By Terry O’Neill.
This year’s North Otago’s sporting prowess is renowned despite the low population of this district . . .
Development of our swimming talent is the success story of 2015. Seventeen local swimmers under coach Narcis Gherca brought home a massive total of 45 medals, set 76 personal best times, and many qualified for the 2016 national age group championships. Take note of swimmers like Micah Hayes, Tandia Gooch, Jasmine Emery, Danny Gilbert, Iessha Mansfield, Tiana Mansfield and Imogen Keeling.
Oamaru rowing club administrator Peter Scott maintains the eighty active rowers on the water this season makes the club in the biggest in its 128th year and comprises School, Club, University and Masters rowers. Most satisfying for him is the great parent support and mingling of all local secondary schools. At last weekend’s regatta Oamaru’s Mark Taylor, Charlie Wallis, Jared Brensell and James Scott were outstanding.
North Otago rugby’s consistency has been the key to significant performances over the last two decades. The playoff systems for initially divisional, and later the Heartland competitions, have been in existencefor nearly two decades.North Otago has made those playoffs on nineteen times since 1997 taking titles on four occasions. 2015 was no exception with Lemi Masoe and Ralph Darling again making the NZ Heartland XV.
The North Otago senior cricket side is currently only one match away from winning the zone four Hawke Cup challenge repeating last season’s effort. This season the team had two outright wins against Otago Country and Southland. And there’s games coming up against South Canterbury (9/10 Jan) in Oamaru and Mid Canterbury(23/24 Jan) in Ashburton.
Winning the Ian Smith Trophy for only the fourth time was the feature of the North Otago mens hockey side this year. On an individual basis Logan Jopson and Jonty Naylor took a further step in their development being selected in the Southern under 18 side. On the club scene Waitaki Boys’ first X1 won the second division South Canterbury title beating Tainui B,3-0 in the final.
Valley Gold won the2015 premier grade netball title beating Waitaki Girls’ Wildfire in a thriller late in August. Wildfire led by four at the end of the first quarter, three at halftime, and two at three-quarter time before Valley Gold stormed back to win 37-35. Jennifer O’Connell was impressive for the Waitaki Girls’. Her ability was further confirmed by her selection for the pathway to podium system developed by Netball New Zealand, one of three from the southern region, and she will play two games for the national development team in the Cook Islands this week.
Football Waitaki caters for over 480 children including teams from Twizel and Omarama. In competition, St Kevin’s U/18 finished second, Waitaki Boys’ U/16, second and Meadowbank U/14s finished fourth. Young players coming through the ranks and heading for senior ranks are Caleb Roberts, Riku Koyama and Tom Prestidge.
The highlight of the basketball season was the performance of the North Otago U/15 team which qualified for the nationals beating Otago in the process. Individually Harry Thorp and Tom Crutchley from Waitaki Boys’ are in Las Vegas with the Mainland Eagles Academy team while Matt Brien of St Kevin’s made the National Secondary Schools A tournament team.