Whangārei students have hundreds of new touch and netballs at their fingertips thanks to Rebel Sports and the Tania Dalton Foundation.

Manaia View School pupils were the first to get their hands on 60 new balls gifted to the school yesterday morning.

The team kept bouncing along and handed out more balls, 300 in total, at Morningside, Kamo Intermediate, Whangārei Intermediate and Te Kura o Otangarei. The Whangārei Netball Association were also lucky recipients.

The balls were part of the Tania Dalton Foundation Pass it Forward programme recently launched alongside Rebel Sports.

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For every Pass it Forward ball bought in a Rebel Sports store, the foundation donated an identical ball to a school or club to help remove barriers to participation in sport and support young Kiwis.

The Whangārei schools were the first to benefit from the programme.

Tania Dalton, 45, collapsed on February 23, 2017 while playing a game of social touch rugby. Dalton suffered a brain aneurysm and after days in hospital her family made the difficult decision to switch off life support. She died on March 1, 2017.

She had played netball for the Silver Ferns, the Northern Force and the Southern Sting.

New Zealand's Tania Dalton in action against Australia during the third and final netball test at the Westpac Centre in Christchurch in 2006. Photo / File
New Zealand's Tania Dalton in action against Australia during the third and final netball test at the Westpac Centre in Christchurch in 2006. Photo / File

After retiring, she worked as a netball commentator on Sky Sports for tests, the ANZ Championship and national championships.

In 2018, a foundation was started in her name to help talented young women achieve their potential.

Husband Duane Dalton, foundation chairperson and founder, was at Mania School yesterday to see the reaction of students when the received the balls.

The purple and orange balls began flying around as the students familiarised themselves with the new sports gear.

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"I love to see this. Tania would love it too," Dalton said.

Duane Dalton Chairperson of the Tania Dalton Foundation says sport has the ability to unit and cut across all layers of society and bring people together from diverse backgrounds. Photo / Tania Whyte
Duane Dalton Chairperson of the Tania Dalton Foundation says sport has the ability to unit and cut across all layers of society and bring people together from diverse backgrounds. Photo / Tania Whyte

"Sport has the ability to unite and cut across all layers of society and bring people together from diverse backgrounds. And there is also making those life-long friends from being involved in sport."

For 12-year-old Amber Pook the new balls would improve playing netball at the school.

"These are the best. We've been at home in lockdown not doing much now we are back at school again I can play netball with my friends again."

Teacher Sonya Potai-Struginski said the benefits of the students being active and involved in sport was huge and having the new gear would help with getting students involved.

"We won't be scrounging around ... they now have the best of the best at their fingertips."

Rebel Sports Whangārei business manager Ben McInnes and retail manager Rachel Pilcher reckoned there would be no excuse for the students not to be out playing sport.

"We are parents and have school age children. We know that not everyone has access to equipment and this is a great opportunity to make sure kids get that opportunity."

Whangārei's Tara Turner, 16, was earlier this year named in the Touch Blacks women's team to take on Australia.

Turner was one of 12 young female athletes chosen in this year's cohort of the Tania Dalton Foundation scholarship programme. Taylor was scheduled to be at the presentation of balls to Whangārei Intermediate, where she was a former student.

The three-year scholarship provides financial support - $5000 a year – on top of help with personal development and mentoring.

Turner is among athletes from netball, volleyball, basketball, athletics, rugby and water polo in the 2020 intake to the scholarship programme, which honours the life of the late Tania Dalton.

To learn more about the foundation visit the Tania Dalton Foundation website.