Anna-leigh has the football bug
Tawa College 13-year-old AnnaLeigh Gillies travelled overseas with a sports team for the first time in June, but if she keeps her winning form it certainly won’t be the last.
The centre back recently returned victorious from Australia Football’s Kanga Cup Football, the largest youth football tournament in the southern hemisphere held in Canberra.
Her team, the NOKouts, are a development squad of determined female footballers from the western zone of Wellington and won the under-14 girls’ division unbeaten.
Anna-Leigh has played for the club for two years and, combined with her Tawa College first XI responsibilities, plays or trains for football four to five times a week.
‘‘I’ve played football for as long as I can remember. My family is really into the sport,’’ Anna-Leigh said.
‘‘It was really fun travelling overseas with the team. We stayed in the humungous Australian Institute of Sport complex and got to meet other teams in the competition, which was fun.
‘‘I hope to head back next year to defend our title.’’
But overseas will have to wait until local business has been taken care of. Her college team is travelling to Napier in September and the Wellington NOKouts have a tournament in Taupo during October.
The high level of playing and touring has meant Anna-Leigh has had to balance practice with fundraising.
‘‘We’ve done heaps of fundraising – sausage sizzles, quiz nights, raffles,’’ she said. ‘‘ Our team raised $50,000 for our trip to the Kanga Cup.’’
Though she has enjoyed much success so far, her NOKout team has had a brush with tragedy.
NOKout coach Des VincentDustow died last September after losing his battle with cystic fibrosis.
‘‘Des was really motivating to me and the team,’’ Anna-Leigh said. ‘‘ He was always really positive when coaching. He drove us to do our best without ever yelling or getting all grumpy. We played harder in Canberra for him.’’
The girls were so inspired by their late coach that they added his name to the club emblem and carried a photograph of him so he could appear in team photos.