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Special bond attributed to Howick College’s success

Team culture and unity were two of the key ingredients to Howick College’s unbeaten run in their first outing at netball’s New Zealand Secondary School Championships.

The tournament debutantes turned heads with their performances at the national tournament in Rotorua last week which ended with a 33-25 win over the defending champion Saint Kentigern College in Friday’s grand final.

Coach Adelita Sotutu said their rise from playing in the B grade of the Upper North Island Secondary School Championships (UNISS) two years ago had been a sharp one.

And she put it down to the culture they had developed in that time – and “nana’s cooking”.

“We came in to this tournament with no inhibitions, just a completely open mind,” she said. “Our strengths are we are a unit, a complete unit – from the bench, the seven, the physio, the management to the nanas doing the cooking. We are a good unit.

“I said to many people that these girls have a special bond, they’ve got a good work ethic and culture.”

But even she was surprised with the determination from her troops when they arrived at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua.

“Our goal had been to get to nationals first,” Sotutu said. “Initially I was thinking to get to the top eight but the girls said ‘no, we want top four’.

“I was walking around after the final going holy cow; you girls knew more than I did.”

It was not an easy path for the side however playing in what national selector Mary-Jane Araroa called a tough pool.

“Competition has been so very tight this year which has impressed many of us,” she said. “We’ve had pools of death where no-one knew what was going to happen until the last whistles.

“It’s been an exciting week of netball and getting through to that top four is certainly an achievement in what has been a really tough competition.”

She said she had been impressed with Howick from day one when they upset Saint Kentigern in pool play.

“Howick have showed right from the start that they had a real belief in each other,” Araroa said. “They’ve back each other up and taken their opportunities.”

Howick also had three players named in the Tournament Team including Leehava Saverio, Iva Livani and Nanise Waqaira. Waqaira was also named defender of the tournament while St Mary’s College of Wellington’s Saviour Tui was the shooter of the tournament and Tori Korlose, from Saint Kentigern was the mid-courter of the tournament.

St Mary’s College mid-courter Ainsleyana Puleiata was also named the New Zealand Secondary Schools player of the year at the conclusion of the tournament.