“We're all accountable for ourselves. As the captain I try and lead by example and assist the younger players, but everyone is expected to be honest, humble and give as much as they can,” Tom Stewart reveals when asked what's driving the success of the St Thomas of Canterbury College First XI football team.
St Thomas heads the Christchurch Secondary Schools competition having won all seven matches and outscored opponents 34 goals to four.
Highlights of the season include winning the Brentwood Trophy against Shirley Boys’ High School and the Connetics Shield against Burnside High School. The Connetics Shield is like the Ranfurly Shield of school football in Christchurch.
“A lot of the boys still find that game hard to talk about. It was a real heartbreaker and is the source of a lot of motivation,” Stewart rues when reflecting on the defeat to St Andrew’s College (STAC) in the 2017 Christchurch final.
St Thomas topped the regular season standings, but succumbed on penalties (4-3) in the decider. This year's first meeting was personal. What happened was extraordinary.
“We had a red card after 20 minutes and I thought ‘here we go again,’ but the boys caught fire and won 4-0. It was pretty special,” Stewart acclaimed.
St Thomas only lost three players from last season and only lose two for 2019. The team is coached by Richard Washington and Jacob Allen with management support from Blair Scadden who runs the junior development programme. In 2017 the year seven and eight intermediate side was seventh out of 57 teams at the Aims games.
Scadden is a former NZ Under-17 representative and Allen an ex Canterbury Dragons Squad Member.
Washington coached Allen as a student at St Thomas and together they combined to take St Thomas to the Nationals for only the third time in their history last year, finishing fourth. Stewart shares some memories of the camp gain.
“Nobody really knew who we were so we had nothing to lose. We won all three pool games before facing St Pats Wellington in the quarter final. Our goal keeper was sent off with 20 minutes to go which meant we had to put an outfield player into goal. Anton Smail was a hero. We managed to hold on to penalties and win the shootout,” he reflects.
The National semi-final was one-sided with Sacred Heart College scoring a commanding 3-0 win. What does St Thomas have to do to make the final in 2018?
“There's a bit more pressure on us this year because of that result. We have to stay grounded and not get too far ahead of ourselves. We have to trust our processes,” Stewart responds.
Most of the First XI plays men’s premier football on a Saturday in addition to training four times a week. Stewart was also captain of the New Zealand Secondary Schools team who toured the USA in April. The side played eight games with a notable victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy Academy.
“All of the Galaxy players are professionals. Their set up is pretty impressive so to beat them was a real highlight of a great tour,” Stewart enthuses.
St Thomas is growing its relationship with the CFA Academy and boasts All Whites legend Ryan Nelsen as an old boy.
In the school holidays St Thomas are playing a mini tournament against Nelson College and St Andrew’s College. The former beat St Thomas in the third place game at Nationals.
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