The Making of Champions
‘ALL-MAORI SIDE NAMED’ was the headline on the sports page in an Auckland newspaper in July. The side was the Provincial Girls' ‘A’ Foil Team to contest the Schools' Nationals in Christchurch in August. Three members, including the captain, were from Queen Victoria School, the remaining one from Massey High School. The Auckland ‘B’ Team also had two members from Queen Victoria, again including the captain. Let us look at what lies behind this success story from Queen Victoria, which has pioneered organised Maori fencing in the schools.
In the eight years since its formation in 1963 with eight girls, the Wikitoria Swords Club, as the fencing club at the school is known, has grown from strength to strength, and believes it holds several unsurpassed achievements in girls' fencing. The club has now grown to 16 members, and is only prevented from further expansion by the limited size of the small school hall (members refer to this as ‘Te Whare Hoari’) and by the policy of limiting membership to the number which can be adequately coached. The waiting list each year from this independent boarding school of 120 girls always has more names than will fill the vacancies arising from girls leaving school.
Here are some of the cold, dry facts. In seven years in Auckland school tournaments, the school has had six fencers in final pools twice, five fencers twice, four fencers twice, and three fencers on a number of occasions. The Open Championship has been won three times, the Qualifying Tournament twice, the Provincial Championship twice. First placings have been taken three times in the Junior Championship, and the Novices' Championship for first-year fencers has been won five times. Our highest place in this tournament has never been lower than second! Queen Victoria is the only girls' school to have been in the final of the Auckland Teams' Tournament each year since entry, and we have won it for the last three years. Fourteen of the last 15 Auckland Schools' Tournaments have been won. We have had two magnicent runs of seven and eight tournaments without defeat.
At national level, the successes have been mounting and consistent. Between 1964 and 1966 one or two of our fencers were in the eight-girl provincial squad forming two teams; in each of the four years 1967–70, three girls; this year, five, including the captains of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. Several of these girls have been second-year fencers. In 1967 and 1968 the national title was won by girls who remained boarding at the school while attending an upper-sixth course at Auckland Girls' Grammar School. In 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1971, two of our fencers reached the national final each year. In all, as many as 16 girls out of the 51 who have passed through the club have gained provincial representation, several more than once.
At last, in 1971, we achieved what had eluded us so far; we took the national title straight from the school. A rare feature of this further peak scaled is that the winner had been fencing for only 18 months. Champion Evelyn Te Uira says, ‘I began fencing in my second year at Queen Victoria. I took it up because it seemed totally different from any other sport I had participated in. I came to like and appreciate fencing because it required much concentration before starting a movement. It is interesting learning the names of the various movements, too. Most of all, it helps to keep a person fit, flexible, and on the go all the time. I have enjoyed myself very much, and only wish I had started fencing sooner. I am very proud to be the first girl
from the school to win the national title, and I hope there will be many others to follow.’
Another notable feature is that for the last three years the club has run New Zealand's only fencing magazine, ‘Te Hoari—The Sword’. This is produced by the fencers themselves and with three issues a year, has a circulation within New Zealand and abroad of 170 copies.
A particularly significant development, now in its fourth year, is the engagement of a sixth-former as an additional coach for the newcomers. This has not only enabled the number to be increased, but has helped the club members to appreciate their own capabilities. This year's coach is Harata Hutana, from Tokomaru Bay. She is also captain of the Club, which is run on particularly democratic lines. Harata is not
The Fencing Club at Queen Victoria School. Back row, from left: Pare Rata of Omaio, provincial finalist, Auckland ‘B’ rep. and captain; Karen Pikimaui of Wanganui, open finalist; Deborah Cotter of Gisborne, qualifying tournament finalist; Evelyn Kawiti from Kawakawa, honorary member; Martha Tauhara of Napier; Candy Cookson of Rotorua, provincial finalist and Auckland ‘B’ rep.; and Judy Brown, Tuakau, qualifying tournament finalist and former provincial rep. Middle row: Jefferine Poka, Singapore, open and provincial champion, captain of Auckland ‘A’ rep. team, national finalist (third place); Evelyn Te Uira of Kawhia, provincial finalist, Auckland ‘A’ team rep., national champion; Donald Watson of Titirangi, instructor; Sarah Tauraha of Napier, qualifying tournament winner, provincial finalist, Auckland ‘A’ rep., national finalist; and Hinemoa Hakaraia of Russell, open fianlist and former princial rep. Front row: Ngawahine Apanui of Te Araroa; Ruth Nahi from Parakao, novices champion and junior finalist; and Polly Cooper of Tuakau, junior and novices finalist. Inset is Harata Hutana of Tokomaru Bay, club captain and coach, and provincial finalist. Absent was Yvonne Petera of Ngataki, junior champion and novices finalist. The seven trophies on the form are those won at outside tournaments and those below the club's own trophies.
photographs by Glendene photography
only doing a man's job particularly well—she had three pupils in each final of the Junior and Novices' Tournaments this year including each winner—but in spite of her having sacrificed so much of her time for others, she still managed to be one of the six finalists from Queen Victoria in the Provincial Championships. Here is what she has to say: ‘Being captain entails a lot of organising, but, as eight girls hold ten positions of responsibility, the activities run very smoothly. The girls all help each other, and this makes the job worthwhile and a pleasure. When I was asked if I would coach the newcomers I hesitated at first, thinking about sixth-form work and wondering if I could take on this extra responsibility properly. However, being confronted with such an eager group I felt I could not let them down. The pleasant personalities of my pupils, as well as their keen attention to techniques, which has resulted in their defeating more experienced fencers in tournaments has made the effort very rewarding, and an achievement of which I am very proud.’
Provincial champion Jefferine Poka, has something to say too: ‘Becoming provincial champion was an unexpected thrill for me! I am very proud of this, and must thank my instructors, Miss Robin Swann and Mr Watson. Being captain of the Auckland ‘A’ Team was another surprise, and I am
The five provincial representatives are, from left: Pare Rata, Sarah Tauhara, Jefferine Poka, Evelyn Te Uira and Candy Cookson
As coach, I can say that the girls have worked Harata and me very hard indeed! They have been so successful this year—winning every tournament entered—because they have worked so hard in the weekly sessions—there is no short cut. Limiting the numbers allows the instructors to get to know each pupil very well in this very individual sport, and to tailor the coaching to suit each girl's personality and capabilities. My observation of Maori youngsters leads me to the conclusion that they perform much better when together in a group; in isolation they tend to hang back and to miss opportunities at which their abilities would enable them to do well. From the community's point of view, this measure of success in competition with other young people will make it so much easier for non-Maoris to accept that, given equal opportunities, the Maori people can do as well as anyone else. Some older people, who have rarely seen young Maoris in above-average achievement, find this idea a little difficult at first. This is perhaps the most significant feature of the success of the Fencing Club at Queen Victoria, and adds to the school's record in other fields, which is testified to by the wide response to its recent appeal for funds. No reira e te iwi honoatia nga karapu hoari nei!