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Family ties at 2018 Pita Pit NZ Secondary Schools Netball Champs

New Zealand’s former and future netball stars will have a say in who walks away with the national secondary schools crown this year.

Sixteen teams come together in Timaru on Tuesday for the start of the Pita Pit New Zealand Secondary Schools Netball Champs.

Familiar names are dotted throughout the team lists with strong family links also featuring in the school sides.

Last year’s champions, Howick College, are back for just the second time ever at the national event where they aim to back up the dream maiden crown they won in 2017.

Coach Adelita Sotutu returns along with three players who were named in last year’s Tournament Team including Leehava Saverio, Ivan Livani and defender of the tournament Nanise Waqaira.

They meet New Plymouth Girls’ High School on the opening day of play before taking on Westlake Girls’ High School and Southland Girls’ High School in Pool D.

Other teams to watch include former champions Mount Albert Grammar School (MAGS) who have won the national title a record five times including four straight wins between 2012 and 2015.

Epsom Girls’ Grammar School, which is coached by Waana Araroa, will be another to keep an eye on after claiming the top ranking in the tough Upper North Island regional qualifying tournament this year.

Epsom’s opening day includes games against Hamilton Girls’ High School and Nelson College for Girls.

But it is also the strong family ties peppered throughout the teams which will be of interest including Wellington East Girls’ College which features New Zealand Development Squad member Tiana Metuarau.

They will be coached by James Laursen and Metuarau’s father, George, who takes on the roles of assistant coach and primary care.

Their first assignment will be against Christchurch school, Villa Maria College, with the match opening the four-day tournament at the Southern Trust Events Centre.

Villa Maria College, who won the national title in 2008, is guided by former Mainland Tactix coach Helen Mahon-Stroud and includes daughter Georgia Stroud.

New Zealand A coach Yvette McCausland-Durie will also be in Timaru where she will have a close eye on the Manukura team. She will act as assistant to coach Renee Matoe for the Manukura side which features McCausland-Durie’s daughter, Atareta.

Meanwhile, former internationals including Silver Ferns Jodi Brown (St Hilda’s Collegiate School) and April Ieremia (Westlake Girls’ High School) and Australian Diamond Natalie Avellino (Southland Girls’ High School) will also bring their netball nous to the highly anticipated school event.

Teams are split into four pools of four where round-robin play will determine which teams make the top eight and push on to vie for a finals spot on October 12.