Leader, not a follower

NZ Herald:

You’ll notice Anisha Venter on the netball court.

She’ll be one of the fittest, wearing the C, WD or even WA bibs, driving through midcourt at speed, pulling off intercepts with her anticipation and linking with the circle at either end.

The 17-year-old year 13 Long Bay College student is on the radar of netball scouts and was named in the tournament team – the sole Harbour player to be recognised – after the recent Upper North Island Secondary Schools (UNISS) event. Venter is the captain of the Long Bay premiers, who placed seventh at this tournament, their best ever finish. That followed the season’s highlight,

winning an historic North Harbour schools title in a nail-biting 31-30 thriller over rivals Westlake GHS.

“There was a time when we were up by five and they pulled it back in the last few minutes. That was probably the most nerve-racking thing, but we managed to pull out the win,” says Venter, adding that the sobering experience of losing to Westlake GHS in the 2015 final was helpful in the 2016 decider.

Long Bay had a win and a draw against Westlake in regular season games.

“I didn’t really believe it. It’s the first time Long Bay has won anything that big, so it was really exciting.”

She says the final result from the UNISS tournament, making the top eight, was way beyond expectations. One place higher and they would have qualified for next month’s schools nationals in Hutt Valley.

Venter says a strong team culture under seasoned coach Lynn Barr was a major part of their success.

Long Bay play a measured style of netball.

“Lynn always tells us to be patient, not going too fast but not too slow either,” say Venter. That meant resetting if required, not pushing the pass if it wasn’t on.

“Winning that North Harbour title gave us confidence going into UNISS, simply because we knew we could do it.”

She plays premier club netball for Collegiate 2 on Tuesday nights.

Naturally, club netball is more physical compared with schools, where umpires are less lenient. Venter doesn’t mind, she just plugs on and made the North Harbour Under 17s this season.

The modest Venter is not one to blow her own trumpet, but Long Bay teacher in charge of netball and premier team manager Naomi Upperton is happy to do so.

“Her reading of the game is probably her biggest strength. You will see her at centre or wing defence and she knows what pass is coming two plays away. She’ll make crucial intercepts at key points in the game, which others might not go for,” says Upperton.

Venter’s 2017 plans are not yet set, but she will again be playing for the Collegiate prems, with the aim of cracking the Harbour Under 19s. The Silver Ferns are a long-term “dream”.

By Campbell Burnes

Picture / Jason Oxenham