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Action so far at Netball NZ U17 Champs

A fourth straight title is on the radar for Wellington A Black after the age-group side made a strong start to the Netball NZ U17 Championships in Auckland.

Forty teams from around the country have been fighting hard to secure a place in the top 16 in one of New Zealand’s largest – and only outdoor – domestic events.

Netball Waitakere is hosting the event where teams are vying for the national title and the Anna Rowberry Cup – named after former Silver Ferns captain, Anna Stanley (nee Rowberry).

Three-time defending champions, Wellington A Black, has kept a clean sheet over the opening two days of pool play to progress to the top 16 alongside Auckland 1 and 2, Waitakere 1 and Bayleys Hawke’s Bay Black who were also unbeaten after four games.

North Harbour also topped its pool with four straight victories along with Eastern Bay of Plenty and Hamilton City A.

Other sides to reach the top 16 included Christchurch Red, Taranaki A, Dunedin, Waitakere 2, Manawatu Green, Harbourside and Hutt Valley Gold.

Eastern Southland needed victory over Northland Cluster to progress, taking out a narrow 37-35 victory in their last match of the day. They now meet Eastern Bay of Plenty on Wednesday for a place in the top eight.

Netball New Zealand Secondary Schools coach Charissa Barham said it was exciting to see the talent showcased at the four-day tournament.

“We’ve seen a lot of athleticism, skill, speed and different styles being played,” she said. “It’s a special time for these players to be representing their region and it’s also an important step in their developmental pathway.”

Barham, who is attending the tournament in her role as a national selector alongside Jen Hooper, Paula Smith and Adrienne Morrin, said it was a busy time taking in all of the action with selectors looking to the future.

“There’s been a real shift away from naming a tournament team as we want to have a look at the bigger picture,” she said.

“There is a lot of discussion we’re having around players and what potential looks like. We’re very pleased with what we’ve seen so far and it will be interesting to see how players develop when the pressure comes on over the next few days.”

A ‘People’s Choice’ team will be named at the end of the U17 tournament which is determined by the teams competing.

Teams will push for a top eight place on Wednesday with semifinals and the Netball NZ U17 final to be played on Thursday, the title decider starting at 2.45pm.