Jasmine Hunter helped create a little bit of history – but her mates missed out on an opportunity to do the same.
The Waitaki Girls’ High School year 13 pupil was part of the Otago under-18 touch team that forged new ground at the New Zealand junior championships in Auckland last week.
Otago claimed its first national junior title when the under-18 girls dominated their opponents at Manurewa’s Mountfort Park.
Unusually, the side was awarded the New Zealand title without having to play the final. Much of the tournament was played in waterlogged conditions, but the final was called off when heavy rain flooded the ground.
Hunter (17), who represented New Zealand under-16 last year, was confident Otago, unbeaten and fresh off a stirring semifinal win over Canterbury, would have won the final.
Otago was scheduled to face Waikato, which Otago had beaten 7-4 in round robin play, and was awarded the title on a countback system.
Hunter said a tight-knit team and the guidance of coach Dayna Turnbull were keys to Otago’s success.
“We had a really good team culture – everyone was really close – and we were also really fit and mentally strong.
“Dayna was amazing. I really enjoyed having her as a coach.”
Hunter was part of the Otago under-16 team that won silver at the national championships last year.
Fellow Waitaki Girls’ pupil Madaleine Mansfield (15) and St Kevin’s College pupil Brylee More (15), a former New Zealand under-15 mixed representative, matched that achievement this year.
For both, however, there was a touch of frustration that they did not return from Auckland with gold medals.
Otago would have been awarded the national under-16 title had its final been abandoned. Oddly, it was the only final played, and Otago dipped out to North Harbour.
Two North Otago boys also played at the tournament. Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil Connor Lough was in the under-18 team that finished ninth, and Logan Wilson – who has transferred from Waitaki Boys’ to King’s High School in Dunedin – helped the under-16 team to seventh.
New Zealand age group touch teams will be named soon. The under-16s have a trip to Australia, while a big carrot for Hunter and the other under-18 players is the Junior World Cup in Kuala Lumpur next year.