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Young England team relishing NZ opportunity

Assistant coach Amanda Newton is as excited as her young England team with the opportunity to be able to compete in the Netball NZ U19 championships in Wellington this week.

For Newton, who is acting as a Technical coach with the team, it has felt like coming home after she played for the Capital City Shakers in the New Zealand national league in 1999, where she played alongside former Silver Ferns Noeline Taurua, Tanya Dearns (nee Cox) and Debbie Fuller (nee Matoe).

``It’s been brilliant for me and I’m really thankful to have been given this opportunity,’’ the former defender said.

``Everything has been fantastic. Our hotel is two minutes’ walk from the venue, everyone has been very welcoming, the food’s been fantastic and the hospitality is always great in New Zealand.’’

It is the first time an England team has taken part in a New Zealand age-group tournament, the visitors having a mix of U17 and U19 players. Building towards the 2021 World Youth Cup, England are not permitted to challenge for the title this week, taking part as an invitation team instead but proving very competitive.

``This is a great opportunity for us,’’ Newton said. ``The level of competition has been really high, we just don’t get this type of opportunity at home and it’s really good for our young players to get this exposure against the New Zealand style.’’

Arriving in the country last Wednesday, the team has quickly overcome the challenges of jetlag and acclimatising, blowing out the cobwebs with a match against the Wellington U19 team on the eve of the tournament.

``The girls have taken to it really well,’’ Newton said. ``They’ve been great, it’s probably one of the best England sides we’ve had at this level and they’re just open to working hard and being the best that they possibly can.’’

Back at home, the players will turn out for their respective U17 and U19 teams at England’s national age-group championships at the end of August.