Kamo Intermediate School's girls' cricket team is just days away from the biggest tournament some of its members will ever play.
After winning a Northern Districts qualifying competition, the Kamo Intermediate School (KIS) team will travel to Christchurch for next week's National Primary School Shield finals, which begin at Lincoln University and the Lincoln Domain on Thursday.
KIS will play five hard-ball, nine-a-side T20s against other Year 7-8 teams for the national title - Christchurch's Heaton Intermediate, Auckland's Remuera Intermediate, Dunedin's Balmacewen Intermediate, Wellington's Tawa Intermediate and New Plymouth's Sacred Heart Girls' College.
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According to Northland cricket historians, KIS' appearance would be a first for Northland intermediate schools at the national competition. What made the team's success even more extraordinary was only half of the 10-girl team had played cricket before this year.
To advance to the national finals, KIS had to finish first at the Northern Districts regional finals in Tauranga in March this year. While expectations had been tempered in the face of tough opposition, KIS were by far the best team and went through four games unbeaten in three days.
KIS' Mia Chatterton was crowned the top run-scorer for the tournament with 101 runs and a best score of 42. Fellow batswoman Kate Illerbrun finished with the third-most runs with 86 and a best of 45.
Chatterton also saw great success with the ball, taking the most wickets in the tournament with 12, her best figures being four wickets for seven runs from three overs.
Teammates Ela Jerez and Aimee Lindsay also featured in the top five for wickets taken with seven and five wickets respectively.
Overall, KIS scored the most runs altogether for the tournament with a total of 411, the team amassing their highest score with a blockbuster 176 off 15 overs, which would be a definite confidence booster ahead of a potential national title win.
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"I'm pretty confident honestly, this team is pretty tight together and I think we'll do pretty decent," 13-year-old KIS co-captain Kate Illerbrun said.
"I just want the girls to have a lot of fun because a lot of them won't be able to do that type of thing again and for a lot of them, it's their first time playing so I want them to have a good experience."
Illerbrun, a Northland age-group cricket representative and a burgeoning swimming and hockey talent, admitted she was quite a competitive person but hoped the finals tournament would reinforce her love for the game.
"I just really like the atmosphere, it's really fun to be able to sit and watch teammates bat and always be on the field with them."
KIS coach Jess Turner, 24, said she was both proud and nervous for her team after a mind-blowing regional finals campaign.
"Half of them have never played cricket before so it's just about the experience and they are just proud of themselves getting to this stage," she said.
"They went down [to the regional finals] thinking they were just there to participate, so for them to win was pretty cool."
Turner, a Kamo Intermediate teacher and former Northland and Northern Districts age-group cricket representative, said interest in girls' had risen drastically in just one year.
From having to ask girls to play in 2018, Turner said she trialled more than 22 girls this year, who were all eager to play.
Turner said the team's skills were in their outfield prowess and she hoped that form would transfer into their bowling and batting. While she wasn't quite sure what to expect in Christchurch next week, Turner was certain the team would be ready to fight hard.
"I have full faith in the skills that they have, the determination and the passion for trying something new is really cool.
"I think it'll be a good competition down there and it'll be hard for the girls, but I think that's what makes them better players."
On Friday last week, the team was awarded $500 from Whangārei's Cobham Cricket Club to assist with their trip expenses.
Club president Vaughan Syers said he was glad to see the club's funds go to such a worthy cause.
"What attracted us to it was the fact that it's an all-girls' team and the fact that girls' cricket is growing so well in Northland," he said.
Traditionally the club had awarded funds to players looking to compete in overseas competitions. Syers said the club was now moving away from that and looking to invest money into cricket in Northland.
He encouraged any team or club to contact Cobham Cricket Club through Facebook or other means to find out more about the application process.
KIS national finals team:
Mia Chatterton (co-captain)
Kate Illerbrun (co-captain)
KIS v Remuera Intermediate at 10am, November 21
KIS v Heaton Intermediate at 2pm, November 21
KIS v Tawa Intermediate at 10am, November 22
KIS v Sacred Heart Girls' College at 2pm, November 22
KIS v Balmacewen Intermediate at 9.30am, November 23
For more information and live-scoring, visit www.crichq.com.