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Sabutu gives Mum birthday joy

Sovaia Sabutu’s call-up to the New Zealand Secondary Schools [NZSS] team was the perfect present for mum Ilie, who celebrated her birthday on Sunday.

The talented Wairarapa College defender, initially named a non-travelling reserve after a training camp in Auckland in April, said the news she had made the 14-strong squad to play in Australia had come as a surprise.

“I was shocked, Mum was really emotional, and Dad was really happy,” said Sabutu, who felt she had learnt a lot at the training camp, which featured the top 24 college players from throughout the country.

“All the girls were really good, and the competition was really strong, but I thought I did well.”

One thing that amused the bubbly 16-year-old was that most of the other girls were surprised at where she came from, saying that not many of them had heard of Masterton or Wairarapa.

Having already broken new ground for a netballer from the region, Sabutu hopes that her selection will lead to further recognition at higher levels saying she has lofty ambitions.

“I want to take it further and hopefully play in the ANZ premiership and maybe the Silver Ferns.”

Sabutu also has high ambitions academically and plans to study medicine at university.

The year-12 student also enjoys football, cricket and athletics, and her Waicol netball team also play in and are unbeaten in the local basketball competition.

On the netball court, Sabutu’s Waicol team are tracking nicely in their push for a third consecutive premier one championship but were given a fright by Harcourts on Friday night before fighting back for a 46-43 victory.

“We were losing the first half, but the girls held their own and ended up coming away with the win, so that was really good,” she said.

The result also pleased Waicol coach Keely Riwai-Couch, who was thrilled the talented side got through their first real challenge against tough opponents with a win.

“We started fine, and I was happy with our start.

“We were down by two at quarter time, but we made too many errors in the second quarter and found ourselves down by nine, and then a little bit of a refocus, and we won the third quarter and got within four and then finished off with a win by three,” Riwai-Couch said.

“All our players played, and in the second half, when they needed to pick it up and to work better, harder and smarter, they did, so they all contributed well.”

Riwai-Couch said Ella Forster impressed at goal defence, and Keira Potangaroa came back on in the final quarter and was very strong in the shooting circle.

In other games, Jo Kelly and Co Carterton Maroons edged Opaki Vixens 37-34 in a low-scoring game and moved into the top four. Celtic retained their unbeaten start to the season with a 48-33 defeat of Jo Kelly and Co Carterton Rebels, and St Matthew’s bagged their first win of the competition, running out 55-42 victors over Tuhirangi White.


Celtic United, Wairarapa College A 20 points; Harcourts 14; Jo Kelly and Co Carterton Maroon 12; Opaki Vixens 10; St Matthew’s, Tuhirangi White 4; Jo Kelly and Co Carterton Rebels 0.

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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