Stepping up . . . Waitaki Girls' High School has a strong showing in the 2022 Steel Steps accelerator programme. Those involved are (from back left) Sophie Notman (15), Renee Stenning (15), Jorja Belt (15), Diana Fonua (14) and (front left) Tupou Kautai (14) and Tafu Poasa (13). Meadow Neill is absent. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

North Otago netballers are stepping up.

Eight players from North Otago have been selected for Netball South’s 2022 Steel Steps accelerator programme, that aims to develop girls’ skills at a higher level.

Waitaki Girls’ High School is well represented with pupils Tafu Poasa, Tupou Kautai, Diana Fonua and Sophie Notman selected for the year 10 and 11 programme, and Renee Stenning, Jorja Belt and Meadow Neill chosen for the year 12 and 13 programme. St Kevin’s College pupil Olivia Mavor was also selected.

The programme provides an accelerator camp, regional preseason skill session, off-season information, webinars with Southern Steel players, regional specialist coaching, and feedback at secondary school and representative tournaments.

Jorja said being selected for the programme was ‘‘pretty crazy’’ and Renee said she was grateful for the opportunity. Tupou agreed and said it was good to be able to gain more knowledge of the game.

‘‘I’m looking forward to learning more skills and then bringing them back to our school teams,’’ Tupou said.

All the girls believed Waitaki Girls’ strong representation was down to their coaches, including Abbey McKenzie, who has been part of the Netball South coaching ranks.

North Otago Netball president Sonya Macdonald said it was a fantastic achievement for the girls, who worked hard through a pretty tough season in which only six rounds were played due to weather conditions and Covid-19 restrictions.

‘‘For those girls to keep pushing through with their netball, and when the opportunities arose that they could get court time they could be seen, it’s so rewarding for the girls and pleasing to see,’’ Macdonald said.

In the Netball South zone, North Otago was a relatively small region and the players, with the support of their families, were very dedicated to upskilling and taking their game to the next level.

North Otago wanted to ensure it was ‘‘keeping with the times’’ so players were not left behind when representative opportunities came up, Macdonald said.

‘‘We are actually starting to show some real good depth here. It’s a really exciting time for netball.’’

The selection proved there were some great coaches and volunteers working hard to help produce highly-skilled North Otago netballers, she said.

Netball South netball development manager performance lead Jo Morrison said it was great to have a strong representation from North Otago.

‘‘They are a centre with a proud netball history and all the hard work from the North Otago

Netball Centre and local school coaches and volunteers has paid off,’’ Morrison said.

Netball South was excited about the new programme, and how the organisation could support ‘‘talented players’’ throughout the zone to achieve their netball goals.