The Tauranga Boys’ College First XI has battled to avoid relegation in the WaiBop Football league in recent seasons.
After six rounds in 2018 the schoolboys were on top of the standings. In the 12-team senior competition this is an almost unheard of precedent.
Tauranga Captain Lewis Reid emphasises an experienced roster is a key factor in the transformation of fortunes.
“We only lost three players this year as opposed to 11 the previous season. Experience helps with better decision making. The men's games are very physical. The men are out there to prove we are schoolboys so we have to play with a lot of speed and ticker,” Reid explains.
Eight of the teams are based in the Waikato and the furthest road trip is two hours south to Taupo.
In three weeks Tauranga will head north to Hamilton Boys’ High School for the annual Super 8 tourney where they are grouped with the hosts whom they also play in a Nationals qualifier on June 27. Hamilton is the reigning National champions and beat Tauranga twice last season.
“We lost 1-0 and 2-1. They were really close games we could have won. Hamilton is a good team, but with more experience I think we'll be better placed to take our chances,” Reid warns.
Was Reid surprised Hamilton kicked onto to win the Nationals when Tauranga only managed to finish 19th?
“I guess it's better than an Auckland school winning it all the time, but Hamilton are our rivals and we could have beaten them,” Reid moans
With two points against St Paul’ Collegiate next week or Hamilton on the 27th, Tauranga will confirm their place at Nationals. Tauranga have mostly breezed through their qualifying matches thus far, accounting for Bethlehem College (7-0), Hillcrest High School (6-0), St John’s, Hamilton (6-1) and St Peter’s, Cambridge (3-2).
St Peter’s are coached by former All Whites and Phoenix mentor Ricki Herbert. Goals from Riley Bidois and Scott Hawkins arrested a deficit before Reid made a telling impact off the bench.
“I played about 20 minutes. I've been struggling with a back injury I got in April. I wanted to come on and make a difference and I was lucky to pop the ball into the net,” Reid reflects.
Reid also scored three goals in the record 6-1 traditional win against Westlake Boys’ High School. The only interschool defeat Tauranga has suffered was a narrow 1-2 setback against Auckland Grammar School.
“It's going well for us. The Super 8 will be a real gauge to see where we're at. Napier Boys’ actually won last year which was a bit of surprise. Palmerston North and New Plymouth are always really strong too,” Reid observes.
Like every football fan on the planet, Reid will soon have his eyes firmly fixed on the World Cup and is picking either France or Belgium to win the tournament.
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