Transforming talented teens into top-quality prospects has become a hallmark of Central Manawa, the tradition already coming to light in the early stages of this season’s Beko Netball League.
Posting a comfortable win in their season-opener coincided with the introduction of another promising Manawa schoolgirl talent in the form of goal shooter Rochelle Fourie, from Manukura, in Palmerston North.
To start their campaign, she was joined by fellow students, shooter Saviour Tui and defender Paris Lokotui, now considered old hands after establishing their credentials at this level last year, highlighting Manawa’s track record of successfully blending all-comers in their ranks.
With the combined effect of attentive nurturing and youthful exuberance, the students have responded in the best possible fashion to help Manawa forge an unrivalled strike rate during the three years of the competition. That includes two titles and a runners-up spot while, at the same time, building the blocks for progression to the next level.
With all three school girls getting some game time in the opener, Manawa coach Pelesa Semu couldn’t have been happier with the result, and more importantly, watching the progress and potential unfold.
``Inside that shooting circle, we’ve got two 17-year-olds which is great for the competition,’’ she said. ``It’s probably a little bit more nerve-wracking for the coach because they’re such young players but, at the same time, such talented players and I’m really looking forward to seeing that combination develop as the competition goes along.
``Paris played pretty well at the weekend as well, so I’m really happy with our secondary school players. For Rochelle being very new, it was a massive step-up for her. She was very nervous but as the game progressed, she got better and better. She will take a lot from that and will only get better.
``Rochelle comes from a strong basketball pedigree and is a very promising talent who we have been aware of for some time, so it’s now seeing how she develops from here.’’
With a 16-strong squad to chose from while also being able to call on eligible players from the senior Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse team, selection in the 10-strong match-day squad produces a keen rivalry which, in turn, promotes a willing training environment.
``The message that goes out to the players every week is that everyone is in contention for selection which means in-house competition is very high and that’s great to see,’’ Semu said. ``There’s a really great vibe amongst this group and I feel very lucky to be working with them.’’
In a televised match, Manawa and Mainland will play the curtain-raiser ahead of their senior teams, the Pulse and Tactix, on Sunday in Palmerston North. Ball security and making the most of their turnover opportunities have been the work-ons during the week.
``Looking across our whole team, we’ve got the capability of scoring well, we’ve got great players with great distribution and ball skills,’’ Semu said. ``It’s now about getting those connections and links on attack working effectively to make the most of those attributes.’’