Tomorrow’s stars

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Five Queenstown teens from Wakatipu High’s top netball team have been selected for Southland teams in national tournaments.

Wing/goal attack Alex Jones and goal shoot/keep Emma Milliken, both 15, recently qualified for Southland under-16s, while goal attack/shoot Miranda Hayes, 17, and goal/wing defence Anna Nesbit, 16, made U17 A and B teams respectively.

Goal keep Sophie Pinto-Raetz, 17, who’s been in France on a study exchange trip for the past six weeks, was selected for the U19 squad based on last season’s performance.

The girls and the rest of their high school team – WHS 1 – are neck-and-neck with women’s premier team and last year’s champs Altitude almost halfway through the weekly local competition.

WHS1 will be presented with a trophy on Saturday to kickstart a separate competition – similar to Otago Coun­­­­try rugby’s White Horse Cup – where the trophy will be defended throughout the season to all challengers, Wakatipu Netball Club president Sharron Ede says.

The now-disbanded men’s team will present the trophy to recognise and thank high school netball circles for support, she adds.

The girls’ success follows the recent selection of Hayley Crofts, Te Huinga Reo, Selby Rickit and Julianna Naoupu for the New Zealand U21 squad, along with Ashleigh Smith making the NZ secondary schools team.

Rep grade netball means regular trainings out of Queenstown – mostly in Invercargill.

With 45 teams from premiers to juniors, the sport’s growing in popularity as young players aspire to reach top levels.

Ede and WHS 1 coach Mike Tabb both put the increasing success down to the support of Netball Southland, parents, coaches, regular development clinics – and the Wakatipu Netball Centre, initially set up to help school teams improve skills.

“These kids really can go far. I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t go as far as they choose to, as long as they keep the motivation up,” Tabb says.

“[We are] giving them the tools that they need to go as far as they want to.”