With the prospect of higher honours providing the impetus, teenaged Central Manawa goal attack Sarah Guiney has done her cause no harm during the opening rounds of the Synergy Hair Netball League (NNL).

In her first year out of school, Guiney has made a seamless transition from training partner last season to gaining starting status in 2024 and playing all but 10 minutes of Manawa’s three opening games.

A strong athlete who more than holds her own in general play while chiming in with good accuracy under the hoop, Guiney was a member of the New Zealand Secondary Schools team last year while in her final year at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington.

That led to inclusion in the NZ U21 squad, and with it the carrot of taking part in next year’s Netball World Youth Cup in Gibraltar. Playing in the NNL has provided the opportunity to push on and retain her place in the squad.

"Playing at this level is a challenge but it's really going to help me improve my game, especially if I want to pursue higher levels," she said.

"It's definitely a part of the learning curve for me and is helping me improve so much, so I’m hoping that by the end of the season I’ll be good enough to be in the team."

After starting the season with a loss, Manawa have posted back-to-back wins, sitting in the third place on the table but within touching distance of front-runners the Comets and Northern Marvels who are just a point ahead.

"I think we're starting to find our groove as a team now and each week we’re improving, even if it's just a little bit in certain areas, the signs are there,"Guiney said.

"It's an amazing team to be part of. The vibe is awesome, everyone's so kind and we’re all supportive but when we need feedback, they'll (coaches) give it, so there's good constructive criticism when needed.’’

Born in New Zealand but raised in Dubai, Guiney has developed a distinctly unique accent which she puts down to her early school years in the Emirates capital. Attending an International school where the teachers were American and the students from all over the world, she "picked up a bit of everything to round out her accent," which has remained intact since.

Guiney, 18, returned to New Zealand as a 10-year-old and is now in her first year at Victoria University studying law and environmental studies. She plays her club netball for PIC.

Having played the odd shift at goal shoot, goal attack remains her favoured spot simply because she "likes the running around."

She also likes winning and her perfect season would be to win the NNL title and make the cut for the NZ U21s.

Manawa meet the Marvels in Round 4 action in Auckland on Sunday.