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