A bespectacled 50-something headmaster hardly rates as the next Rafael Nadal but for the kids at Henderson High the challenge is very real.

"Beat me on the tennis court and I'll shout you lunch," is the incentive for 650 or so students at the West Auckland secondary school to upstage their boss Mike Purcell.

Getting the new all-weather courts completed comes first but by term two that will be a reality.

As part of an ambitious project led by Purcell, the decile-four school is spending big on providing much-needed, and keenly awaited sporting facilities.

As part of the more than $2 million development, the school will soon boast an international-class water-based hockey turf - a first in that part of the city - four tennis and three netball courts.

It is all part of Purcell's push to lift participation levels across the sporting spectrum from around 20-25 per cent to 70-80 per cent.

"That is my aim over the next five years," said Purcell, 57, who has been at the school for less than a term. "Learning is not a spectator sport. There is ample evidence that physical activity influences academic performance."

Purcell, formerly at Karamu College, another co-educational school with a similar role and decile rating in the Hawkes Bay, took up his new position after a couple of years overseas.

"Sport at Henderson High is at a fairly basic level but already with the activity surrounding these new facilities there has been a huge increase in sporting interest," said Purcell, a former rugby representative and more than useful tennis player who now plays at Royal Oak.

His pupils have about six weeks to prepare to battle their principal as Purcell estimates the courts will by then be ready for action.

The netball courts, too, are being readied for play with that sport set to blossom with the new facility.

"We certainly want to grow netball just as we plan to do with hockey," said Purcell, who has watched what was just a grassed area being developed as a top-class sporting facility by using allocated property funding.

Black Sticks coach Shane McLeod is impressed by the effort being made at the school.

"Sport was a significant factor in driving me to achieve and I constantly see the positive correlation between sport and academic achievement in the younger players," said McLeod, who in an earlier life was a schoolteacher. "They become focused and determined to do their best as they work to balance academic and training demands.

McLeod and some of his New Zealand players will be at the school to inspect the West's first international-standard turf tomorrow.

The new surface will also be home to the fledgling Waitakere Hockey Club who have entered three men's and two women's teams in this season's Auckland competition and plan to add junior teams in future.

CRICKET
Auckland's leading schoolboy cricketers have their last chance of a hit-out this week following last Saturday's washout of premier play.

The final round of term one matches will be played tomorrow and on Friday, with most interest in the clash between Kings and MAGS at Kings with the home side holding a one-point lead over their rivals after taking a first-day first innings win over Sacred Heart in the much-abbreviated second round.

MAGS took a point from their drawn match with AGS who will be away to WBHS tomorrow with WBHS sharing second place with MAGS - a point ahead of AGS.

Bottom-placed Sacred Heart host St Kentigern.

Rangitoto, KBHS and Avondale all picked up a point from their drawn second-round matches to co-lead the plate championship by a point from St Peters who claimed a comfortable first innings win over Macleans on day one.

The weather has also disrupted the Gillette Cup semifinals, with the second semifinal and final to now be played in term four.

Meanwhile, the play-offs and finals in the Waikato term one 50-over championship will be played on Saturday, with Cambridge High and St Paul's Collegiate to meet at the picturesque Victoria Square ground in central Cambridge in the 1A final.

FRISBEE
It might not rank among mainstream sport but Ultimate Frisbee is on the move.

Popular as a sport at university level - it is included in the annual NZ University Games - Ultimate is gaining momentum in Auckland secondary schools with between 10 and 12 schools, including Rosmini, TGS, Northcote, Avondale, WBHS, Pakuranga, AGS, involved and others, including Green Bay, EGGS, St Peters, Albany High, Howick College and Baradene, expressing an interest.

While it is not a sanctioned sport under the ASB College Sport banner, organisers hope that after successfully running a competition for two years they will be approved.

"We have a list of the requirements we must meet to become sanctioned and that is our aim," said New Zealand representative and Avondale College sport's co-ordinator Iain Stewart. "As well as the outdoor league played over six weeks in the summer, we have an indoor league in terms two and three. We had 10 teams last year and are hoping for 16 - from six schools - this year."

The indoor league will be played at AGS from June 7-September 6 from 6pm-8pm.

Both competitions are organised by Stewart, who coaches the Avondale College team, and his wife Rebecca.

Played between teams of five - in other league teams have seven members - Ultimate is played on one half of a rugby field with games lasting 45 minutes.

Last year the summer league was played as a mixed competition but added interest saw the competition being split into boys and girls this summer.

In an upset, the Avondale team of Veronica Eades, Del Crummer, Janelle Moody, Katrina Rore, Leilani Kaihe, Luna Oliveira, Maggie Bradley, Ruth Crowe, Samantha Tofae, Savath Chan and Skye Hurst beat Northcote in the girl's final last week.

Final matches in the boys' league will be played at Rosmini College today.

Some of the victorious Avondale team are hoping to be selected in the New Zealand under-19 team to play a transtasman test series in October. That team will be named after the national club championships in Christchurch on April 8/9.

TOUCH
St Kentigern were the dominant force at the zone one and two NZSS qualification tournament at the Avondale Racecourse.

Last year's national runners-up overcame the shocking conditions to go through the testing day's play unbeaten, overcoming Kings 4-0 in the final to claim top spot in zone two.

The hotly contested zone two, encompassing the central, eastern, and southern areas of the Super City, was split into two pools to accommodate the large field.

St Kentigern and Kings reached the final unbeaten, with the latter winning every game, whereas St Kentigern had been held to a 2-2 draw by Manurewa High in their opening game.

In the final the solid St Kentigern defence proved too good for Kings. Both teams, along with third-placed Manurewa qualify for invitations to the nationals later in the year.

WBHS came through the slightly weaker zone one also unbeaten, with Bay of Islands College and KBHS also earning invitations.

In the girls, it was MAGS who produced the most impressive results. They beat defending national champions Manurewa to go through unbeaten and claim top spot in zone two.

EGGS finished third to also earn their invitation to the nationals.

Rangitoto, also unbeaten, qualified first in the zone one girls, followed by Mahurangi and Avondale.

Macleans were the stars of the mixed, winning all their games to take out the first qualifying spot in zone two, followed by Pukekohe and Howick.

Coming off a second place in their debut appearance in the NZSS nationals in December, Macleans will be hoping to go one better this year.

In the zone one mixed grade, Massey earned an invitation to the nationals with an unbeaten day to end up top qualifier, ahead of Mahurangi and Kaipara.

The NZSS nationals will be held in Hamilton from December 9-11.

- Nathan Calis