Rau­tangi makes NZ team

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - Front Page - Lau­rilee McMichael

Rau­tangi Pi­tiroi is a fu­ture Black Stick in the mak­ing.

If you need proof, you only need look to the fact that the 14-year-old, who at­tends Te Kura Kau­papa Ma¯ori o Whakarewa i Te Reo Ki Tu¯whare­toa in Taupo¯, has just been se­lected for the New Zealand Ma¯ori Un­der-21 Women’s Hockey team.

Rau­tangi was se­lected at the re­cent Na­tional Ma¯ori Hockey Tour­na­ment in Ro­torua where she was play­ing for the Wa­iariki Women’s A Team.

Her coach (and koro) Taite Pi­tiroi says Rau­tangi has been se­lected in her spe­cial­ist po­si­tion as striker, which is a re­mark­able feat con­sid­er­ing her age and the level of hockey.

The U21 team will play a three-match series against a tour­ing Queens­land U21 side later next year.

Rau­tangi’s wha¯nau say they feel a great sense of sat­is­fac­tion at her se­lec­tion as a striker, be­cause it vin­di­cates their be­lief that she is the best for­ward and goal scorer in Bay of Plenty hockey for her age group, although she often has to play out of po­si­tion to cover vi­tal po­si­tions in the team.

Rau­tangi has al­ways trained as a striker and is a pro­lific goal scorer, scor­ing more than 30 goals for her kura team last sea­son. She also played for Bay of Plenty.

Taite says while she was a sur­prise se­lec­tion for the Wa­iariki Women’s A team, Rau­tangi jus­ti­fied her se­lec­tion by play­ing with a lot of ma­tu­rity and show­cas­ing skills and vi­sion be­yond her years. The team went on to win this year’s Na­tional Ma¯ori Hockey Tour­na­ment, beat­ing a strong Waikato/Ma­niapoto women's side in a very close-fought fi­nal, with Rau­tangi scor­ing the win­ning goal late in the sec­ond half to se­cure a 2-1 win for her team.

Rau­tangi says she knew there were go­ing to be na­tional team se­lec­tors at the tour­na­ment but says she didn’t let it get to her.

“I think get­ting in was kind of like a bonus but I was there to play and do my best, I guess.”

Taite, who has coached Rau­tangi ever since she be­gan play­ing, says while he al­ways knew she had the tal­ent to make the team, he did not think she would be se­lected so young. Nat­u­rally, he is very proud, as are Rau­tangi’s par­ents Ruby and Akuira and her five sib­lings.

Taite says Rau­tangi started show­ing signs at a re­ally early age that she was go­ing to be a spe­cial player, along with two other kura girls the same age, Noaria Ka­pua, a cen­tre half, and Pi­ata Morehu, a for­ward/ striker.

“They all dis­played a very adept hockey skillset, a very strong de­sire to suc­ceed and a very com­pet­i­tive never say die at­ti­tude. Plans and pro­grammes were put in place to help them de­velop their all round skillset, so as to help them reach their full po­ten­tial a lot quicker.”

Taite says Rau­tangi has worked hard over the past five years to de­velop and fine-tune her skills as a for­ward/striker and also a lot of time work­ing on her over­all strength, speed and fit­ness.

“She is now at a stage in her de­vel­op­ment where she feels to­tally com­fort­able and com­pletely un­fazed play­ing along­side and against play­ers older and a lot more ex­pe­ri­enced than her­self.”

This was Rau­tangi’s first year of play­ing for Wa­iariki but she has been play­ing for Bay of Plenty for three years and has served as cap­tain of both the U13 and U15 Bay of Plenty teams. Her ul­ti­mate goal is to be­come a Black Stick.

Rau­tangi says she loves hockey and loves scor­ing goals.

“I think be­cause I’ve been play­ing it for so long it’s just some­thing that makes me happy I guess.”

Rau­tangi is not the kura’s first na­tional hockey rep­re­sen­ta­tive — for­mer stu­dent Ke­warei Hawkins, 19, is in the New Zealand Ma¯ori un­der-21 Men’s hockey team too. Two other kura stu­dents are also do­ing well in hockey. Rere­hau Wi­neera played along­side Rau­tangi in the Wa­iariki Women’s A Team and was Player of the Year for the Taupo¯ women’s team this year and year 12 stu­dent Te Omeka Tekakau played for Wa­iariki Men’s B team.

Photo / Lau­rilee McMichael

Rau­tangi Pi­tiroi has been se­lected for the New Zealand Ma¯ori Un­der-21 Women’s Hockey Team.

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