Spin-off seen from success at nationals

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Success at the recent national secondary school tournament will have a positive impact for touch in Otago.
Columba College, King’s High School and St Hilda’s Collegiate School touch teams all matched or bettered their schools’ best placings at the New Zealand Secondary School National Championships at the weekend.
Columba and St Hilda’s finished second and fifth respectively in the girls’ grade and King’s finished third in the boys’ grade.
South Otago High School, in Balclutha, competed in the mixed grade and placed 13th.
Otago Touch development officer Grant Milne hoped the teams’ success at the nationals would be an advantage for players competing at the South Island junior touch championship.
“I’m pretty sure we are going to reap the rewards this weekend … particularly in the girls’ grade. We are traditionally strong.”
Milne said the secondary school programme had a “huge influence” on players in Otago.
“Getting the experience at a national level, they come back and play for Otago and fear no-one and play awesome.”
Players from around Otago will play for age-grade teams this weekend and 12 of the girls’ under-18 team competed at nationals.
“We are going to have very experienced under-18 and under-16 girls’ teams. We expect to go and beat Canterbury.
“That is the difference. A few years ago we were heading up to major tournaments hoping to win a game … we expect to go and win tournaments that we are in, now.”
Milne credited the school teams’ coaches and past and present players for their success at nationals.
“Each of our four teams had young, contemporary volunteer coaches that have all played for New Zealand. It’s such a dynamic sport that you really need those young, contemporary coaches.”
Past players were also paramount to the teams’ success, notably Grace Carruthers and dual senior international Phoebe Steele for Columba, Jason Te Huia and Tyron Pelasio for King’s and current coach Holly Johnstone for St Hilda’s, he said.
Milne said the quality of referees in Otago also helped prepare teams for national competitions.
“Our players learn so much from our referees and are not in a state of shock when they get to nationals, because our local referees are also up with the best in the country.”
Seven players made tournament teams at nationals –┬áColumba College pupils McKayler Moore, Claudia Carruthers and Meg Sycamore and St Hilda’s Collegiate School pupils Abbey Johnston and Olivia O’Neill in the girls’ team and King’s High School pupils Josh Duff and Tom Pledger in the boys’ team.