Sacred Heart College's first XI Football team is a far cry from where they were just three years ago.
In division three, the team was losing almost all games and subsequently lacked confidence.
Now, under the expert eye of footballer and principal Maria Neville-Foster and coach Steve Doyle, of Port Hill United Football Club, the team is just two games away from potentially winning division two unbeaten. If so, they will earn a spot in the top division next year.
Mrs Neville-Foster, who has played football at a high level, says their success is testament to their hard work and dedication both on and off the field.
When she first arrived at the school in 2018, the school’s only football team had had parent volunteers before, but no proper coach, so she took the girls under her wing.
She says their first training session was more of a psychology lesson than anything else.
“They were just really kind of blah, and I was like come on girls you’re not going to win anything if you’re gonna be like this and they were like what's the point we never win anyway.
“But I said if you keep saying that then you will keep losing but I'm not here to lose, I'm here to win so we’re gonna rethink that and I never want to hear that in our team again.”
Being involved in the Port Hill Football Club herself, she enlisted the help of Steve, who coached her, and together they formed a three-year plan. “Our goal that year, I said to Steve, I want these girls to know that they can win, that they can play good football and actually enjoy what they're doing.
“So we made a three year plan that by the third year we would be in Division One and we would be going to tournament.”
Steve says the girls’ have improved both individually and as a team each season.
“We’ve been developing the last couple of years and this year we’re hitting our straps and everyone’s feeling a little more confident and comfortable playing.
Mrs Neville-Foster says it will be another three-year plan once in division one as it will be a “big leap”. Her goal is that in three years the team will be winning the top division.
Steve agrees, particularly as the top division has students playing at representative levels.
“It will be another challenge for them, but I think they’re ready and we’re only going to get better by playing better teams and challenging ourselves that next step up,” he said.
Since the middle of this year, Principal's Secretary and representative footballer Emma Donovan has taken over as manager of the team.
“It’s been quite challenging to give them my all and be principal, but I did give it to them, so Emma’s now fully taken over, but I still go to their games when I don't have commitments,” Mrs Neville-Foster said.
However, seeing the girls play now is “just amazing”, she says.
This season’s success is the perfect way to conclude five years in the team for captain Anna Restieaux. She is proud of how far they have come, and credits it to their desire to win and put in the hard work.
While the team is losing some year 13s, she is confident in the younger girls’ ability to take the team to the top.
Steve coaches four other teams alongside the Rothbury Insurance Women’s First Team and says they are his “favourite” team to coach.
Their last game against Woodford House’s 2nd XI on Wednesday, saw them win 4-0.
They won their previous game against Hastings Girls’ High School by 12 goals.