Teen puts best foot forward

JOSH REICH
Last updated 13:20 18/04/2012
Geena Gross
COLIN SMITH
JUGGLING ACT: Talented teen Geena Gross is a dab hand at discus and shot put, but football is her passion

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If all goes to plan, Geena Gross will be trading Golden Bay for Costa Rica in two years' time.

Geena, 14, is this week trialling for the New Zealand under-17 women's world cup squad. The cup, which New Zealand has yet to qualify for, will be held in the Central American nation in 2014.

It is the sixth trial she has attended for the team, which has been narrowed down from 28 South Island players to the nine who are in Oamaru this week.

A 30-player squad will eventually be named to play in the Oceania qualifiers.

While nothing is certain, Geena, who attends Golden Bay High School, is going all out to give herself the best chance of making the team.

"All I know is that I've got to keep trying and putting all the effort in, it's my goal to get there and it's been my goal for ages.

"I'm training hard to get there."

That effort includes playing twice a week during winter – for a boys' under-17 team on Saturdays and a women's senior team on Sundays – and travelling twice a week to Nelson to take part in Federation Talent Centre training sessions.

That can mean tackling Takaka Hill three times a week, not that she is letting that stand in the way of her development.

"I don't mind, I don't know what mum thinks, but I don't mind travelling over there as I know I'm getting something out of it and it's worth it."

Geena has represented Nelson Bays at 11th, 12th, 14th and under-17 grade level, and she was named most valuable player for the latter.

On the recommendation of the former New Zealand under-17 coach, she switched from attack to defence as her primary position.

"I used to hate defence, but I gave it a go and it was pretty cool.

"I love scoring goals, but I'd rather help my team than think I could get all the goals."

Living near Collingwood, it is hard for Geena to get all the coaching and training she requires, hence the constant travel, but she said after five previous national trials, she had a fair idea of what to expect.

"All I know is to always try your hardest when you are at them. That's all they are looking at, that one week of performance."

While football is her No1 passion, Geena is also proving a star at athletics as well.

At the recent South Island secondary schools athletics championships in Nelson, she claimed second-place finishes in the girls' under-15 shot put (10.95 metres) and discus (30.86m).

That is despite having only trained seriously for the events since the end of last season.

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Under the guidance of school coach Paul Childs, she has been making some serious progress, even if the two disciplines aren't exactly complementary.

"He won't let me do the turn in shot put as it can mess up my turn in discus.

"So he has to teach me one thing for shot put and another thing for discus which is completely different."

Geena has tasted success at the Colgate Games, Tasman champs and school athletics, and competed at the nationals last year.

She has also broken a Takaka club record held by Olympian Toni Hodgkinson in the 100m.

However, when the crunch comes, athletics will have to take a back seat to football, which is her main passion.

And with all the travelling, training and competing, does she have much time for anything else?

"I'm always behind on school work, but I try and keep it up," she said, with a laugh.

- Nelson

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