Reinforcing its growing depth of talent, four players from Netball Central have been included in the 12-strong New Zealand under-21 team which will take part in an international tournament in Fiji.
Shooter Tiana Metuarau and midcourters Kimiora Poi, Ainsleyanna (Anna) Puleiata and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan left for Fiji today with the NZU21 team where they will contest the International Youth Netball Series in Suva. Australia, Samoa and hosts Fiji will also take part in the tournament which provides further preparation for July’s World Youth Cup.
"I doubt this region has had that strong a representation for a really long time, so it’s a tribute to the work the Zone has been doing in regards to player development in recent years. You have to be pretty chuffed about it,’’ Central Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie said.
The 17-strong squad selected in November for the World Youth Cup in Botswana, which includes fellow Netball Central player Renee Savaiinaea, will be trimmed to 12 in the coming months. Fiji presents a golden opportunity for the quartet to press their claims, particularly for New Zealand Secondary School player Puleiata.
``For Anna to have made it while still being a secondary school player is pretty significant,’’ McCausland-Durie said.
"They (selectors) have seen a bit of the others but this will be a really good test for Anna to see where she sits at international level. It’s very cool for her.’’
A St Mary’s College student, Puleiata, who can cover all three midcourt positions, played alongside Metuarau and Savaiinaea in the Wellington under-17 team last year.
"This is huge for all of them to get that exposure,’’ McCausland-Durie said. "For Anna and Kimi, they haven’t necessarily been in front of the selectors at this level before so that will be huge for them to be seen"
"It is the last international before the World Youth champs, so it’s significant, not only for the team to look at who else is out there, but for these players to stake their claim for a place in the final 12".
"With the Beko League starting a little bit later than the ANZ Premiership, for some of them, this will be their last chance to be seen before that final selection is made’’.
After the Fiji tour, Metuarau, who replaced the pregnant Ameliaranne Ekenasio, will head back to the Pulse while Poi and Reuelu-Buchanan will come in as training partners ahead of their Beko League commitments. Puleiata and Savaiinaea will take part in Central’s Beko League trials at the end of January.
NZU21 team for Fiji tour: Aliyah Dunn, Charlotte Elley, Abby Erwood, Holly Fowler, Jamie Hume, Tiana Metuarau, Theresa Ngata, Jennifer O’Connell, Kimiora Poi, Ainsleyanna Puleiata, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson.
Coaches: Kiri Wills and Julie Seymour.
International Youth Netball Series:
Day 1 – Wednesday 11 January
4pm New Zealand v Samoa
Day 2 – Thursday 12 January
6:40pm New Zealand v Australia
Day 3 – Friday 13 January
6:40pm Fiji v New Zealand
Day 4 – Saturday 14 January
4pm 3rd v 4th playoff
6:40pm 1st v 2nd playoff
All times displayed are local time.