The 2017 Auckland Secondary Schools Premier competition is shaping to be the most competitive in recent years particularly in the Boy’s division.
The advent of the extended Qualifying Tournament, which recently saw 20 boys’ teams and 9 girls’ teams striving for the two available spots in each division, has increased the quality of the leagues.
So who did what in 2016, here is a reminder.
Rangitoto College, even with Sam Waardenburg unavailable for a good number of games, were the most consistent performers in the regular season but had the title snatched from their grasp by a fast finishing Rosmini High School in the final.
Rangitoto went on to win the National Secondary Schools title in dramatic circumstances and once again would appear to be the team to beat.
Auckland Grammar and Westlake Boys High rounded out the top four last year and it would be a surprise if they were not in contention again this year.
Junior Tall Blacks coach Daryl Cartwright will again lead Mt Albert Grammar. They finished fifth last year and will be hoping, like Kelston that finished sixth, to threaten the top four.
St Kent’s and Macleans coached by Aaron Young and Adrian Boyd respectively looked of genuine premier quality in qualifying and will surprise a few teams during the season.
Four of the incumbent teams have new coaches this year.
Carl Buck is at the helm at Kelston and former Westlake Boys student Zac Fitzgerald has assumed the reins at his old school.
An ‘old boy’ has also taken the head coach role at Rosmini where Matt Lacey has taken over from Dave Mackay. Mackay has moved across the bridge to take up an appointment as Head of Sport at Auckland Grammar as well as taking on the Prem’s head coach role.
In 2016 the Girl’s Premier competition was won by Auckland Girls Grammar after they defeated Mt Albert Grammar in the final. It won’t be a shock if these two teams also lead the push for honours in 2017.
Rangitoto College and Westlake Girls made the top four last year and although both have lost key seniors you can expect them to be competitive again with Tony Pompallier (Rangitoto) and Jody Cameron (Westlake) pulling the coaching strings.
Orewa College have lost the services of coach Tony Webster who has taken up a full time role with Tauranga City Basketball and they, along with Avondale College, round out the top six teams from last year.
Massey High emerged from the qualifying tournament unbeaten and could be the big movers this year as new coach Aaron Leslie inherits a largely unchanged squad.
Carmel College were the second qualifiers although coach Gareth Teahan is a realist and knows that just retaining a spot in the Premier competition will be an achievement for his inexperienced squad.
The leagues tip off this Friday May 5th with the following fixtures:
Girls: AGGS v Carmel, Mt Albert v Westlake, Rangitoto v Orewa, Massey v Avondale.
Boys: AGS v Macleans, Mt Albert v Westlake, Kelston v St Kentigern.
The fixture between Rangitoto and Rosmini has been postponed as Rangitoto are in Croatia attending the Secondary Schools Basketball World Championships.