Inline hockey is a sport suffering from falling numbers, but Jonny Higham is proof of the exciting possibilities the code provides.
The 16-year old from St Patrick’s College, Silverstream recently captained the New Zealand Junior team at the World Roller Games in Barcelona, having travelled to Italy a year prior for the World Championships.
Higham has been playing for the Rimutaka Renegades club since he was four and is at a loss to explain why more of his mates aren’t participating.
“It’s a fast and exciting sport that only takes an hour to play. The rules are simple and it’s social,” Hingham enthuses.
The sport resembling ice hockey on hardwood is traditionally contested over two 20-minute periods or four 10-minute periods with a stopped clock.
There are four players, other than the goaltender on the floor, typically divided into two forwards and two defenders.
Higham plays in defence and has been exceptional for some time. Higham often competes in senior competitions, has won two National age group titles, and earned his international debut last year.
“I’ve been told I’m pretty good for a while, but I started to take the sport more seriously when I got picked for the World’s last year,” Higham reflects.
“We went to the mountains in Italy which was a cool experience. We finished 12th out of 20 teams, which was a pretty good effort.”
Higham is not only a steadfast blocker, he attempts to push forward and boasts a fierce shot.
The World Roller Games is a fierce tourney with 80 teams in boys and girls junior and senior categories competing for the spoils.
New Zealand was 15th, a result short of expectations, but not entirely absent of highlights.
“We lost our first game to Namibia who’ve got really good, really quickly,” Higham rues.
“We had Italy in our Pool who were second at the last Roller Games so we targeted that game, but we got stung by Namibia first up which kind of set us back.”
New Zealand managed to beat Ireland 3-2 and then edged Australia 2-1 in the playoff for 15th and 16th position.
“The game against Australia was probably our best performance. It always nice to get one up over the Aussies,” Higham acclaimed.
The men's junior event was ultimately won by the Czech Republic who beat the USA 5-2 in the final. Meanwhile the New Zealand Junior Girls were seventh in their tournament won by Spain, also against the USA 2-0 in the final.
Higham identifies New Zealand coach Liam Collard, a former pro, and his parents as key influencers.
In addition to Inline hockey, Higham plays Football in the second XI at Silverstream as well as futsal and ice hockey.
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