Northern Stars aim to shine in their community
Success for the Northern Stars this year will mean more than just results on the ANZ Premiership netball court.
New coach Kiri Wills has rolled up her sleeves ready to help her side make an impact in New Zealand’s elite league but believes it will be just as important for the fledgling club to establish their roots within their culturally diverse community.
Representing one of the country’s largest communities is a privilege Wills says and hopes to see those in the south and east of Auckland find some special links with the club.
“I think people want to belong to something bigger than themselves and sometimes it’s hard to know what that is in a city so big – we can get a little bit lost at times,” the Whangarei-born coach said.
“We want to be that something that people want to be a part of.”
The Northern Stars found themselves in a unique position as netball’s newest elite team when the ANZ Premiership was launched last year.
The game is thriving in south Auckland and Wills, who has been coaching teams in the city since 1998, says it was an obvious choice on where to base netball’s newest club.
“As an Auckland coach I’ve seen so many athletes having to move out of Auckland to get their opportunity having just had the one flagship team within this massive city,” she said.
“This is an amazing chance to show that the Northern Zone can support two teams and we are producing great people who don’t have to go anywhere to continue their careers.”
Wills believes the Northern Stars could become the “fairy-tale” of netball in New Zealand.
“We are going to be the team that stands for south Auckland,” she said. “We want to give people out in south Auckland something to aspire to. We too know that nothing comes easy.”
The players are testimony to that – whether it is those who have fought their way back from injury, those who strive to better themselves out of their comfort zones, or those who have something to prove.
“It’s up to us to get out there and do it and we want to take the community along for the ride,” Wills said.
“It’s one of those things that could be a really great story – a fairy-tale story – and it’s up to us to write it the right way.”
The Stars introduction was penned last season with mixed results but Wills says she hopes the next few chapters will be ones the fans can sink their teeth into.
“There is no doubting we have the crew on board to do this,” she said. “I like being in a battle and I like fighting for something that means a lot to people.”
Being role models for their community has been to the forefront for the new club since day one and Wills says the new-look squad has been quick to continue that theme.
“There are some messages we can get across to our community in terms of staying fit, keeping healthy and having fun in sport,” she said.
“These athletes are fantastic role models for that because not all of them have found it easy to stay fit or to focus on nutrition – they’ve had to make changes in their lives to be who they are.”
The Hire Wire Charitable Trust, a private organisation set up to provide opportunities for young people, already employ a quartet of Stars – including Holly Fowler, Christina Oscar, Paula Griffin and Fa’amu Ioane – to get those messages into the south Auckland community.
“It’s about going out to schools and the community and doing the ‘netball stuff’ but underlying that is the focus that we need to get more people active,” Wills said.
“It also has to be about enjoyment because the more fun they have in sport the more likely they are to carry on….and as an athlete, that’s something we definitely want to see.”
Annual memberships for the Stars are available now with six games to be played at home at the team’s new playing venue Pulman Arena, Takanini. Head to NorthernStars.co.nz for more details
The 2018 ANZ Premiership starts on May 6 with the grand final to be played on August 12.