AGGS hoping to throw up special talent with new athletics academy

By Campbell Burnes

Nigel Edwards gives some discus throwing tips to the promising Talia Kahui AT AGGS throwing academy.
Nigel Edwards gives some discus throwing tips to the promising Talia Kahui AT AGGS throwing academy.

Auckland Girls' Grammar School are looking forward to reaping the benefits of their new athletics academy.

The school has a rich, 128-year history but has never before set up an academy of this nature.

It will, at least this year, focus on throwers and sprinters. AGGS has a proud netball history but in recent years the exploits of throwers Siositina and Ofa Hakeai have hinted at the often latent talent within the school's largely Polynesian demographic.

AGGS director of sport Christo Peters says the academy has been eight years in the making.

Top throwing coach Nigel Edwards, formerly of the Throw for Gold programme and now heading the South Auckland Throwing Academy, will hope to uncover a few gems from the AGGS ranks, but will also oversee the coaches.

"We're not interested in kids who are good at sport but don't care about class," says Edwards, whose coaching helped bring AGGS nine national titles in shot put and discus over recent years. He can spot a good thrower and expects to uncover potential throwing talent in the playground, at lunchtime, often by chance.

"I see it as the start of something big. AGGS is the first school to take on a true athletics academy. The headmistress [Liz Thomson] and board can see the potential in this.

"Our goal is have a minimum of 10 athletes at the schools nationals in December, but our real goal is 15, and out of that we hope to bring home a few medals. We have the depth here of girls who don't even know they are good at it."

A prime example is 14-year-old Talia Kahui, the school's junior shot put and discus champion. She won the 2015 Central zone title without any real club background or specialist coaching. Inspired by Ofa Hakeai, who left AGGS at the end of 2015 and was a fine student to boot, Kahui says she is keen to take her throwing to a new level with the academy.

The throwers will have regular lunchtime and after-school sessions at the adjacent Western Park, which will have its own dedicated throwing circle.

The sprinters are not forgotten, either, with plenty of fast twitch fibres among the girls, led by allrounder Sarina Simon, a top 100m and long jump exponent. Daniel Lewis and Judy Revell, who has worked with New Zealand sprint coach Kerry Hill, will be doing some of the coaching in this field.

Peters says last year saw a 5 per cent increase in girls playing sport at AGGS. With 28 sports offered, they have plenty of choice, and he hopes to see the numbers grow.

- NZ Herald

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