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Heading away ... The Eastern Southland Under 17 netball team is heading away to the national U17 tournament in Palmerston North next week. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Excitement is brewing for the Eastern Southland under-17 netball representative team as it heads away for its first ever national tournament next week.

The team of 11 travelling players will compete at the Netball New Zealand Under-17 Championships, and coach Vicky Weller cannot wait to get stuck in.

“I’m very proud to be taking the team away for the first time – I’m really looking forward to it,” Weller said.

The tournament, held in Palmerston North, begins on Monday, with 42 teams suiting up. The team will play eight games over five days and Weller said it would be a “big step up for the girls”.

“It’s a different game up north: the players are bigger and more physical. It’s all about us adjusting,” she said.

For Weller, the key to performing well was for the team to have “the belief in each other”.

“They play with a lot of grit and determination.

“We need to gel as a unit, work hard and let the ball go,” Weller said.

The team held a quiz night at the Gore RSA that raised $3000 towards trip expenses.

The decision to send the team to nationals was made last year by Netball Eastern Southland. It opened up its playing eligibility at a representative level and now has three players from outside the district playing.

Weller stands behind Netball Eastern Southland’s decision.

“It just gives the country girls a chance to develop their skills and allows depth within the squad,” she said.

Earlier this year, the team competed in two separate tournaments in Dunedin and Canterbury, and Weller was “stoked” it came first at both.

“The tournaments were great – it was a good opportunity to try out different combinations and gel together,” Weller said.

She hoped the team would continue its form into the competition next week.

It travels to Palmerston North on Sunday and will return home the following Friday.