Day 9 - Our last day exploring Rotorua

With tomorrow predominately being a transit day, today was the last day for sightseeing adventures, so we made the most of it! After breakfast, we took a stroll down to Lake Rotorua and met up with the guys from Katoa Jet Boats who suited us up in highly fashionable red life jackets. They then directed us to our seats, and once we were all secured we were off. We zigged and zagged across the still lake, making our way to Mokoia Island, once a strong hold for the Maori, but now an established wildlife reserve. At the shoreline, Will, the driver told us about the battles that were fought here, but also of a touching love story between the daughter of a chief and a warrior from an opposing tribe. The chief's daughter, Hinemoa, defied the wishes of her family and swam across the lake to Mokoia Island in the dead of the night, guided only by the sound of the flute being played by Tutanekai, who was waiting for her on the shores. The two went on to have 13 children, and one of their dec…

Day 8 - Thrills and spills

Another beautiful day in New Zealand. The skies were clear, but it was hard to ignore the fact that the temperatures were not climbing as high as they had on previous days. Rugged up, we headed off to visit the Skyline Rotorua Complex. Our first activity here was a fantastic ride in the gondolas. Through the windows we had the perfect view of Lake Rotorua, the city and some of the geothermal features that spotted the town below. At the top, we made our way out the doors only to be greeted by the sound of shrieking - a few panicked looks crossed our faces, but then, through the air, we spotted the cause of all of the commotion; the Sky Swing. Panic turned to excitement and before we knew it, half the group had queued for a ride. This three-seater swing was drawn up slowly to its highest point before the riders pulled on the release string, causing it to free fall and shoot out towards the lake. If the signage was correct, riders would reach 150 kms/hr in just two seconds! The girls who…

Day 7 - Tauranga to Rotorua

Today, sadly, was the last day for fixtures. With the girls keen to finish well, it was off to the Harbourside Netball Centre for a training session. Our tour guide, Tom, even got into it, joining our Premier Reserve team as their "Super Sub" for drills. He was highly competitive, which forced our girls to lift their game, but being new to netball, the girls found themselves having to teach him a few rules of the game to ensure he was not cheating!

After a quick lunch at Mt Maunganui City, it was time to take on Aquinas College. We played on their outside courts and the matches drew in quite the crowd. This was the first game of the season for the Aquinas teams, who were only named two weeks ago. In contrast, our girls were playing their fifth game in six days. The umpire's whistle blew and it was on! After yesterday's hard fought win, our Premier Team started slow and were starting to show signs of fatigue. At the end of the first quarter they found themselves seven…

Day 6 - Hamilton to Tauranga

Day 6 began with a game against Fraser High School and the girls were hungry for a win. Fraser High students filled the gym and settled in for both matches. The Premier Reserve team was up first. They worked the ball around the court well and often found space, leaving their defenders behind. Right up until the final buzzer, we were convinced that this would be their game. This team was finally coming together, finding their rhythm and combinations. Alas, at full time the final score was 15-20 to Fraser. Prue told the team that while they were allowed to be disappointed about the score, they were not allowed to be disappointed about their efforts. They gave it their all and left nothing in the tank. With just one more match left to play, the girls are determined to walk away with a win!

It was then time for the Premier Team to take the court. They made a very strong start, establishing a convincing lead in the first quarter. Their attack was on point and they were defending well again…

Day Five - Hamilton

Last night saw athletic abilities of a different type displayed as we tried our hand at the sport of ten pin bowling. It certainly confirmed that the competitive nature of some players is not isolated restricted to a netball court, though not all skill levels were as refined. A late night at the alley meant that a 9am breakfast time was appreciated, with a number of the girls opting for a sleep in.

At the request of players, our itinerary for the day had been reorganised to accommodate a training session. These girls are certainly #allin! They have learned a lot from their previous tour matches and were keen to hone their skills. So after breakfast, it was off to the Hamilton Netball Centre for pre-match training.

With training done, we headed to Hamilton Gardens for an impromptu picnic in the park. Hot chicken and coleslaw rolls went down a treat, but were made all the more better by the beautiful surroundings. Once we had finished eating, it was time to explore. The Gardens are famo…

Day 4 - Auckland to Hamilton

This morning we travelled to Botany Downs Secondary College for the second match of our tour, and what a welcome we received! As we disembarked from the bus, we were greeted by the captain of their premier team. She led a karanga, or traditional welcome call, and escorted the teams through the school to the gym. Here, awaiting us, was the Botany Downs First XV rugby team. In a show of support for their netballers, they performed the School's Haka. Goosebumps began to form on arms as their bellowing chants echoed in the gym. Our 20 girls from North Queensland huddled in the corner and watched with wonderment and trepidation. Soon though, it was time to shake off the nerves and get our heads in the game!

Both games were tight, and our girls fought hard against Botany. They were hungry for the ball and worked industriously to gain favorable position on the court. Already, it was evident that they had learned many lessons from their previous match and were testing a number of strategi…

Day 3 - Time to sightsee!

Today was all about taking in the sights, more often than not, from great heights. Our morning began with a journey to the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park. The trip was narrated by Terry, our coach driver, who was able to provide a great deal of information about the history of Auckland, the Maori and the volcanic islands that spotted the horizon. Stepping off the bus we were greeted by warm, welcoming sun. We made our way to through the manicured gardens, towards the memorial, a perfect photo point.

From the Memorial Gardens, we made our way along the shore line to Mission Bay. After a physically demanding day yesterday, the focus of today's training session was recovery. "Yogi" Lobley was tasked with leading the girls in a yoga session in a park by the sea. The girls stretched, focused and worked on their flexibility and balance. Soon their session attracted the attention of passers by, some even attempting to copy their poses. With muscles warm and limber, it was …