Making the threshold in sport comes with its share of accolades but Asher Grapes knows only too well that staying true to the cause is where the ultimate test lies if one is to prosper.

"It's the sort of programme where you can't just turn up every now and then.

"You have to be committed to coming back to keep improving otherwise you're going to lose what you've gained," says Grapes, after the 2018 Hawke's Bay Netball high performance development programme was launched in Hastings on Monday.

"I got a lot of extra strength and I've improved my netball playing because the game's quite physical now."


The Hastings Girls' High School student is in her second year of the programme based at the Sir Graeme Avery-led Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust's temporary facility operating from the HB Regional Sports Park.

"That means when I'm going up to contest the ball with someone else I won't get pushed off because of all the work I've done in the gym."

The programme, which started last year, helps develop talent in emerging netballers not offered to girls in the Bay before.

Grapes, who represents her team in the premier Super 8 club competition in winter, is among 17 predominantly under-17 netballers and a few under-15s.

Last year there were about a dozen of them, including Jaydi Taylor-Chaffey who has now graduated to the Beko League.

Grapes, a 16-year-old goal attack, says the two days a week programme begins with an aerobics warm-up for about 10 minutes. A weights session follows for about 35 minutes with "core work" to finish. Core workouts entail dead bugs, toe touches, bicep crunches "and we always finish with planks".

The programme provides a mental boost to achieve, for example, a deadlift nine out of 10 times, she says.

"As you keep coming back you get more confident working with weights because starting can be scary. Most of us girls when we start we've never really worked with weights much, so slowly getting techniques right we get more confident going for heavier weights mentally."

Grapes emphasises "it's quality over quantity" so the number of reps tend to decrease with knowledge and fortitude although heavier weights demand that anyway.

HB Netball development officer Denise Aiolupotea oversees the programme for netballers and says the girls have graduated from the code's development programme, which takes them to representative tournaments, so they possess good work ethics.

"This programme underpinning that, giving them foundation skills to perform in a rep programme better," says Aiolupotea.

The 29-year-old says Rob Gillett-Jackson, the strength and conditioning coach, devises templates to fulfil individual requirements for each player.

"Rob also goes over their technique," she says, revealing the girls' requirements differ positionally in skills level but strength-wise it's similar.

Aiolupotea says Grapes' growth in stature is obvious, akin to Liana Mikaele-Tu'u who is back for the second year.

"The girls will stay in the programme until they leave school because they tend to move on but as long as we can keep them here they'll keep on training."

In January the netballers went to a national camp, where New Zealand secondary schools' assistant coach Charissa Barham, of Hastings, gave them a tick of approval in the strengthening department.

"It's a really good programme and as long as the girls keep coming then they'll keep developing."

A sod-turning and site-blessing ceremony was conducted a fortnight ago to build a main facility next to the premises at the regional park.

Says Marcus Agnew, the trust's health and sport development manager: "This is a very significant milestone. New programmes in a new facility for Hawke's Bay and talented young female athletes from the highest participation numbers sport, finally getting the development they deserve, and it's the opportunity to fulfil their potential."