“We could see it coming. We never got too far ahead of ourselves but we had such a good season last year expectations were high,” Thomas Walters of the St John’s College, Hamilton First XI revealed when asked about prospects for 2021.
With nine Year 13’s returning, St John’s achieved something they hadn’t done since 2002 - win the Waikato Secondary Schools Premier Division football title.
St John’s topped the first round of the competition, outpacing eight teams and were then front runners in the second round top four series. A 3-1 victory over perennial winners Hamilton Boys’ High School secured the title.
“It was definitely a good feeling to win. We were second by only a few points last year and Hamilton are our biggest rivals. We play an attacking style of football and aren’t afraid to get stuck in and foul if necessary.
“Against Hamilton we were up 3-0 at halftime. I scored the first goal from a free kick. Riley Sexton got the next one after their keeper dropped the ball from a set piece and Tom Roach got the third after we moved the ball around. We beat them twice which was awesome.”
Walters is an attacking midfielder who scored 11 goals throughout the season. His main attributes are “vision,” “passing” and “leadership.” He has built a productive relationship with coach Darren Walters.
“Darren is passionate about what he does. He went to Auckland Grammar, did some rep coaching, and started with the Colts at St John’s. He’s been with the First XI for eight years and he looks out for us on and off the field.
“He’s encouraged a lot of the boys to get into club football with the likes of Cambridge, Melville and Hamilton Wanderers. The boys have been tested against older players and mixed with different groups which has been really good for us.”
Walters plays for Wanderers who struggled in the senior league but Walters is a regular fixture in representative sides and was convinced St John’s would have produced a good showing at Nationals which were cancelled last month.
“We only lost to Tauranga Boys’ 2-1 and they were a very strong side. We never gave up and I think we won their respect.
“It wasn’t great that Nationals were canceled, but personally winning the league is the end of an era for me. It was a great way to finish my time in the First XI.
Hamilton Boys’ were National champions as recently as 2017. The last time St John’s won the Premier League prior to this season defender Rio Ferdinand was the most expensive player in the world.
Story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Media, October 2021.
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