4 weeks ago

Christchurch A Red triumph to win national U18 crown

Christchurch A Red coach Andrea Cousins says it is a “surreal” feeling to lift the Margaret Forsyth Cup after winning the Celebration Box Netball NZ U18 Champs on home courts.

Backed by their supporters in cold wet conditions at Hagley Park in Christchurch, the Red side beat Waitakere 2 29-19 in the final on Thursday to claim the national title for the first time.

Cousins said it had been a tough week with a wintry blast being felt during the four-day tournament, but she was proud with how her side “kept it real” and stuck to their team structures no matter the conditions or opponent they faced.

“We just tried to keep everything non emotional,” she said.  “We wanted to keep sticking to what our structures were and we had to do that even more when the conditions got worse.  But because we kept it in reality there, the emotional side of it didn’t kick in until after the whistles.

“Even after we won, we’d kept everything so structured it was like ‘yeah, this has actually happened’.  It feels surreal to have won it.”

Christchurch needed to use all of their skills in a tough semi-final where they pipped Hamilton City A by just one goal (22-21) to reach the final while Waitakere 2 upset Wellington Black A in another thriller, winning 30-29 to go through.

But it was the host side that was fast out of the blocks as more rain fell for the final, racing out to a 7-1 advantage in the first quarter.

Waitakere settled to go goal-for-goal in the second spell before Christchurch pulled ahead again in the third quarter for a match-winning 23-13 lead with 10 minutes to play.

Cousins said the conditions for the final were “pretty tricky”, but her side never got flustered and stuck to their game plan.

“We handled the whistle; we handled the disappointment of dropped ball in the rain.  I was really proud of how the players out there stuck to our structures no matter what.”

Christchurch went through the four-day tournament unbeaten, and Cousins said while it had taken a full-team effort from her entire squad, she noted the defensive efforts of Aaliyah Metcalfe and accuracy of shooter Te Ata Hassan in the final as standouts.

“Aaliyah in defence was simply outstanding and Te Ata at goal shoot was an absolute rock-star,” she said.  “But I saw all week the individual moments of absolute brilliance from all of my players – that real dedication to their teammates and that also was a stand-out for me.”

She said it was particularly special to have their names etched on a Cup named after one of netball’s greats, Silver Fern Margaret Forsyth who passed away last year.

“For her son to come to the final and speak – it gave me goosebumps.  Knowing that we have our name on the Margaret Forsyth Cup is really cool.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton City A finished in third place after beating Wellington Black A 37-17.
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