Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Netball: Students enter big league

Northern Mystics choose two teenagers for transtasman squad.

Buddies Elisapeta Toeava (left) and Malia Paseka are excited about their promotion. Photo / Dean Purcell
Buddies Elisapeta Toeava (left) and Malia Paseka are excited about their promotion. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland teenagers Elisapeta Toeava and Malia Paseka have been plucked straight from high school into a professional sporting environment, signing with the Northern Mystics for next year's transtasman league.

The young pair are the notable new faces in the Mystics' 2013 squad, which is fast taking shape after a series of hold-ups.

The franchises have to submit a list of at least 10 players to the ANZ Championship office today, with the deadline for their full squads to be named being the start of next week.

The two under-21 stars join four players considerably more familiar to netball fans with Silver Ferns Maria Tutaia, Cathrine Latu, Bailey Mes and Grace Rasmussen recommitting to the franchise. With Australian international Julie Corletto earlier announced as the team's import, the Mystics have seven confirmed signings. It is believed Anna Harrison and Kayla Cullen will be added to that list before the 5pm cut-off today, giving Ruth Aitken's side a healthy Silver Ferns count.

Toeava said she was excited about getting the opportunity to play alongside some of the country's best.

The 18-year-old, who attends Otahuhu's McAuley High School - a Catholic school for girls - is the sister of All Black Isaia Toeava, who earned a national call-up at the age of 19, when he was picked for the 2005 end-of-year tour as Graham Henry's "special project".

It was Henry's wife, Raewyn, a Mystics board member and New Zealand selector, who called to offer Toeava a contract with the Auckland franchise.

Elisapeta said her brother and the rest of her family were extremely proud of her. "[Isaia's] really happy for me. He told me to work hard and whatever you put in is what you'll get out," she said.

Making the leap into professional sport is intimidating for a teenager, which is why Paseka is pleased one of her under-21 buddies is joining her.

"I was so happy that I found out [Toeava] got in, because it's so hard to be a new person on your own so it's good to have someone else starting with me I know really well."

Paseka's selection in the Mystics squad caps off a whirlwind 12 months for the 18-year-old, who this time last year was living in Sydney.

Netball Australia had identified the 1.83m shooter as a top young talent, naming her in the Australian under-17 team. But Paseka caught the attention of New Zealand netball scouts when she told a Sydney newspaper it was her dream to play for the Silver Ferns.

That set off a chain of events that saw her move to Auckland at the beginning of the year to finish high school here. She was immediately included in Netball New Zealand's emerging talent group, before being selected in the national secondary schools team and later the New Zealand under-21 line-up.

As part of the changes to the New Zealand Netball Players Association collective contract, teams can sign up to 14 players, rather than the 12 of previous seasons.

The Magic are expected to announce today they have signed Mt Albert Grammar School students Nadia Loveday and Jamie Lee Price, daughter of Australian rugby league great Steve Price, in their development spots. The Mystics are believed to have signed a third MAGS student as a training partner.


The Young Guns

Elisapeta Toeava
Born: 10/03/1994
Positions: WA, C
School: McAuley High School
National squads: New Zealand emerging talent, New Zealand under-21
Fun fact: Elisapeta is the younger sister of All Black Isaia Toeava.

Malia Paseka
Born: 23/09/1994
Positions: GA, GS
School: Rangitoto College
National squads: Australian under-17, New Zealand emerging talent, New Zealand under-21
Fun fact: New Zealand-born but raised in Australia, Malia caught the attention of NNZ when she was quoted in a suburban Sydney newspaper saying it was her dream to play for the Silver Ferns.

- NZ Herald

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