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Passion and Pride on show at NZ Secondary School Champs

New Zealand’s top netball schools will gather in Nelson for the Fuji Xerox 2019 NZ Secondary School Netball Champs and bring with them some strong ties to the historic event.

Avondale College is one of 16 teams who are set to contest one of netball’s pinnacle events at Saxton Stadium and will be guided by former champion Rachel Rasmussen who has fond memories of the school tournament.

“It really is one of those special tournaments that brings so much passion and pride from players representing their schools,” she said.

Rasmussen is in her second year as head coach of Avondale which has qualified for the NZSS Champs for the first time in five years.

The New Zealand U21 World Champion and Samoan representative remembers the school tournament well having been a part of the Avondale College side when they won the crown in 2000 and again in 2002 when she played alongside her sister and Silver Fern Grace Kara.

“It’s awesome to be able to come back with a really good bunch of girls and see them experience the national championships for the first time,” Rasmussen said.

“I said to them at training that I don’t think it will be until later in their careers that they realise how special it is to be a part of this (NZSS) event.”

There will be plenty of eyes on the Avondale side which features Silver Ferns Development Squad member and Northern Mystics shooter Grace Nweke.

But Rasmussen said her side had focused on performing as a 12-strong squad as they hoped to continue the form they showed at the Upper North Island event last month.

There they beat last year’s NZSS Champions Mt Albert Grammar School and the 2018 runners-up Westlake Girls’ High School on their way to qualifying for the national tournament.

Since then she has called in her younger sister, Kara, to share her expertise with the team along with former pupils who suited up for a training game against Avondale as part of their NZSS build-up.

Rasmussen said it was a privilege to be able to share their experiences with the next wave of young netballers coming through.

“There’s been a lot of ‘back in our day’ being joked about at training,” she said with a laugh. “But we’ve also talked a lot about team-work, and playing with guts and pride.”

The four-day Fuji Xerox NZ Secondary Schools Netball Champs will see three sides make their debut including Whanganui High School, Samuel Marsden Collegiate and St Peter’s School, Cambridge while missing from the list is six-time champions MAGS who failed to qualified this year.

Christchurch Girls’ High School broke a 51-year-old drought to win their regional championship and qualify in top spot from the South Island, while Manukura won the Lower North Island event and Saint Kentigern College claimed the Upper North Island title.

Four pools of four will be in action from 9.30am on Tuesday with the aim of reaching the top eight from which the semifinalists will be found.

The Fuji Xerox 2019 NZ Secondary Schools Netball Champs final will be played on October 11 at 1.40pm.

Live streaming will be available of Court 1 on SKY Sport’s YouTube channel.