Niamh named in ANZ Next XI 

Niamh Falanitule, who plays for Howick Pakuranga Cricket Club, has won the opportunity to meet and train with the White Ferns. Photo supplied

Local cricketer Niamh Falanitule, 12, has scored the opportunity of a lifetime being named one of the ANZ Next XI.

ANZ searched the country to find 11 passionate young cricketers who were ready to take their skills to the next level. The ANZ Next XI academy will show New Zealand’s young female cricketing talent a pathway into elite level cricket and future world cups, as the White Ferns get ready to take on the world at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 (March 4 –  April 3).

Niamh will get to meet her heroes while attending an exclusive White Ferns junior training academy later this year where they will meet the players, train with the team, attend expert-led master classes and learn valuable skills to inspire them to become the very best cricketer they can be.

Niamh was ecstatic to be named one of the ANZ Next XI. “I couldn’t stop smiling. I know it is going to be a good opportunity,” she said.

Niamh, who plays for Howick Pakuranga Cricket Club, was presented with an ANZ Next XI training kit including a uniform, bat, helmet and pads to ensure that she has everything she needs to be White Ferns-ready.

Niamh grew up watching her brother play cricket so when her dad offered to coach her, she jumped at the chance. “I always saw my brother making teams and getting awards and I saw that he made a lot of friends through cricket too,” said Niamh.

She hopes to be able to join her school cricket team, but hasn’t yet reached the graduation age for hard ball.“I’m too young to play for school yet but they’re thinking about putting me up. It would be cool for more experience,” she said.

“There is quite a strong team at my school, I look up to the girls in the team. I played against one of the girls and she was really good – so fast and tall. She’s another Pacific Islander (like me) – which isn’t common in cricket.”

Niamh wants to encourage more Pasifika girls to try cricket. “Give it a go. There are so many different skills, you might not be the best bowler but you can bat or wicket keep or be a great fielder, with cricket, you get a lot of different skills to try.”

Niamh loves everything about cricket, especially teamwork. “It’s all about sportsmanship, if you have a bad turn with the bat you know your teammates can pull through,” she said.

“I’m always chirping away to support our players and keep them motivated but I want to have a more positive mindset for myself. There’s always another chance – there’s always next week and more practice.”

One of Niamh’s proudest moments in her cricketing career so far was when she was named MVP as one of the youngest in her team. “I was shocked. It was in my first year of cricket too. I just remember one day it clicked for me. It was amazing to me how far I could hit the ball,” said Niamh.

“As long as I hit the ball and it goes far, that’s all that matters.”

Niamh hopes to soak up as much of the White Ferns tips and tricks as she can. “I thought that this was going to be a good opportunity but also it will be fun. It could potentially set me up for other things,” she said.

“It will help me improve as a cricketer. Whatever they can help me with, I’ll be grateful for anything.”

ANZ New Zealand CEO Antonia Watson says it’s important to support women in pursuit of their goals.

“We’re proud to be able to offer these passionate young sportswomen this opportunity to meet and train with their heroes. I’m a firm believer that if you can see it, you can be it.”

She said ANZ has been a strong supporter of women in sport for over 10 years from grassroots to elite level athletes.

“That’s why we’re proud to be putting our full support behind the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup. It’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase our athletes to the world and provide important opportunities to grow the next generation of cricketers.”