Local trio ‘at top of their game’ named in NZ area school sides

Three senior students from Raglan were stoked to be selected for New Zealand area schools sports teams after a challenging sports tournament in Dunedin during the recent school holidays.

Xander Warren – a year 12 pupil at Raglan Area School – “double-coded” by making national teams in both football and volleyball.

Meantime fellow Whaingaroa students Jordan Mooar and Alicia Baker, as part of what they modestly described as “a good team” that won all its games, played consistently well throughout the tourney to make the overall selection for the girls’ national football team.

The trio were part of a group of eight local students who flew down-country together in the second week of the holidays for the National Area School Sports Tournament, an annual event alternating between the North and South Islands.  

It was quite a process for the locals even to get that far, said deputy principal Quenten Browne, who’s the team sports coordinator for the  Central North Island (CNI) region which includes rural schools as far afield as the East Coast, Coromandel and Taranaki.

“Our Raglan kids had to go through a qualifying tournament and coaching clinic in Te Awamutu 10 weeks before the Dunedin event,” he said. 

That qualifier whittled about 200 students from the region down by half across codes ranging from rugby, netball and  football to golf, basketball, volleyball and a fast-paced ball game called ki o rahi – a combination of netball, handball and tag rugby.

The surviving players later travelled to the deep south to contest the three-day Dunedin tournament, taken out this year by Central North Island with the most wins across all the sports. 

The best of the players from across the country were then selected for a North Island versus South Island derby, and from that the final selections were made for the national teams in the various codes. 

While Raglan’s star trio have no actual competitions to go on to, says Quenten, their naming in their codes’ national teams is symbolic in recognising they are “at the top of their game”. 

Meanwhile, year 10 area school student Liarna Barber-Salvation has separately made the New Zealand U16 Māori rugby league team and will play in the Pasifika Youth Cup in Auckland this October.

The Whaingaroa 14 year old belongs to the Taniwharau Club from Huntly, regularly travelling up-country with her team on Saturdays to play in Auckland.

Liarna is another double-coder as she was also selected last year in the U18 Cook Islands women’s team to play at the World School Sevens Tournament in Auckland.

When the Chronicle caught up with her this week she was still euphoric over the gold medal-winning performance of the New Zealand women’s rugby sevens side at the Tokyo Olympics. 

By Edith Symes