West Auckland’s Henderson Intermediate entered just two events at the Anchor AIMS Games – and won gold in both.
After a long absence from the Games, Henderson won the netball final against Whakatane Intermediate in a dominant 23-13 performance. Earlier in the week, their classmate Mia Smales won the girls’ squash title.
It’s been five years since Henderson competed at the Games because the school community could not afford to send a team to the event.
But teacher-coach Kieran Paterson said he knew his netball team was special and he had to get them to the Games. They beat 124 other teams from across New Zealand in the Games’ most hotly-contested title.
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“We knew we had something in them, and we could only test them here.”
Henderson’s school board gave the 10 netballers and 1 squash player a substantial subsidy so each player only had to find $150 to make it to Tauranga. At the final, each of the 10 netballers had at least one whanau member present. They wore plastic hula skirts, and waved blue and red pompoms.
Parent Joanna Makiha said the school was packed in to the assembly hall watching the final on livestream. They were shocked by the size of the crowd gathered for the AIMS final, which stretched to six people deep in places.
Last year’s silver medallists, Glen Eden Intermediate, turned up en masse to support the girls they play alongside in West Auckland competitions.
As the two teams took the court – Whakatane in teal, Henderson in navy – the crowd was largely silent.
Shelley and Dave Peters had driven to Tauranga every day from Kawerau to see their mokopuna Rawinia Peters play for Whakatane. They wore bright blue wigs and both appeared to be holding their breath.
“Nervous,” Shelley said, clasping her hands.
On winning their school’s first-ever AIMS Games netball gold, Henderson were remarkably subdued.
Coach Paterson said the team were conscious of how Whakatane would feel in defeat.
They would sing a song in the van to celebrate but wanted to practise the school motto of “humble heads, happy hearts” at the court.
Henderson captain Lahnayah Daniel, 12, said Whakatane played hard.
“We knew they were going to be hard but everyone went hard, everyone played their game,” she said.
“We’re taking it out for West Auckland and especially our school.”
Whakatane captain Jorjah Cooper, 12, said she was so proud of her team – the first Whakatane netball team to make the final since they won the gold in 2007.
“It was pretty hard. We’re tired, everyone’s a bit sore. They played good as.”