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Morrinsville twins find the magic in performance analysis

Morrinsville twins Alison and Alysha Priestley find the magic through studying sport science at Wintec, and they are now fulfilling their dreams doing performance analysis with the Splice Construction Magic netball team.

The opportunity is a dream come true for the twins who agree that they “grew up idolising” the Magic team.

They are currently working under the supervision of Wintec Senior Academic Staff Member, Jako Bekker, who is the primary sports analyst for Magic. He took Alysha and Alison under his wing after the twins expressed keen interest in gaining some practical experience with the team.

Performance analysis is the science of examining a game and identifying the opposition’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in order to improve performance.

Offering performance analysis experience to postgraduate students is a new incentive for the Wintec Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance, and the twins are part of the first group of people at Wintec to do this.

They began using video analysis to assess the Magic team’s strengths and weaknesses, then moved onto GPS tracking to track the team’s speed, the distance they cover during the game and other statistics. When the game is over, this data is analysed and reported to the coaches, who can then use that data to strategise and improve player and team performance.

Bekker says, “Alison and Alysha have been instrumental in the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic performance analysis programme over the last two years. Thanks to their contribution, we’ve been able to expand what we offer the team, including the introduction of GPS player tracking for the 2021 season.

“They have come a long way through their undergraduate to postgraduate pathways, developing meaningful and applied real world sport science skills in a variety of fields, and preparing themselves well for a wide variety of careers in sport.”

Both sisters say they’re “very lucky Wintec is partnered with them.” Magic were their idols growing up and they admit to sometimes getting a bit distracted because “we’re so starry-eyed!”

When Alison introduces herself, she speaks for the both of them, saying “We’re the twins from Morrinsville. We’re the exact same people, just in different bodies. We literally do the same things, we do everything together, we have the same interests – everything you could imagine we do together. We’re the closest twins you’ll ever meet.”

Their main passion is and always has been, sport. Throughout school, Alison and Alysha both focused on achieving in sports, Alison exclaiming that “studies were definitely not our passion!”

The twins have attained an undergraduate degree at the Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance at Wintec, and are now in their first year of postgraduate study, enrolled in a master’s programme with a focus on performance analysis.

“We had no desire to do further study after school. During Year 13 though, as we got closer to graduating, we chose this pathway and have enjoyed it a lot.”

Alysha adds, “We never ever thought we’d be doing postgraduate study. To now be doing our master's is certainly a bit of a twist.”

The whānau-oriented sisters are the first to study in their family, and are motivated to succeed and make their parents and all those who support them proud.

“We’re proud of both of our cultures – we’re Ngāpuhi on our mum’s side, and Pākehā on our dad’s. Nonetheless, our parents have always taught us to learn from our elders, work hard, stay passionate, be humble and to never give up. These words stay with us and keep us grounded,” says Alison.

“We lost our dad in our first year of study. It’s given us more drive to study and motivation to carry on and keep busy,” she continues. “We know he would be proud of us.”

Being so close to not only the rest of their whānau, but to each other, Alison and Alysha would ultimately love a career where they can remain working together, but are prepared for having to go their separate ways.

“It’s so good we have each other. So far, we’ve been able to do this together, work with Magic together and we work part-time at Flex Fitness where they were keen to take us both on board for which we are grateful, and thoroughly enjoying it” says Alysha.

“People have told us that we’ll need to separate, but we’re a good team and we work so well together. If you’re not a twin, it might be hard to understand.

“It would be cool to run our own business one day down the track maybe. We’re still in our studies and figuring out how best to apply ourselves. We know it will come to use one day.”

Far from being afraid of the unknown though, Alison and Alysha have the passion to rise above anything.

Looking at her sister with a big smile, Alison says, “We love a challenge. We’re very inspired, very driven. Our motivation is just huge and we’re hardworking and strong-minded. We will stand for what we want.”

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