Shining stars everywhere we look

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OUR JEN
Welcome back to another edition of Meiks Speaks – I must be averaging about one every six weeks during the winter sports season.
Let’s start with a bouquet for a young woman with strong Oamaru links who is doing a super job of replacing an all-time great.
Jen O’Connell, who had the unenviable task of stepping into the giant bib vacated by star shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid with the champion Southern Steel, is growing in confidence every week in the ANZ Premiership.
Before Monday’s game against the Tactix, O’Connell had converted 394 of her 461 attempts at goal, a very nice rate of 85%.
O’Connell, one of the nicest people I’ve interviewed, is starting to add impressive elements to her game, and it will not surprise if the Waitaki Girls’ High School old girl graduates to the Silver Ferns in the next few years.

THE NEXT GENERATION
North Otago made a phenomenal start to the New Zealand under-17 netball championships in Palmerston North this week.
The Abbey McKenzie-coached side opened with four wins from its first five games, beating Hutt Valley B (41-17), Whangarei (35-20), Invercargill (36-16) and Christchurch (31-27). North Otago lost 33-16 to Taranaki.
We will have a full wrap of the team’s efforts next week.

JORDON RULES
North Otago hockey player Jordon Cunningham played a starring role for the Southern girls team at the New Zealand under-18 association (second-tier) tournament in Palmerston North last week.
Cunningham scored four goals at the tournament, and she and North Otago team-mate Connie Searle helped Southern finish fifth at the tournament.
North Otago’s Thomas Ballantyne was in the Southern boys team that finished 11th at its tournament

WISH ME LUCK
What’s got two thumbs and is leading the Otago Daily TimesSuper rugby tipping contest?
This guy!
Yes, it’s really happening. The running joke of my entire sports reporting career has been that I am one of the world’s worst tipsters, but my colleagues are now kneeling before me in a mix of terror and awe.
Having watched maybe five games of Super rugby all season, I have leaned on old-fashioned guesswork to charge to the top.
Now watch me go zero-for-seven in the playoffs and blow my lead.
(Hurricanes, Highlanders, Crusaders and Lions, if you’re wondering.)

ALLEZ LES BLEUS
Speaking of terrible tipping, the mind goes back to when I was asked a few weeks ago for a prediction for the World Cup.
Germany, I said with some confidence. Ahem.
To be fair, I followed that with “Or maybe France”, so I get a bonus point.
What a fabulous, fabulous tournament. England, Belgium and Croatia flirted with fairytales, but in the end, it would be hard to argue that France’s golden generation – especially Kylian Mbappe, the new star of world sport – did not deserve to win.

THE GIRLS’ GAME
North Otago cricket is focusing more than ever on boosting cricket for females, and it wants your feedback.
A working party is to be formed to look into creating new opportunities to get girls into the great summer game.
Anyone interested in contributing can contact North Otago development officer Sam Bastin (027 649 0044 or nocacoaching@gmail.com), or head to a meeting on August 9.

MAGNIFICENT MAX
He has been in Christchurch for a while now but Max de Geest is still very much a North Otago boy.
The son of North Otago basketball great Brian has just been named in the Junior Tall Blacks for the Asian under-18 tournament in Bangkok, a qualifier for the world under-19 championships.
De Geest junior started his schooling at Waitaki Boys’ High School before transferring to Christ’s College then joining the Canterbury Rams in the NBL.

hayden.meikle@oamarumail.co.nz