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Wellington mid-courter named Player of the Year

New Zealand Secondary Schools player of the year Ainsleyana Puleiata pointed to her “support crew” when she ponders her successful season.

The St Mary’s College of Wellington mid-courter was named the national secondary schools player of the year at New Zealand Secondary Schools championships in Rotorua this week.

Puleiata, who also excels at rugby, said she was “surprised and stoked” to pick up the award having been involved with an “incredibly talented bunch of girls” with the New Zealand Secondary Schools team which she captained this year.

But she was quick to thank those around her for helping her succeed on court.

“I’ve had so much support through this year,” she said. “People help me with my nutrition, my strength and conditioning, my physio – which has been really good for me because it means I was able to keep my performance consistent.”

“There have been opportunities after opportunities this year and I’m really grateful for them,” she said at the conclusion of the national tournament this week. “It’s improved my netball skills and I feel blessed.”

National secondary schools coach Mary-Jane Araroa said Puleiata’s natural leadership skills and flair through the mid-court had impressed this year.

“She has a real speed and agility on court and reads the game so well,” she said. “I think her best attribute has been her vision and her ability to lead.”

Araroa said Puleiata was a very “coachable” player and showed plenty of respect not only to her fellow team-mates but also to management.

It was her second season with the New Zealand Secondary Schools team and she was still eligible for another year.

“We picked her up as a youngster and she’s just grown and grown in the team,” Araroa said. “We’ve been impressed with her skill and natural flair in her game.”

Puleiata said her goals now were to push for next year’s Central Beko Netball League team with an eye of playing for the Central Pulse in the future.