It was a massive year for the "beautiful game" in New Zealand with the New Zealand U17 girls creating history by making the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup for the first time. There was a new National champion crowned in NZSS girls football and a familiar winner in the boys competition.
Four boys and four girls we have followed this year are below. Vote in our poll at the bottom for your favourite player.
Hannah Blake (Saint Kentigern College) - The College Sport Auckland athlete of the year helped her First XI win the Auckland Premiership title - St Kent’s outscoring all opponents 40-12 throughout the season. The Three Kings United Forward was also selected for the New Zealand U20’s who competed at the FIFA World Cup. Blake was a standout earning 233 minutes of playing time and scoring one of the goals of the tournament against the Dutch. Blake is a prolific goal scorer and proven leader.
Liberato Cacace (St Patrick’s College, Wellington) - On 2 February 2018, Cacace became the youngest player to appear for the Wellington Phoenix in the A-League, coming on as a substitute in a 4–0 defeat against Sydney FC. Cacace quickly established himself as a regular, appearing in seven games in the 2017-18 season and beginning the 2018-19 season in the starting line-up. Additionally Cacace was the first All White born in the 2000’s. The 17-year old was selected for the Intercontinental Cup where he started in wins against Chinese Taipei (1-0) and India (2-1) - the later nation ranked 23 places above New Zealand in the FIFA world rankings. On November 4, Cacace was announced as the College Sport Wellington Sportsman of the year.
Thomas Golding (Mount Albert Grammar School) - The attacking midfielder had a great Nationals taking MAGS all the way to final, scoring a double in the semi-final win over Auckland champions Saint Kentigern College. Despite falling short in the final Golding was snapped up by Waitakere United coach Martin Rodwell for the National Youth League. Golding has been left out of the Auckland City team which he was a member of in 2017.
Ryan Kelly (Hutt Valley High School) - Another Wellington based player who had a great year, beginning with selection in the New Zealand U19 Secondary Schools team for their tour to the United States. Kelly then played for Hutt Valley High School bringing up his 50th cap for the school while also starting in the Men’s Central League for Lower Hutt. In October, Kelly was a member of the Lower Hutt U19 team that won the Bob Bamford National Memorial Tournament. His form in that tourney earned selection for the Team Wellington Youth squad where he has shined, scoring in all but one game this year.
Anna Leat (Rangitoto College) - The goalkeeper who debuted for the Football Ferns in 2017 showed again she belongs on the world stage with a memorable display at the FIFA U17 World Championships. After keeping a clean sheet to help New Zealand to victory over Finland in pool play, Leat then saved two penalties and kicked the winning penalty in the dramatic win over Japan in the quarter-finals. Leat is a member of the New Zealand high performance set up.
Aneka Mittendorff (Westlake Girls’ High School) - The Westlake Girls’ High School student is the captain of the Young Football Ferns who created history at the FIFA U17 World Cup by reaching the semi-finals for the first time. New Zealand, who’d previously never gone beyond the group stage, rallied from behind to topple Uruguay and then stunned 2016 runners up Japan on penalties in the quarter final. Mittendorff plays in the midfield where her work ethic and superior skill has driven those around her to unimaginable heights.
Rose Morton (Northcote College) - The Hawke’s Bay Secondary Schools Sportswoman of the Year actually attends high school in Auckland where she is one of 28 players involved in the Football Ferns Development Program who compete in the Northern Football Federation 17th grade boys conference. The central midfielder is the first Hawke's Bay footballer to play in two world championships in the same year, representing New Zealand in both the FIFA Under-17 and 20 tournaments. Rose’s older sister Sarah Morton debuted for the Football Ferns this year.
Declan Viljoen (Sacred Heart College) - The Year 11 goalkeeper produced one of the great displays by a relative rookie at the Nationals when he only conceded one goal in seven game in Sacred Heart’s triumph. In the semi-final, Sacred Heart faced elimination with the last kick of the game against St Pat’s Town when Town stepped forward to take a penalty. However Viljoen thwarted the shot and then made an additional three saves in the penalty shoot out to propel Sacred Heart in the final where he didn’t concede. Kingsley Sinclair was player of the year.
The Champion of Champion series is not intended to be a definitive list of the ‘best’ athletes in each code, rather it celebrates many of the leading athletes and teams in each that College Sport Media has followed this year. Preference has gone to those individuals/teams that CSM has interviewed and profiled in 2018. Got a story? Email email@example.com
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