Hukarere College's Wizdym Williams was easy to spot on day one of the national secondary schools ki o rahi tournament at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings today.
A pocket rocket, Year 10 student Williams, had plenty of pace, a clever step off both feet and was prepared to dive all over the place when required during the combined Hukarere College-Te Aute College team's 22-10 victory over fellow newcomers Opotiki College.
"This is only my second year playing ki o rahi. I can see it becoming my No 1 sport," the Wellingtonian, who boards at Hukarere, said after the win.
"We're doing good for the first time at this level and we're only going to get better as we have more game time with each other."
A keen rugby, rugby league, netball, hockey and football player also, Williams, plays loose forward or fullback at representative rugby league level and all of her skills required in these roles come in handy in her kioma role in ki o rahi.
She pointed out Bree Edwards, Taimarie Ake and Epai Brooking as others players from her team to keep an eye on during the remainder of the 35-team nationals which end tomorrow.
Hukarere College sports co-ordinator Kere Mihaere said the combined team qualified for nationals through the regional tournament and playing at national level is good for the development of both schools.
"By forming a combined team both schools get to perform on the national stage. We also have the opportunity to mix with the smaller schools you don't see at rugby and netball tournaments.
"This is the first time Ngati Kahungunu has hosted the nationals and the tournament will definitely help numbers grow here in the Bay," Mihaere added.
In their other games Hukarere-Te Aute beat Te Kura o Hirangi from Turangi 37-12, Tolaga Bay Area School (Uawa) 16-13 and lost 25-3 to defending champions Te Kura Maori o Nga Tapuwae of Mangere and 24-8 to another team new to the nationals, Northland's Okaihau College.
The combined Hukarere-Te Aute College side is among four teams from Hawke's Bay competing at the nationals. Karamu High School had a chance of qualifying for the top eight after recording four wins and a loss.
The Jon Matthews-Elijah Martin-coached side beat Te Waha o Rerekohu from Te Araroa 32-13, newcomers Manawatu College 38-2, Tawa College 29-8 and Manawatu's Tai Wananga Tu Toa and lost 20-10 to last year's third placegetters Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga from Gisborne.
The combined Hastings Girls' High School-Hastings Boys' High School team beat Nga Puna o Waiorea from Auckland 30-21, Mana College 33-16, Tokoroa High School 23-11, the combined Gisborne Boys' High School-Gisborne Girls' High School team 16-15 and Whanganui's Te Wharekura o Tupoho 50-5 to qualify for the top eight.
In their first nationals Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu beat Patea College 30-13, drew 20-all with Taumarunui's Te Kura o Ngapuke and lost 41-4 to pool favourites Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga of Huntly and 31-8 to the combined Palmerston North Boys' High School and Palmerston North Girls' High School team.
Tournament organisers hadn't finalised the top eight when Hawke's Bay Today went to press. Winners of the six pools plus the next best two teams on points differential qualify for the top eight.