Northland girls run riot in Netherlands
A Northland-based under-18 rugby sevens side has cleaned up at an international tournament in the Netherlands — even though five of the 11 girls in the team had never played sevens before.
The New Zealand Dutch Barbarians are in Paris today wrapping up their European tour after a convincing win in Amsterdam last weekend. Team members were hand-picked from around the country but the majority hail from Northland. Most are of Dutch descent or have some kind of family connection to the Netherlands.
The tournament pitted the Kiwi girls against the national U18 teams of Sweden and the Netherlands as well as Dutch club champions, the Nemos.
The first day’s games were played at the Nemos’ base in Amstelveen, just south of Amsterdam, with Sunday’s finals at the National Rugby Centre in the city’s west.
The NZ Dutch Barbarians won all their games on the first day, then beat Holland 26-17 and the Nemos 47-0 in the semi-finals despite losing two girls to injuries. They met Holland again in the final, winning 26-10. Team founder Harko Brown, however, said the scores weren’t important.
“It was all about getting together, celebrating our women, and having opportunities,” he said.
Brown, a Ma¯ori games exponent who lives in the Bay of Islands, set up the team after his Dutch-born mother challenged him to celebrate his Dutch ancestry as well as his Ma¯ori side.
Sascha Werlich, the Dutch women’s rugby sevens coach, quickly embraced the idea and offered to set up a tournament if Brown could get the girls to Amsterdam.
When Brown and his daughters were unable to go, two of the players’ parents, Jo Littin of Kawakawa and Craig Miller of Timaru, took on the job of managing the tour. Brown said five of the 11 girls had never played sevens or tackled before.
“But they had big hearts and were keen to play, and Bodean [coach Bodean Rogers of Kaikohe] brought them up to speed really quickly.”
Because the girls were scattered around the country they were only able to train together five times before heading to Europe.
Brown said the hospitality extended to the girls in Europe had been outstanding. Next the New Zealand Dutch Barbarians plan to play at the World School Sevens in Auckland in December.
Kiwis of Dutch ancestry now had a sporting pathway that could be built on in future, Brown said.
“The longest association between tangata whenua and any European nation is with the Dutch, so I figured it was time a sports team got going.”
LEFT: Kerikeri’s Leilani Erwin evades a Dutch player.
Kaiatia’s Nalani Karena makes a pass with Jorja Miller of Timaru in support.