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Memory lane . . . How many faces do you recognise? This photo was discovered in our archives with no details. It is presumably of the old Oamaru Stamina Event. PHOTO: OAMARU MAIL FILES

Oh, netball, what are you doing?

NETBALL IS …
You might not know this but I have had a long association with the sport of netball.

The legendary Georgie Salter was my babysitter. My late mother loved the sport, and I watched lots of it with her as a kid. And I was the official message boy for the massive South Island secondary schools tournament in Oamaru in the late 1980s, shuttling between the Taward St and St Kevin’s courts, and falling in love with a range of long-legged schoolgirls.

When I entered journalism in 1998, netball was one of my rounds, and I was fortunate enough to cover one of the great teams in New Zealand history, the mighty Otago Rebels with Lesley Nicol, Anna Rowberry, Belinda Colling and company.

Netball was great to cover. The players were talented and interesting, the atmosphere for something like a Rebels v Sting game was intense, and the sport was hugely exciting from a courtside seat.

Things changed when I moved on to other roles. I lost interest in netball, and after experiencing it up close at elite level, watching it on television was painful.

If I’m honest, basketball appeals more as both a sport and a potential career – look at all these kids heading off to America on scholarships – but netball holds massive cultural resonance in this country, and as the No 1 women’s sport, we need to protect it.

… IN CRISIS
That, for me, is the real problem about the utter collapse of the Silver Ferns.

It’s the trickle-down effect. When the cream sours, the rest of the milk sours.

Atrocious efforts at the top level of netball in New Zealand have an adverse effect on everything from player numbers to sponsorship, and that reverberates down to the grassroots.

I fear there is a complacency in top netball circles. The sport has had something of a cushy ride for decades, unchallenged as our premier women’s code, and now the stuff is hitting the fan.

What is Netball New Zealand doing about it? Apparently looking at phasing out junior representative netball in the misguided belief it is bad for girls. Ye gods.

STAT CHAT
It’s obviously a little cold to be talking about cricket but there are a couple of belated numbers to pass on courtesy of North Otago statistician Scott Cameron.

Oamaru-St Kevin’s broke a Borton Cup final record with their imposing tally of 288 for eight a few weeks ago. It was the highest innings total in 24 finals, eclipsing Waitaki Boys’ High School’s 265 for nine just two seasons ago.

Brilliant opener Ash Abraham became just the third player to reach triple figures in a final – Nick Webster (103 in the 2007 final) and Neville Donaldson (101 not out in 2001) are the others – and Abraham’s 110 is the highest individual score in a final.

Cameron points out the inaugural Borton Cup final in 1994 was a nail-biter, Union beating Albion by one wicket in fading light, but the last three have been virtual walkovers with margins of 143 runs, 107 runs and 154 runs.

HALL OF FAME
Johnny Fraser contacted me recently to suggest his sister, Sally, might be a strong contender for the North Otago Sports Hall of Fame.

Guiltily, I had to admit I did not know much about Sally, but she has quite the pedigree. As a two-time New Zealand road cycling champion and a Commonwealth Games representative in Auckland in 1990, she could well be in the debate.

ST KEVIN’S RULES

Congratulations to St Kevin’s College for its success in the recent Catholic secondary schools sports tournament in Gore.

You beauty . . . St Kevin’s College head boy Joel Pickles salutes his schoolmates with the Bishop Boyle Trophy in Gore. PHOTO: ELLIE GRAHAM

After a gruelling two-day competition, in trying and wet conditions for the outdoor sports, St Kevin’s was confirmed the joint winner of the Bishop Boyle Trophy with Kavanagh College, and the overall winner in the exchange with Roncalli College.

The St Kevin’s boys football team won its grade, and the girls were second. Boys football, girls hockey and netball all placed second in the five-school competition, which also includes St Peter’s College and Verdon College.

CHINESE TRIP
School rower Jared Brenssell is heading to China.

Brenssell is heading to Shangyu with the Otago University squad for the big collegiate regatta that also features crews from rowing powerhouses Oxford, Harvard and Yale.

Before then, he and fellow ex-Waitakian James Scott – the pair won a national title last year – have the New Zealand university championships on Lake Karapiro.

JUST A NOTE
Well spotted, dear readers. There was no Meiks Speaks in last week’s Oamaru Mail

The column will not necessarily run every week during winter. There is just too much sport happening.

hayden.meikle@oamarumail.co.nz