Netball: Griffin ready to soar

By Julie Ash

It's funny how school assembly halls haven't changed over time. While there is probably not much scope for architectural creativity most seem to involve a longish rectangular building, an enormous stage and huge, heavy curtains.

Most also have tan placards gracing the walls listing school captains, duxes and sports leaders. At the moment Paula Griffin's name is on the sports leader board at Massey High School. She was elected to help organise school events such as athletics day and swimming sports.

In the not-too-distant future, the school might want to invest in a board that lists Silver Ferns because Griffin is tipped to become one.

In her second year with Auckland Waitakere, the 18-year-old shooter impressed at last weekend's opening round of the Scottwood Trust championships, where she netted 86 per cent of her shots. If she can maintain that form next week in Auckland, then the Silver Ferns spot vacated by pregnant Belinda Colling could be hers.

She's young and clearly has a way to go before she's ready for the intensity of international netball - but Griffin comes across as down-to-earth and intelligent. She also gives the impression she would flourish in the Silver Ferns environment.

Born and raised in Auckland, she is the second of three children. Elder brother Lance is a physiotherapist and sister Kelly (15) is a goal shoot for Auckland Waitakere under-16s.

Paula plays basketball and is a member of Massey High's premier team - but netball is where her heart lies. She started playing when she was seven, alternating between the shooting and defensive ends. Her talent was identified early. Her big break came last year when she made the Auckland Waitakere first-grade team, which helped her secure a place in the Diamonds franchise. Although she played second-fiddle to the more experienced shooting combination of Jo Morrison and Maria Tutaia, Griffin said the experience was invaluable. "It was great to get among New Zealand's top players and learn from them. Just being in the training situations you learn heaps."

The person she learned most from was Tutaia - a player who just last year was called into the Silver Ferns to replace Angela Mitchell against England. Griffin and Tutaia used to play against each other at school when Tutaia was at Mt Albert Grammar.

"Maria is like my big sister, I love her," she says. "She tells me to be tough and be strong and how important the mental side is," says Griffin, who is hoping to study sport-related subjects at AUT.

She made the New Zealand under-21 squad last year and was a member of the team that lost to the Australian under-21 side twice in July. She played in both games, teaming up with Jessica Tuki then Jade Topia in the shooting circle.

Her goal is to make the Silver Ferns but her immediate focus is the national championships, and being reselected for the New Zealand under-21s (they will be named next Saturday, after the final of the national championships).

There is also the defence of Massey High's national schools title in Blenheim in early October. But first up is the national championships and trying to secure Auckland a title which has eluded them since 1995.

They easily dismissed Tasman, Bay of Plenty and Eastern last week, but their mettle will really be tested when they meet Waikato and Southland on Monday and Tuesday.


Paula Griffin

Age: 18
Lives: Auckland
Height: 1.83m
Positions: GA, GS.
Career highlights
* 2006: Auckland Waitakere Diamonds
* 2006: Auckland Waitakere under-21
* 2005/06: Auckland Waitakere, Scottwood Trust.
* 2005/06: New Zealand under-21 squad.
* 2005: Auckland Waitakere under-19.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 12 Jul 2014 15:15:36 Processing Time: 861ms