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Thursday November 2, 2017

SPORT

Lokotui flies third NZ flag as junior basketballers make history Wellington’s student Paris Lokotui has had meteoric rise to the top of junior-level sport, as her New Zealand Women’s Under 17 basketball team made history at a tournament in Bangalore on Friday, Having defeated Thailand 80-52 in the quarter-final of the FIBA Asian Championship, New Zealand claimed one of the four qualifying spots for the 2018 FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup, to be played in Minsk, Belarus next July. That makes them the first ever junior women’s national side to qualify for a basketball World Cup. Paris, the only Wellington representative in the team, was instrumental in the victory, scoring 19 points and nine rebounds. Her naming in the team that travelled to India was already remarkable as it made it her third national-level sports team selection and her third international tournament this year. The Queen Margaret College Year 11 had already competed for New Zealand teams in water polo and netball when she was selected. She was named in the Aotearoa Maori Netball International Secondary School team that competed against 10 teams in the International Under 19 Schools Challenge in

Fiji in May. Paris’s team went undefeated throughout the rounds and beat the All Australia Netball Team 40-28 in the final. “It was amazing to play in the final and the atmosphere and support from within the team and from the crowd was amazing. I felt so proud to be on the court that day,” she says. Paris then joined the NZ water polo Under 16 team that competed in at the inaugural Sydney Water Polo Youth Festival, playing against Australian state teams and Thailand. Making the New Zealand Under 17 women’s basketball team, which will compete in the FIBA Asia Cup in Bangalore later this month, is like a dream come true, she says. Paris loves all sports and has been involved in athletics, hockey, touch, volleyball, swimming, under water hockey, water polo, netball and basketball. She focused on the latter three sports from 2015 to balance who sports commitments with school work. Sport runs in the family. Paris’ father Lua Lokotui is a professional rugby player recently retired from the international game, having played for Tonga at the last two Rugby World Cups.

Paris Lokotui in action for the Under 17 Tall Ferns. PHOTO: Supplied

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15

Footballing pupils given Phoenix training

Ava Saulbrey heads off on a football drill as Chanel Sarkis, Lola Mitipelo-Narsi and Molly Dreaver-Stimpson look on under the guidance of Phoenix players Goran Paracki and Alex Rufer. PHOTO: Jamie Adams By Jamie Adams

Football enthusisasts at Evans Bay Intermediate School were treated to an extra-special training session when a TV crew and to Wellington Phoenix players paid a visit on Tuesday. The select group of pupils got to meet midfielders Alex Rufer and Goran Paracki, who gave them tips on bettering their skills. Former All White and current Sky commentator Fred De Jong and fellow presenter Dennis Katsanos were also in attendance to film the drills for a Sky Sports football season preview show. Teacher Jason Barkle says the visit was a bonus after the school had won a competition, the prize of which was a bus trip to Westpac Stadium for 40 pupils to watch a Phoenix game. “We had to submit a little video to tell them why we deserved to win it.”

While the Lions rugby team had visited in the past, it was the first time the school had the honour of hosting Phoenix players. The pupils being trained on the day were keen footballers of a “high quality.” Jason says. “The footballlers in these sessions play in club competitions outside of school.” Wellington Phoenix Community Development Officer Becky Cooke says the club is always keen to give children opportunities to interact with players. “We do try to visit different schools, three or four per month,” Becky says. “Once a week we are running a skills session and getting players to talk about what it’s like to be a professional footballer. “We think it’s important to engage with fans and it’s a way to get more people to games.”

Sports talk

with Jacob Page

Mo’unga has rugby fans cheering ‘Richie’ yet again Who would have thought Canterbury would have a new Richie to hail so soon after Richie McCaw. Mo’unga - Richie Mo’unga is now arguably the most trusted and respected man in Canterbury rugby and must be putting pressure on the All Blacks selectors to play more of a role in the black jersey. His record-breaking 25 points in the NPC final against Tasman, including two sensational individual tries, effectively took the wind out of the sails of the Makos’ fast start. He and he alone was head and shoulders above everyone else on the field and his form, both in general play and with the boot, has been phenomenal since the Super Rugby playoffs. The 23-year-old could have his best years of rugby still ahead of him. Wellington’s return to the top flight of New Zealand rugby is long overdue and while they made hard work of the

extra time 59-40 final victory over Bay of Plenty, they may be strong challengers to Canterbury’s decade of dominance. It would be interesting to know if there is a level of regret with the All Blacks’ brains trust over not having Mo’unga on the bench during the loss to Australia last week. Damien McKenzie didn’t cut it at 10 since he hadn’t played there since high school. McKenzie is set to play in that role for the Chiefs in Super Rugby in 2018. Mo’unga has had the breakthrough year that New Zealand rugby fans should be excited about. He can fill the third No 10 spot in the national ranks that was left vacant by the departure of Aaron Cruden. He was the shining light of this year’s NPC and that could mean come 2018 you may see him in more black than red and black.

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