The Sir John Walker-inspired Find Your Field of Dreams project aimed at getting more secondary school children involved in organised sport continues to boom.
Last year three new schools, Papatoetoe High, Alfriston College and Edgewater College, were added to the South Auckland-based initiative with Papatoetoe, in particular, revealing an astonishing 90 per cent of their 1795 pupils were involved in intra-school sporting activity.
Of the 10 schools now in the project, Manurewa High continued to lead the way with a staggering 1900 pupils, out of a total roll of 1948, participating in intra-school competition.
Overall, according to the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council, there was a 9.8 per cent increase across the 10 schools in the project which turned around what had been a declining statistic.
The national increase in 2011 was only 1 per cent.
In the 10 schools in the FYFOD initiative, the increase in girls and boys participating was close at 10 per cent and 9.7 per cent respectively. There was also a heartening 6.4 per cent increase in the number of teachers coaching sporting teams and an 8.5 per cent increase in the number of teachers involved in sport.
There have been spin-offs off the field too with some schools reporting better attendance and improved student engagement following the introduction of the FYFOD project.
Across the Super City there remain variances in the percentage of students involved in sport compared with the national average with central Auckland schools boasting the highest participation rate.
In those schools 54 per cent of pupils were involved in sport - 2 per cent higher than the national average in 2011 and a whopping 8 per cent up on the figure for central schools a year earlier.
Taken in isolation, 61 per cent of boys in the central area were involved in sport - 6 per cent higher than the national average for the same period and almost 10 per cent higher than the average participation by boys across the whole region.
In the central area, 37 per cent of the teaching staff were involved in organised sport compared with the 33.5 per cent average across the whole city. North Harbour schools, while comfortably second in student participation, fall behind and are well below the national average in the percentage of teachers involved in sport.
Of the individual sports, rugby and netball still rule with a 7 per cent increase (to 31,203) playing rugby and 29,725 (up 8 per cent) participating in netball.
The biggest percentage increase came in touch - up 19 per cent to 15,348, just behind volleyball which had a 14 per cent lift to 15,859.
Soccer reported a mere 1 per cent growth to 24,408 (third most popular) but cricket had a disturbing 6 per cent drop-off to 11,878.
Of the so-called 10 major sports, badminton, despite an 8 per cent rise, barely reached the 10,000 mark.
Of the minor sports - less than 10,000 participants - indoor soccer reported a staggering 97 per cent increase to 3493. Gymsports (up 68 per cent), orienteering (up 45 per cent) and league with 3576 participants (a 28 per cent lift) also reported healthy growth.
Softball had a 16 per cent fall-off to 3275 while tennis, another sport struggling for national recognition, shed 9 per cent to have 7331 participants.
The weather bomb hit some schools but missed others leading to a truncated round of premier play on Saturday.
In the top v bottom pool-A fixture played at King's, St Kentigern won the toss and chose to bowl enjoying early success which only served to bring in-form Luke Williamson to the crease to join Cameron Gibbons who was already looking in good touch.
This pair batted well to reach 67 and 42 respectively. After their dismissals, the St Kentigern bowlers bowled good lines and offered few opportunities. The final total of 199/6 certainly left the visitors in with a chance.
In the event St Kentigern lacked the batting experience to challenge the total. The visitors seemed particularly unable to gain the upper hand when Mitchell Murray, Ben Turner and Mark Chapman had the ball. Murray ended up as the top wicket-taker with 3-10 as King's went on to a convincing 106-run victory.
The other pool A matches failed to produce a result as did the pool B match between St Peter's and AGS.
Rosmini won the all-North Shore scrap with Rangitoto. Batting first on their away trip, Rangitoto battled their way to a modest 159 with Alex Hoffmans leading the way with 47 as Moses Akujo picked up 3-28 from six overs and Jake Fitzgibbon 3-43.
The rest of the Rosmini side then put their feet up and watched as Dan Hilton Jones (51 not out) and Connor Ridge, who scored an unbeaten 85 from only 55 balls, knocked off the total for the loss of only one wicket.
The rain-affected game at MAGS against Sacred Heart still produced plenty of runs and eventually a result.
Winning the toss and batting first, MAGS were in early trouble as the visitors claimed an early wicket but play soon settled as a very determined top order proceeded to display a lesson in accurate gap finding.
The total was driven by Amit Dhadwal (34), Aditya Dhadwal's unbeaten 61 and an excellent 80 from Jack Cassidy helped post 226/4 after 39 overs. In reply Sacred Heart chased a total adjusted because of the rain to 214 in 36 overs. With a changed batting line-up, Sacred Heart knew they were going to be in for a tough day with a wicket falling on the first ball. Good contributions from Alex Wiltshire (32) and Jacob O'Callaghan (34) pushed some way towards the total.
However, with nobody from the rest of the team really standing up for the cause, the tough turning bowling of Teja Nidamanuru and the straight seaming of Brett Randell - who both finished with 3-25 - left Sacred Heart 67 runs short of their target.
Despite the cold and blustery conditions, Hillcrest and St Peter's were able to play a reduced overs match at St Peter's thanks to a quick drying outfield.
St Peter's won the toss and elected to bat with the opening pair of Doug Bradley and Tim Seifert who earlier in the week had scored back to back century partnerships against Hillcrest and St John's in the Gillette Cup.
From the outset Hillcrest were on top with Elliot Law (3-16) removing both batsmen - caught from a couple of well-directed bouncers. Sean Rudman picked up a third wicket before two wickets fell to run outs leaving St Peter's floundering at 16/5 after four overs. Another wicket lost to a run out then a wicket to Shamen Achary second ball left St Peter's at 32/7 in the 10th over. Despite the best efforts of Sam Pulis, David McFadyen and Josh Oakley, St Peter's were bowled out for 76 in 18.4 overs.
In reply Hillcrest made a safe start before Pulis made a double breakthrough removing both openers with the score at 17/2.
Huw Elias and Sean Rudman ensured Hillcrest did not suffer a similar batting collapse with both batsmen quick to capitalise on anything pitched short. Hillcrest went on to record a comfortable victory in the 13th over and so claim the coveted Dave Hoskin Trophy.
Botany Downs stormed to the top of the Auckland premier division one table with a solid win over King's in Monday's clash of the round. Botany Downs are the only team with a perfect three-from-three start to the season and will be keen to extend that record when they meet Macleans College at the testing Manukau Club on Monday.
King's, with only one win, will try to get their season back on track when they square-off against St Kentigern at Akarana while AGS, like St Kentigern with a two-win one-loss record, meet Pakuranga at The Grange.
Any player transferring from any school to another in the Auckland Rugby Union's region now faces a six-week stand-down before being eligible to play for his new school's 1st XV.
The change to the by-law, which is apparently aimed at schools poaching players from another school, was passed by about a two-thirds majority at last week's annual meeting of the Auckland Secondary Schools Heads Association.
Dale Burden, headmaster at MAGS, who - along with Jim Dale (Sacred Heart) and Steve Cole (St Kentigern) - resigned from the ASSHA board late last year, is far from happy that sports-loving students are being held back in this way.
"The six-week stand-down affects all students who move from 1B or 1A rugby regardless of the reason for the transfer and whether or not the student moves with their previous school's blessing," said Burden.
"I think the rule is a triumph for mediocrity as students will be forced to stay at schools with average programmes."
At present the change only affects schools who play in competitions under the jurisdiction of the Auckland Rugby Union.
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