Fit for the chal­lenge

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

North­ern United’s women’s team are set­ting the stan­dard as their club rugby sea­son en­ters the fi­nal weeks.

Af­ter clinch­ing the first round Fleurs Tro­phy with ease – bonus point wins all the way – they sit atop the stand­ings in the Vic­to­ria Tav­ern Tro­phy with just one round and the fi­nals to go.

This is de­spite one loss and be­ing forced to de­fault to close ri­vals Eke­tahuna on July 14 due to ab­sences and in­jury. For­mer Black Fern Aimee Su­to­rius, in her first sea­son as coach, says the key to Norths’ con­tin­ued suc­cess is hav­ing a core of old hands and younger tal­ent con­stantly emerg­ing in the Porirua basin.

‘‘At one stage in the sea­son we had 30 girls, but it’s down to 20. It’s a real solid mix of ex­pe­ri­ence and young play­ers com­ing through, from schools like Aotea, Viard and Tawa, and they add an ex­tra di­men­sion. They are very proud to play for Norths, there’s a lot of club loy­alty. It’s part of our cul­ture in Porirua to have the right at­ti­tude and skills.’’

Norths’ ex­cel­lent fit­ness is of­ten a telling fac­tor, as they pull away from their op­po­nents in the sec­ond half, Su­to­rius says.

Play­ers like He­len Collins, Ag­gie Dean, Brenda Collins, Leah Con­ley and Black Fern Moana Aiatu lead the way.

Three years ago the women’s premier grade had 11 teams. This year there are six. But Su­to­rius says the games are tighter than ever.

‘‘It’s a lot closer than it has been in pre­vi­ous years. A bunch of Pe­tone play­ers joined Wainui and Stokes Val­ley, some from MSP went to Ories, so there is more con­cen­tra­tion.’’

She says there is ‘‘a real push’’ from the Welling­ton Rugby Union to put more re­sources into women’s rugby, which can only be good for the club and NPC com­pe­ti­tions. She hopes at least eight Norths girls will play in this year’s NPC.

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