Aotea College has been somewhat lucky in reaching this year’s YouthTown Condor 7s. St Mary’s College's dominance of Wellington and National Secondary Schools rugby in the past two seasons has opened up the draw for another capital team and Aotea, after an arduous fundraising campaign, have earned their trip to Sacred Heart College, Auckland.
Aotea coach Findlay Malaga Mali'i Siania insists Aotea is not attending to “merely make up the numbers.”
“We have a good support crew going up which includes 2016 Captain Eve Siania with the and past players Litia Sene Lui and Liana Seiuli who helped coached the Under-15 girls in 15s. Additionally, Elisara Tagaloa from the 2016 boys 1st XV will be the trainer and Tommy Rei and Charles Aliva will support in coaching and logistics.”
Aotea has a serious and reasonably long-running rugby program. Founded in 1978, on a site overlooking Porirua Harbour, Aotea have long been one of the frontrunners of the Girls game in the capital. Aotea won the College Sport Wellington Girls title in 2010, 2011 and 2015.
In 2016 and 2017 Aotea finished runners-up in both XVs and Sevens to the St Mary’s powerhouse, although unlike last year that was enough to see them move on in both formats.
In fifteens they narrowly lost their Hurricanes regional semi-final this year to Manawatu winners Manukura by 17-20 and while they lost the Wellington sevens final 7-41 to St Mary’s, their 17-12 win over local neighbours Porirua College in the semi-final meant they qualified, owing in part to St Mary’s automatic qualification as defending national champions.
Aotea have a number of Wellington U18 representatives in their squad and several of the girls combine school and club rugby. The Paremata-Plimmerton and Northern United clubs enjoy a strong relationship with Aotea College.
Kayla Hauparoa-Rei, will be a critical cog in their efforts along with bruising ball-runner Syntyche Maiava and captain and speedster Julie Tusa.
Maggie Gibson is a promising loose forward who carries the ball well and is solid on defence.
Kayla Hauparoa Rei is one of the most explosive players in the squad with speed to burn, and footwork that will make heads spin.
Halfback and Year 10 Mariah Chadwick is one to watch to as she develops into a promising halfback.
Aotea is grouped with Hamilton Girls’ High School, Bay of Islands College and Otahuhu College. This is an extremely tough pool with Hamilton winners on two previous occasions and Otahuhu, a top-ranked Auckland school.
Aotea have nothing to lose and in regular combat with St Mary’s and knowing what the benchmark is to win could surprise.