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Age-group netballers gather in Christchurch for Celebration Box Netball NZ U18 Champs

With one eye on the weather forecast and another on a new meaningful national trophy, some of New Zealand’s best age-group netballers opened the Celebration Box Netball NZ U18 Champs under sunny skies in Christchurch.

In the second edition of the new national U18 championships, 38 teams from around the country have gathered at Hagley Park for the four-day tournament where they play for the Margaret Forsyth Cup. The teams will be tested by the elements later in the week, but players were pleased to get underway in warm blustery conditions in Christchurch.

Netball New Zealand Emerging Talent Selector Nicki Paterson said it was great to get the national tournament underway in what was a celebration of age-group netball after the disruptions of the past two seasons.

“It is a bit of a celebration of netball for many of these players who have worked so hard to be able to come to Christchurch and be involved,” she said. “We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that Mother Nature can play her part now with some favourable conditions later this week.”

She and fellow selectors have been kept busy on an opening day, as they consider hopefuls for the New Zealand Secondary Schools team and emerging talent to keep an eye on for future sides.

“We’ve had a number of players involved at the National Development Camps at the start of the year and it’s been great to follow their progress,” she said.

“And the other job we have is to look at our long-term vision with those newcomers who are coming through.  It’s quite exciting.”

Auckland 1 are defending champions of the new Margaret Forsyth Cup which is played for in memory of the legendary Silver Fern who passed away last year.  Forsyth, who was selected into the national team as a 17-year-old schoolgirl from Hillcrest High School, remains one of the youngest Ferns to play at a World Cup and go on to win two world titles.

Paterson said there would be plenty of coaches, managers and parents around the Hagley Park courts who knew Forsyth’s play well.

“It will be very meaningful to a lot of people here and I hope they are telling the story of one of our greatest players,” she said.
The top seeds in all eight pools flexed their muscles on the opening day as teams jostled for the top two spots to progress to post-pool play and a place in the top 16.

Auckland 1 enjoyed two convincing wins over Mid Canterbury and Manawatu Green in Pool A while Christchurch A Red (Pool E) was also untroubled on the scoreboard with wins against Te Waipounamu and North Harbour.  Last year’s beaten finalists, Wellington A Black (Pool B) netted victory over Nelson and Howick Pakuranga while Waitakere 1 (Pool D) and Invercargill (Pool F) also finished the day unbeaten.  Waitakere 2 (Pool H), Dunedin (Pool G) and Hamilton City A (Pool C) also netted two wins today.

The Celebration Box Netball NZ U18 Champs semifinals and final will be played at Hagley Park on Thursday, starting at 10.25 am with a final at 2.45 pm.


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