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Hamilton netballers selected for New Zealand Secondary School squad

Hamilton netballers selected for New Zealand Secondary School squad

Three Hamilton netball players have been named in the sport’s 21-strong New Zealand Secondary Schools (NZSS​) squad.

Kate Littlejohn and Grace Watson from St Paul’s Collegiate School and Ali Wilshier​ from Waikato Diocesan School for Girls were announced as part of the team in February.

The squad was selected following a National Development Camp, as well as performances throughout the 2016 season.

For the camp, 60 competitors were divided into six teams and were scouted by squad selectors. The camp culminated in a mini-tournament.

"It’s fun but really intense. They've tried to make it less intimidating," Watson said.

She was selected for the NZSS​ last year and has played netball since primary school.

She played defence until age 15, when she was thrust from goal defence and goal keep, to goal shoot.

Like Watson, Wilshier​ and Littlejohn also changed positions throughout their time playing. Littlejohn changed from mid-court to goal defence and goal keep and Wilshier​ went from wing defence to centre and wing attack.

They all agree their new positions suit them well.

Littlejohn and Watson were also avid rowers so divided their time training for netball and rowing for the St Paul’s Collegiate Rowing Club.

Watson said rowing and netball were completely different sports.

"Rowing is kind of a robotic sport, netball I enjoy because I can do what I want," she said.

When it comes to deciding whether to pursue rowing or netball, both Watson and Littlejohn will wait to see where it takes them.

"At some stage I want to represent New Zealand in netball or rowing. It’s the last year I can do both so I'll have to make a decision," Littlejohn said.

But their efforts in netball don't stop here. The 21-strong squad will be narrowed down to 12 players to form the final NZSS team following the Netball NZ U17 Champs in July.

Wilshier​ said the selection process kept them on their "tippy-toes" and pushes them to improve.

"Long-term I want to play for New Zealand. Short-term is to keep improving. I want to keep loving the sport and igniting the spark," she said.