The marquee match of the day was in the Rising Stars 19U grade, between Arorangi Flames (U21 champions in 2016) and Tupapa-Maraerenga Panthers.
Pride was on the line for the two hugely talented teams, as well a prize of $3,500 cash.
The Panthers came out with a roaring start, pushing the Flames to hold a 13-11 edge by the end of the first quarter.
The Panthers were ecstatic with the return of Anania Piri, an outstanding attacker and key player for the team, from the National Squad camp in New Zealand a mere hour or two before the start of the finals.
Piri was a late addition to camp as a spot opened from the withdrawal of another local squad member due to extraneous circumstances, and a concession was granted by the squad coach so that Piri could honour her commitment to club and team.
Flying high with flare and complementing the outstanding play of the other half of the Tupapa dynamic duo, Rianna Pepe, combined with the outstanding defence of Norma Pepe and Tetini Tararo saw the Panthers retain a one-point lead at the half 25–24.
The Flames were not going to be extinguished without a fight, blitzing their way up and down the court with centre Simone Nicholas working both ends of the court with grace and poise, forcing crucial turnovers and sending the ball to outstanding shooters Greta Remuera and Lynn Mataora.
Despite the loss of their key defender and U21 National Team rep Daimzel Rongokea to National Squad camp, Arorangi defenders GD Romehael Rauraa and GK Faustina Ufamarata hassled Tupapa every which way to keep the score at a two-point difference in the 3rd at 41 – 39 to Tupapa.
The arrival of the U19 Arorangi Cowboys seemed to boost the morale of the Flames with rambunctious cheering as they held their own trophy from their rugby win.
However, Tupapa was unfazed by the ruckus and pushed the Flames to the limit.
Centre Ngapare Noovao stepped in filling the space left by Phillipa Smith, who also left for New Zealand for National Squad camp duties, and with the assistance of wing attack Eteta Strickland in front and Tevai Tatuava at wing defence in the back, the Panthers doused the Flames 54–49.
The Rising Stars 15U first place match was a battle for $2,500 cash prize between Titikaveka Pearls and Arorangi Flames (U17 champions in 2016).
The Flames burned brightly in the first half, keeping pace with the Pearls.
Nevertheless, the Pearls, coached by Natalia Short and receiving tips from ex-Silver Fern Margharet Matenga, put the heat on the Flames and rolled away to victory 32- 24.
In the Future Stars 12U grade, Titikaveka Pearls outclassed the Tupapa-Maraerenga Panthers 22 - 13, while the Rising Stars 15U third place game was won by the Avatiu Dragonflies over the Panthers, 29-20.
In the first versus second place matches, Future Stars 12U undefeated Ngatangiia-Matavera SeaGalz easily glided to victory 15–6 over the Avatiu Dragonflies, who had given them much trouble with a draw in the first round and only a one-point victory in the second round.
The SeaGalz secured themselves the top prize of a Rehab party bus day trip around the island with multiple stops, including fun on Rongohiva Waterpark inflatables in town, a total prize value of $925, with the runners-up receiving a laser tag session sponsored by Kuki Tag Adventures.
The Future Stars 12U Most Inspiring Team award was won by Tupapa-Maraerenga Panthers whose team consisted of mainly 8U & 10U players.
Despite winning very few games in this tournament, they always turned up to training in numbers and with positive attitudes absolutely loving the game of netball and were rewarded with a session to Rongohiva Waterpark.
In the Shooting Stars 20+ finals between Titikaveka Pearls and Avatiu Dragonflies, a Rehab Party bus trip with 4 x drink cards worth $900 was on the line.
Unfortunately the Dragonflies, who were undefeated throughout the entire tournament, couldn’t keep par with the loss of two of their key players, defender Luciana Nicholas and attacker Marjorie Toru, to National Squad trials in New Zealand.
The Pearls were also in top form with former National Squad rep GD Natalia Short along with GK Claire Wilson dominating their circle with numerous intercepts.
Titikaveka’s attacking sisters Kara and Ani Matenga were a creative team with sharp shooting action, and Ani’s fourth quarter buzzer beater from outside range was perhaps the shot of the day and sealed the win 67-37.
The runner-up Dragonflies won a day or night paddleboard and glass bottom kayaking session with Ariki Holidays.
The awards presentation followed with winning teams receiving trophies, sponsored prizes as well as the much-coveted cash prizes for the 15U and 19U grades.
Growing from two grades last year to four this year, the Rising Stars Netball Championship would not be possible without the support of our amazing Platinum sponsors BCI and Bluesky, as well as our Gold, Parau Pearl, Pipi Pearl, and Superstar sponsors who all supported in different ways, including Netball New Zealand who donated balls towards our tournament.
A shout out to all the coaches, umpires, supporters, parents, and players who are all a part of this big “netball jigsaw puzzle” where we are only complete when all together.