From terrible to trophies

17:00, Jun 23 2014
Diving team
CHAMPS: Diving is strong at Albany Junior High, with the school winning the Auckland Secondary Schools title for the last three years.

When Albany Junior High School first opened there were plenty of budding sportspeople enrolled, but their results weren't instantly impressive.

"We entered every competition and got a hiding in everything," director of sport Grant MacPherson says.

However, over the past decade the school, which caters for students from years 7 to 10, has started seeing its share of sporting success.

Netball team
Albany Junior High School netball teams do well in college netball.

Foundation pupil Georgia Williams is one of two former students who will attend the Commonwealth Games in July.

MacPherson views cyclist Williams as an example of how the school's sports academy can help shape an athlete.

Williams had a background in netball and water polo, but after doing testing for the sports academy found her athletic attributes would suit cycling.


junior high school
FOOTBALL FUN: Albany Junior High School has always been strong in football.

Since them Williams has gone on to be a double medallist at the world junior track championships as well as riding in some the of biggest road races in the world with the BePink team.

Diver Liam Stone has qualified to represent New Zealand in three events at the Commonwealth Games.

He will compete in the 1 metre, 3 metre and synchro diving.

Liam Stone
DIVING IN: Commonwealth Games diver Liam Stone still has connections with Albany Junior High School.

Under the guidance of Stone's dad, Lindsay, the school continues to have a strong diving programme, having won the Auckland Secondary Schools title for the third time in a row this year.

Alumni also include footballers Brock Messenger and Stuart Holthusen who played for the New Zealand under-20 team in this month's Panda Cup in China, where they made history by becoming the first New Zealand men's side to claim a point against Brazil.

The school also boasts connections to New Zealand representatives in a number of other sports including basketball, martial arts, sailing and equestrian.

Georgia Williams
CHANGE OF SPORT: Georgia Williams got her start in cycling after taking an entrance test for Albany Junior High School’s sports academy. She is now off to the Commonwealth Games.

About 65 per cent of all year 7 and 8 students play at least one sport for the school, according to MacPherson.

"We are extremely competitive in year 7 and 8 everywhere we go," he says.

The North Harbour squash premier year 8 boys' title is the latest to be added to the school's collection.

At the annual Aims Games, the national competition for intermediate school-aged athletes, Albany has always been strong in football.

This year they will send 67 athletes in 13 codes to the tournament in Tauranga.

The school faces some unique challenges around playing numbers - especially in years 9 and 10.

It is common for pupils to join a team from a neighbouring school to form a composite side when a lack of numbers necessitates it.

In fact, Albany Junior High's Luke Dunning, who is in year 10, is captaining the Rangitoto College fifth grade B rugby team, which also features a number of his schoolmates.

Albany Junior High students have joined Albany Senior High teams for hockey and have also linked with Pinehurst School and Kristin School for different codes.

New principal Stephen Kendall-Jones, himself a national youth karate representative, calls this collaboration with the rival schools "co-opertition".

Where Albany Junior High does have the numbers to have their own senior teams is in netball, badminton, football and water polo.

Every two years the school takes year 9 and 10 students on a sports tour to Cairns in far north Queensland.

Williams, Messenger and Holthusen have all toured.

This year 59 students will head to Australia to play in netball, football, touch, basketball and volleyball teams.

MacPherson, who has been with the school since its inception, remembers holding cricket trials in the car park.

However, within months of opening, the school had facilities that are the envy of many.

Such is the quality of the fields in the winter months that provincial rugby teams have used them for training.

A second hockey turf is under construction and students have the use of workout equipment and weights in the mezzanine area of the gym.

MacPherson is proud of the success the school has had, but acknowledges it may be a few more years before the athletes that they help produce can see a pathway to the next school in their education at year 11.

North Shore Times