Wgtn Girls’ un­der­wa­ter dom­i­na­tion

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By JIM CHIPP

The Welling­ton Girls’ Col­lege un­der­wa­ter hockey first team has been un­beaten since 2012, and three of its play­ers have been selected to rep­re­sent New Zealand.

Emma Sy­monds, Abi­gail Free­land and Anas­ta­sia Burn will face Aus­tralia in the bi­en­nial un­der- 18 trans- Tas­man chal­lenge, to be held at Welling­ton Re­gional Aquatic Cen­tre in early July.

Last year, year 13 stu­dent Burn, of Plim­mer­ton, and year 12 stu­dent Free­land, of Welling­ton, won world cham­pi­onship medals with the na­tional un­der-19 team in Hun­gary, where they helped beat Colom­bia in the fi­nal.

Jess Free­land has coached the col­lege team for three years.

Last year’s cham­pion team was un­beaten through­out the in­ter­school and na­tional cham­pi­onships.

In fact, the last time Welling­ton Girls’ lost was against Aotea, in 2012.

This sea­son they have kept a clean de­fen­sive sheet from seven matches and scored 95 goals.

They have played and beaten Aotea twice this year.

Al­though the team trained hard and were de­ter­mined to de­fend their ti­tle, the key to their suc­cess was keep­ing things fun, Jess Free­land said.

‘‘ We came away from the na­tional cham­pi­onships think­ing we were the best team, but we also had the most fun,’’ she said.

Free­land keeps a squad of 10, with six in the wa­ter at any time – a goalie, a mid- fielder, two wingers and two for­wards.

The team moves through the pool as a unit, and the goalie is as likely to score as any other player.

‘‘The goalie doesn’t hang back in the goal,’’ Free­land said. ‘‘Emma has got quite a good work rate.’’

Free­land has had to build a new team for this year’s com­pe­ti­tion af­ter seven play­ers left school.

‘‘We had six new play­ers and three from last year, but ev­ery­one has re­ally gelled and the three play­ers from last year are key.’’

The play­ers train twice a week, start­ing with one hour of fit­ness train­ing led by in­ter­na­tion­als Abi­gail Free­land and Sy­monds. Jess Free­land takes over for an­other hour of for­ma­tion train­ing.

She be­gan coach­ing the school’s sec­ond team when she was still at school in year 12. In her fi­nal year Free­land, a New Zealand rep- re­sen­ta­tive her­self, moved up to coach the first team.

When Free­land fin­ished school, she took one year off, then re­turned to coach­ing.

‘‘It’s re­ally im­por­tant that other girls get the same op­por­tu­nity,’’ she said. ‘‘I want to give back to the sport.’’

Hav­ing fun: Coach Jess Free­land with three New Zealand rep­re­sen­ta­tives: Anas­ta­sia Burn, left, Emma Sy­monds and Abi­gail Free­land.

Pho­tos: JIM CHIPP

Vic­to­ri­ous: Emma Sy­monds of Plim­mer­ton has been selected to rep­re­sent New Zealand in the un­der-18 un­der­wa­ter hockey team to play Aus­tralia in July.

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