North­land girls run riot in Nether­lands

The Northland Age - - Sport - By Peter de Graaf

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.”

PIC­TURES/CARINE STOCK

LEFT: Kerik­eri’s Leilani Er­win evades a Dutch player.

Ka­ia­tia’s Nalani Karena makes a pass with Jorja Miller of Ti­maru in sup­port.

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