Aussies given a hard time
Development isn't about being the big fish, so five Nelson touch players crossed the Tasman to find a pond with some much bigger fish to take a shot at.
NZ Touch took their young development sides to contest the Australian national youth championships in Port Macquarie, a tournament they were barred from winning. And in some cases, New Zealand's 14-year-olds were playing teams including 18-year-olds.
Nelson College's Mitchell Hunt (under-17 boys), Waimea College's Ella Marwick and Nelson College for Girls' Nicole Drummond, Rosa Edwards (under-17 girls) and Claire Erasmus (under-15 girls) returned triumphant from New South Wales' northern coast this week. But it wasn't just about results.
Hunt's team was only beaten once in eight games, but Hunt, voted the players' player, returned full of praise for the hard and skill-specific pre-tournament training.
They lost their only game first up to the eventual tournament winners, but Hunt focused on the challenge rather than the result.
"The first few days of training were very new to me and I'm guessing for others as well. We had to pick up on the information pretty quick in order to keep up," he said.
"Three games a day was full on considering the three days' training we did before we played, so we came into the tournament a little fatigued.
"The games were played at a very fast pace and you could definitely tell these teams played touch all year round. They were well drilled, fit and fast, which made it extra challenging."
The youngest of Nelson's five national representatives, Erasmus, said her team entered into a difficult assignment with no expectations, apart from performing as a team and not a group of individuals. The under-15 girls tour MVP also rated her eye-catching performances strictly within the context of the team's effort.
"I went away with a great bunch of girls that gelled together really well," she said.
"As an under-15 team in an under-18 tournament, the expectation of us winning any games wasn't high, but we came away with three wins.
"The coaches and managers selected me for MVP but I was just lucky, we were a good team and anybody could have got it."
The girls' under-17 team featured three talented Nelsonians: Marwick, who captained Waimea's netball team to a South Island title; Edwards, a member of the senior Tasman netball rep team; and Drummond, a three-times Australian touch tour veteran.
Drummond talked about the motivation to perform in a competition where they weren't able to earn any points. Yet the team found the means, picking up three wins and a draw. "The team bonded together quickly and easily . . . This reflected on our performances at tournament and how we played with respect for each other on the field," she said.
"Because we were invitational teams . . . we were unable to receive points for winning. However, the teams we played could receive points from us and therefore this gave us a motivational drive to play well and give them some tough competition."
Drummond said that when the young Kiwis were watching the competition finals and the State of Origin touch football series, they reflected on their own development in terms of both ability and attitude.
"There was some very admirable touch played but it also showed us, both as individuals and teams, that we are developing well to be able to compete against Australia in the future.
"All together the tour was an amazing opportunity and experience, I have made lifelong friends that I am sure to keep in contact with.
"[I would] just like to thank all my past and present coaches for helping me to achieve this experience each year that I have, and a huge thank you to my parents for their continuous support."
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