The New Zealand Secondary Schools First XI football Premier tournament commences in Napier in a fortnight. More than 200 players will be on display. Here are eight of the best.
Thomas Drillen (Auckland Grammar School) - Drillen will be striving hard to ensure Auckland Grammar finishes higher than 11th, their disappointing placement last year. Combative and skillful, Drillen has been a key figure in driving AGS into the top four of the Auckland Premiership this year.
Raphael Le’ai (Scots College) - The Solomon Islands Under 17 representative broke the record for the most goals scored in the Trevor Rigby Cup Wellington competition this season; scoring 14 goals in 11 games, including a decisive strike in the final. The previous record was 13 set by Hutt Valley High School representative Aaron McDonald in 2013. Quick on his feet and deadly in front of goal, Le’ai promises to entertain.
Tyler Ericksen (Hamilton Boys' High School) - The robust defender is entering his second Nationals hoping to be as stubborn as the wall that won Hamilton top position in 2017. Technically adept and confident going forward, Ericksen will be tough to contain.
Joel Clissond (Sacred Heart College) - The dead-eye striker is among the leading scorers in the country this year. Clissond impressed for Eastern Suburbs in the National Youth League and brings experience and class to his third Nationals.
Oliver Colloty (Otago Boys’ High School) - Otago didn’t qualify for Nationals last year, but with Colloty’s all-round excellence they will have an impact in Napier; one of the best players in the South Island.
Kenny Willox (Havelock North High School) - Havelock North are a wildcard qualifier who shouldn’t be underestimated, especially given they have Willox. A regular in the Havelock North Wanderers, Willox will ensure Havelock make a nuance of all their opponents.
Aaron Scott (Rathkeale College) - Rathkeale was second in the Rex Dawkins second tier tournament in 2018 and are hoping to go a place higher at this year's Nationals. Scott is a key defender; strong on the ball and adept at avoiding carnage at corners.
The Lotto Boys Tournament is being played at Park Island, Napier over Winter Tournament Week from 2-6 September.
The 32 teams competing and the eight pools are below:
Pool A: Saint Kentigern College, St Paul's Collegiate, Selwyn College, Otago Boys’ High School
Pool B: Sacred Heart College, Hastings Boys’ High School, St Pat’s Town, Burnside High School
Pool C: Westlake Boys’ High School, Palmerston North Boys’ High School, Nelson College, Rotorua Boys’ High School
Pool D: Auckland Grammar School, Hamilton Boys’ High School, St Pat’s Silverstream, Napier Boys’ High School
Pool E: St Peter's College, Havelock North High School, Hutt International Boys’ School, Cashmere High School
Pool F: Rutherford College, St Peter's School, Rathkeale College, St Thomas’ of Canterbury College
Pool G: Mount Albert Grammar School, New Plymouth Boys’ High School, Scots College, Christ's College
Pool H: Kings College Tauranga Boys’ College, Waimea High School, King's High School.
Last 10 winners:
2018: Sacred Heart College, Auckland
2017: Hamilton Boys' High School
2016 Sacred Heart College, Auckland
2015 Nelson College
2014 Sacred Heart College, Auckland
2013 Saint Kentigern College
2012 Mount Albert Grammar School
2011 Sacred Heart College, Auckland
2010 Palmerston North Boys’ High School
2009 Mount Albert Grammar School
“It was surreal. I was so nervous beforehand, and didn’t feel anything during the game. I played alright, but I was kind of on autopilot,” Sam Wall reflected on his appearance for Napier City Rovers in the recent Chatham Cup quarter final against Albany United.
The 16-year old from Lindisfarne College played nearly the entire 120 minutes of an epic match that Napier should have won, but did their best to lose.
“I felt we were dominant, but couldn't score. They had a quick striker who caught us short twice. There were a lot of injuries and we scored in the 99th minute to send it to extra time,” Wall asserted.
Jack Beguely netted a double for Albany, but goals to Josh Stevenson and Sho Goto forced an additional period where “nothing” happened before penalties.
“We won the shootout 4-3. I was relieved that I didn’t have to take one. I went off with cramp. I had faith in the boys to do it. We deserve to be in the semi-finals,” Wall said.
Four-time champions Napier will host 2017 winners Onehunga Sports on August 25. The South Auckland outfit had an equally dramatic 5-4 overtime win over Wellington Olympic. Andrew Milne was the hero for Onehunga with two goals. Wall concedes he would have preferred to play Bay Olympic.
“Onehuga are a dangerous side, with a lot of attacking threats. At least we got a home tie.”
Wall will be kept busy in central defencee. In addition to helping Napier into second position in the Central League, he is the leading player in the Lindisfarne First XI who are third in the local schools league. Wall has benefited greatly from senior experience.
“It’s great playing for Napier because you are always been tested. We can’t win the league, which is disappointing, but going back to school with the experience of playing men helps me raise the level of my schoolmates.”
Lindisfarne rose their reputation internationally when they toured Dubai at the beginning of the season. After two years of planning, Lindisfarne won all four matches, outscoring opponents 23-2.
“Dubai was unreal. The facilities and culture were amazing, but the football was average. They weren’t very good.” Wall revealed.
In 2018, Wall was very good winning the Petersen Family Cup as the best young player in the Lindisfarne First XI.
Wall will be hoping to add the Chatham Cup to his trophy collection. The semi-finals are contested over the weekend of August 24-25 with the decider to be played on September 8.
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