-Jane Araroa and Charissa Barham to gauge the talent at secondary school level.