On August 1 three wildcard teams will be announced to join 13 other schools in the Top 16 finals of the National Secondary Schools Football championships in Tauranga.
Tauranga Boys’ College have been a regular in the Top 16 for the best part of two decades. Tauranga were even runners-up in 2002 and have won the Super 8 title three times.
Despite their past pedigree and some strong form this season Tauranga are not guaranteed to be in the field. In the tough Waikato/Bay of Plenty qualifying region, Tauranga finished third behind Hamilton Boys’ High School and St. Peter’s College, Cambridge.
Tauranga achieved wins over Trident High School (5-0), St. John’s College (3-1), Hillcrest High School (4-0), John Paul College (2-1) and St. Paul’s Collegiate (10-0). The match against St. Peter’s, Cambridge was exciting and controversial. Tauranga Captain Wilson Fisher explains what happened.
“The game kicked off in overcast conditions at 3:30pm. St. Peter’s was a strong side and the game was even. It was 1-1 at halftime and then they scored again to make it 2-1. We replied. and started to get on top and then they had a man sent off. We hit the crossbar and were really starting to dominate when suddenly the referee called the game off 10 minutes early sighting bad light. He claimed he couldn’t see, we could, and were furious.”
The draw kept St. Peter’s ahead of Tauranga in the push for Nationals as the top two teams automatically qualify and St. Peter’s enjoyed a stronger goal difference. If Tauranga achieved a draw against Hamilton Boys’ High School in their final game they would advance, but it wasn’t to be, Tauranga slipped 2-1.
“We got an early goal from a set-piece, but to their credit Hamilton scored two outstanding goals and deserved to win. They played some great football and are a good side,” Fisher concedes.
Further misfortune was to follow. Tauranga topped their group at the Super 8 tournament. They beat Napier BHS (3-0), Hastings BHS (1-0) and held Hamilton BHS to a 1-1 draw. Napier have qualified for the Top 16 and the Hamilton result was achieved despite resting five top players.
In the semi-finals Tauranga faced hosts Palmerston North BHS. Fisher captures the drama.
“In the first 10 minutes the Palmerston goalie cleared the ball off his line twice. We bullied them and if it wasn’t for their keeper we could have won four or five nil. We hit the post, had the ball cleared off the line several times and just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. The game went to penalties and we missed four in a row and they won 2-0.”
In the playoff for third Tauranga trounced New Plymouth BHS (a top 16 wildcard applicant) 3-0. Earlier in the season Tauranga beat Auckland Grammar School (top 16) 3-2 on their home ground for the first time in several seasons.
Tauranga has 11 year 13 players. Fisher plays in the centre of midfield where he is a regular selection at rep level. He is optimistic Tauranga will receive a wildcard.
“We have had a really good season. A bit of luck hasn’t gone our way, but the boys are in great spirits and I believe we will be a strong team at Nationals.”
Interestingly Connor Probert, Dylan Bull, Dylan Morris and Luke Johnsonare four NZ age group reps from Tauranga Boys’ who have gone Auckland schools on scholarships. Retaining talent isn’t always easy for Tauranga, how do they cope?
“We don’t have a hostel so the Auckland Schools often take our top players, but we keep on keeping on. We work hard and have a lot of talent in the school and faith in our coaches Mr Howard and Alex Bryant,” Fisher concludes.
P.S. Charlie McIlwaine scored an incredible seven goals in the 10-0 win against St. Paul’s Collegiate.
Chris Goodwin is the sports captain at Hamilton Boys’ High School. He likes to do things quickly. He won two gold medals representing New Zealand in High Jump and Long Jump at the Oceania Regional Championships in the summer. In the winter he is the co-captain of the Hamilton BHS First XI football team.
The past fortnight has been a resounding success for the footballers. They beat Tauranga Boys’ College 2-1 to win the Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional title and earn qualification for the Top 16 at Nationals. This week they won the Super 8 title for the fifth time trouncing hosts Palmerston North Boys’ High School 4-0 in the final. Hamilton haven’t always started their games in convincing fashion Goodwin explains.
“We came out firing against Tauranga, but we couldn’t convert our chances into goals. We conceded a goal from a corner mistake and were behind at halftime. In the second-half we scored two goals. Stafford Dowling got the winner with about 20 minutes to go.”
A sluggish start hampered Hamilton’s first game in the Super 8 tournament against Hastings Boys’ High School.
“We were tentative and that was reflected in the score line. We were nervous, but once we gained our composure we played some good football. We worked hard to start better for the rest of the tournament,” Goodwin says.
A Lachie McIsaac goal gave Hamilton a 1-0 win. In their next group game they beat Napier Boys’ High School 3-1 to secure their place in the semi-finals. Goals were scored bySzymon Poborowski, Dowling and McIsaac in a more impressive performance.
“We started with great intent against Napier and got a couple of goals in the first-half. It was a really good performance,” Goodwin says.
Hamilton rested some of their leading cattle for the last group game against Tauranga Boys’ College which was drawn 1-1.
In the semi-finals Hamilton faced 2015 champions New Plymouth Boys’ High School and won 4-0. Goodwin, Dowling, Luke Woolerton, and an own goal was the source of Hamilton’s profit.
“We played New Plymouth off the park. It was a great performance. The only thing they had was a long ball,” Goodwin enthuses.
In the fourth minute of the final against Palmerston North Boys’ High School Lachie McIsaac hit the post with a fierce shot. It served as an ominous warning to the hosts. Despite being unbeaten in eight previous interschool games, Palmerston North wilted and were thrashed 4-0. Hamilton’s goals were scored by Alex Frank, McIsaac, Goodwin and Woolerton.
“It was a great performance. The boys next goal is to get out of our group at Nationals and then its knockout football where anything can happen,” Goodwin finishes.
The New Zealand women’s squad that will travel to Rio is jam-packed with experience but there is no lack of youthful exuberance either with two up-and-comers, Meikayla Moore and Jasmine Pereira, set to make their Olympic Games debuts.
The talented pair have been named in the 18-strong line-up for Brazil by coach Tony Readings and received confirmation of their place on the plane during yesterday’s announcement at Avondale College, where four of the players received their education.
Pereira is the west Auckland school’s most recent graduate to have played for her country – the others in the Olympic squad are Kirsty Yallop, Betsy Hassett and Amber Hearn – and says it was a special moment to officially become an Olympian at the same place where her footballing journey began.
“It was only two years ago that I came to school here and it was a massive thing for me to be in front of some of the students I was at school with and others who might be aspiring to be Olympians themselves,” the 19-year-old says.
“To see teachers who knew me back then and have seen how much I’ve grown as a person and a player since then was a good feeling.”
Avondale College had a key role to play in Pereira’s transformation from sports-mad kid to fully-fledged international footballer. The youngest of four children in a sporting family, she was also the only girl and was regularly on the receiving end as her older brothers tried out their latest wrestling moves.
After excelling in a range of sports at primary school, she had decided to focus on netball when starting at Avondale but instead signed up to play football, mainly as the queue to join was shorter.
It proved to be a fateful decision and has more than paid off with the speedy striker now set to display her skills at the biggest sporting event on the planet.
“Being only 19, it’s massive for me and is so hard to believe,” she says.
“To think that I’m an Olympian now is insane – I would never have thought I would be in this position three years ago. To follow in the footsteps of a lot of legends of New Zealand sport is really exciting,” she adds.
“But I’m trying not to think about it too much as I need to be more focused on how I’m going to play and achieving the team’s goals.”
Just one year older, Pereira’s fellow fresh-faced team mate Moore blew out the candles on her 20th birthday cake only last month, when the team was in the midst of a two-match tour of Australia.
Like Pereira, she is still coming to terms with becoming an Olympian and, just hours after being named in the squad, struggles to put the feeling into words.
“It’s crazy, I’ve had this dream ever since I was four-years-old and started playing football as a midget,” says the defender, who hails from Christchurch but is now based in Auckland.
“Now that it has happened, I couldn’t be more grateful to be given the opportunity to represent my country at an Olympic Games in the sport that I love. I’ve always aspired to be like people such as Valerie Adams and Lisa Carrington so it will be surreal to be alongside them – I’m speechless really.”
Moore and Pereira may be heading into the unknown themselves but do not have to look far for advice and guidance from those who have already experienced the buzz of an Olympics campaign.
Seven players in the squad – captain Abby Erceg, Anna Green, Amber Hearn, Ria Percival, Kirsty Yallop, Katie Duncan and Ali Riley – will travel to Brazil for their third Olympic Games while six have played around a century of games or more for New Zealand.
With 126 appearances to her name, Erceg is the country’s most-capped international of all time – of either gender – and Moore will look to pick up as much as she can from the skipper.
“Abby is also a centre-back so I can learn a lot off her given she has gone to so many World Cups and Olympic Games. You can't really learn any better way.”
There will also be plenty of support from further afield with thousands of Kiwis set to tune into all the action from Rio 2016.
“We love having the support of the country and knowing they back you 100 per cent is huge for us – it all adds to the atmosphere,” Moore says.
New Zealand will face USA, Colombia and France in the group stages of the Olympic Games and will open their campaign against the United States, the world’s number one-ranked side, on August 3 at Belo Horizonte.
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