There is a reboot going on at one of the great netball schools.
Auckland Girls' Grammar School had a difficult 2016 season, failing to stay up in the premier one grade. But they are putting the building blocks in place to again raise the level of netball to compete with, and beat, the big guns.
For the first time in AGGS' 129-year history, a netball academy is in place, and follows the 2016 introduction of the athletics academy. To that end, 23 promising Year 9 netballers have been put through their paces, with skills drills, nutrition advice, fitness work and position-specific tuition since December.
So far, the girls are loving it, according to AGGS director of sport Christo Peters.
"When a sport really excels at a school, there's invariably a passionate old girl or teacher who is driving it. Here we have two passionate AGGS old girls, and it's contagious," says Peters.
Those old girls are former Samoa and franchise goal attack Nicolette Tato (nee Ropati), whose daughter is at AGGS, and former franchise player and AGGS premier skipper Finau Pulu. Tato heads the academy, while Pulu is the premier coach, and the hope is that several of this current crop filter into the prems in the next 2-3 years.
While this duo drive much of the hands-on, day to day coaching, they can, and have, called on the likes of AGGS old girls and Silver Ferns Kayla Cullen, who gave a well-received pep talk just last week, Malia Paseka and Phoenix Karaka. Other Silver Ferns out of this school include Sheryl Scanlan (nee Clarke), Katrina Grant and Teresa Tairi.
Tato was in the AGGS premiers at the start of the millennium, when Te Aroha Keenan was deputy principal. It is no surprise the netballers were on the ball then. In fact, they won nine of 10 Auckland titles from 1997-2006, and four national crowns in the 1995-2004 decade.
"It's rebooting the culture and determination to win we used to have," says Peters.
So the academy is a restarting point. It will be about skills, enjoyment, but also discipline, turning up to early morning sessions on time, for example, which has slipped in recent years. Peters is not expecting an overnight cure to AGGS' netball malaise, but get the culture right, and with the natural netball talent in the ranks, the results and rep players will come.
"Put simply, it is our current talented players being nurtured by our past talented players and motivated by some of our most successful players," says Peters.