A team of young Horowhenua softballers pulled off a David and Goliath upset to win a national tournament at Auckland the weekend.
The under-13 Horowhenua boys team, which is the only representative team from the province, were the talk of the tournament after beating Hawke's Bay 8-5 in the final.
Before his players went on the field to face Auckland in their first match, coach Damon Tamakaha noticed some of the players were in danger of being overawed at playing a city team.
"We were very nervous and it came out in our batting. I said to them just pretend your playing against your mate from Manakau School," he said.
After that opening 2-all draw, the Horowhenua team went through the rest of the tournament unbeaten.
The team is coached by Tamakaha with Dylan Kiriona as his assistant coach, and they said the win could open doors for players who gained selection for national teams.
"There's just so much talent," he said.
The team had played as a club in a Manawatū competition through the season, travelling each week, but made a decision to band together as Horowhenua for Rookie Sox competition.
"We haven't lost a game up there. Manawatū has been really good to us and wanted us to play for their rep team," he said.
Horowhenua had always boxed above its weight on the national scene and had produced some brilliant players in the past - the likes of Chubb Tangaroa, Thomas Makea and Dave Workman, among others.
Tamakaha said for participation to return to what it was would require an effort from coaches to become involved and to work with secondary schools.
"It's going well and interest is building...we're doing every we can but you can always do more," he said.
He said many children play softball but hang up their mits when they reached secondary school age. He aimed to keep them in the game.
"Once they get to college they get distracted but we're working with colleges," he said.
"There's real opportunity for these players."