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Waicol in the history books

Waicol GK Sovaia Sabutu pressures Celtic GS Katarina Matapuku. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV



Wairarapa College 47
Celtic United 37

Wairarapa College became the first secondary school team to win back-to-back Wairarapa Premier One championships with a commanding 10-goal win over Celtic in Saturday’s final.

Coach Keely Riwai-Couch was understandably proud of her talented squad when the achievement was acknowledged during the presentation after the final at the Trust House Wairarapa Netball Centre.

However, heading into the final, Riwai-Couch admitted to a few nerves as she was uncertain how the players would back up after an intense week of tournament play at the Lower North Island Secondary School Championships in Napier, where they played two hard games a day over five days.

Waicol finished a credible 17th in Napier, having dropped only two games – to the two eventual finalists Manukura from Palmerston North and Hastings Girls High School – and Riwai-Couch believed the good run of results worked in their favour and filled the players with confidence.

“It was like we got to have 10 practices leading up to Saturday, and with that time on court and combinations I was able to probably give them more feedback than what do when we have one game a week, so it worked out really well,” Riwai-Couch said.

“They were all pumped when we got on the court and were ready to go.”

Riwai-Couch felt Waicol were in control for most of Saturday’s final, despite the closeness of the scores.

“It was comfortable in the end and they still had to work hard, but they played well, and they had some really good moments when the ball just flowed and it was very good game,” she said.

“The girls start a little slower and they tend to play the whole four quarters and they’ve still got the strength at the end of it, and that’s often the difference between us and other teams.”

“Going into the last quarter I thought something has to go drastically wrong for us not to take this so it was comfortable and in the last few minutes we were just waiting for the time to run down.”

For three of the team – Taylor Riwai-Couch, Ajah Walker, and Sian Wheeler – the final was their last game for the school. However, there is still a strong core of young players, including standout shooter Maggie Shields, who is only a year nine student, and the talented defender Sovaia Sabutu, to build a team around.

Riwai-Couch is keen to stay on as coach for one more year to attempt the three-peat.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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