The Waikite under-11 sevens team is clearly talented but their coach Pomane Douglas-Karauna says their recent success started off the field.
Last weekend, the Waikite side claimed gold in the under-11 tournament at the inaugural New Zealand Junior Sevens event in Taranaki. The two-day event was open to clubs and schools from around New Zealand, with five grades from under-10 to under-15.
Douglas-Karauna, who co-coached with Stevie Wall, said the players were part of a wider "sporting mission". They did not have much time to train specifically for the sevens tournament but such was their bond off the field they found top gear almost immediately.
"The Waikite under-11 15-a-side team took out the local competition this year and the majority of the kids in that team also play rugby league for Ngongotahā plus touch rugby and cricket together.
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"We have created a whole sporting whānau and community where the kids not only play all their sport together but are now really good mates off the field. It's a super positive environment teaching them commitment, how to work in a team and also to have their mates back.
"But the main thing that their coaches are teaching is humbleness and it really shows in the way they conduct themselves as they have had some impressive results."
He said the team played six games at the tournament, three in a round-robin on Saturday before progressing through quarter-finals, semifinals and the final on Sunday.
"It's a super positive environment teaching them commitment, how to work in a team and also to have their mates back."
Te Pumanawa O Toku Ate Rogers was a standout player, not because she was the only girl but because she won the tournament MVP award.
"She was a standout the whole weekend. You can't go past her pace, she's one of the quickest girls around, in New Zealand, not just Rotorua. She's also a cross-country runner so she's not only quick, she's fit too.
"She loves the contact, that's one of her favourite parts of the game - tackling."
He said it was exciting to be part of the first national junior sevens event and it was a good learning experience for the kids going into intermediate.
"We just wanted to go down and gain experience because at intermediate they have one 15-a-side tournament but then the rest of it is AIMS Games where they only run sevens. It was good for them to get a good taste of it."
The Waikite Under-11 Sevens Team
Sam Wall (captain), Bayden Turuta (captain), Tyson Hansen, Awatere Douglas-Karauna,
Silas Te Ao, Te Pumanawa O Toku Ate Rogers (MVP), Te Rauna Tarei-Webster, Izzy Roimata, Darrius Tipiwai, Tai Whata, Rhody Manahi, Pomane Douglas-Karauna (coach), Stevie Wall (coach), Zanna Douglas-Karauna (manager).