Hard work paid off for the Rangi Ruru Girls’ School’s hockey team in winning the 2015 Federation Cup New Zealand Secondary Schools hockey tournament in Tauranga last weekend.
One of three Christchurch schools to reach the semi-finals, Rangi Ruru captain and the tournament’s leading goal-scorer Charlotte Arthur scored in extra time to secure a 1-0 win over St Margaret’s College to help her school win the Federation Cup for the first time in 15 years.
Rangi Ruru was coached by John Radovonich and Rachel McCann. Radovonich, a former New Zealand men’s hockey captain, also won the Boys’ Rankin Cup with Christchurch Boys’ High School in 2010. College Sport Media caught up with him about the latest victory.
What were the team’s expectations heading into the tournament and did you exceed these by making the final and then winning it?
We felt that we had a group who could win the Federation Cup if they played as a team, but you are never sure what the opposition can do to you in a tournament and how strong the North Island teams are. We spent the season growing players, improving our skills and working on team work.
How long has this group of players been together and how hard did they work over the winter building up for this?
We had a good core of players who won the South Island Six – A – Side tournament at the start of the year. We then won the Porritt Cup and showed an ability to score goals which was exciting for our team. Throughout the season we had a few injuries to key players and, we had to balance injury management and fitness so that we had a full team for Federation Cup.
You beat another Christchurch school St Margaret’s College in the final. Are they traditional rivals and did this make it extra special meeting them in the final and then beating them?
We always have tough games against St Margaret’s and know each other’s strengths well. We have finished ahead of them at Federation Cup for four out of the last five years and were very proud of that record and wanted to maintain it going into the final.
The final was close, how did it play out?
The game started with a huge amount of pressure on our defence. St Margaret’s were awarded numerous penalty corners from the start. Excellent goal keeping from Aimee Hayward, and defensive deflections by Sophie Radovonich, Jess Gunn, Phoebe Spiers and Danielle Ackland really saved the day. The ability of the girls to make good passes under pressure changed the momentum and the game evened out as it progressed. The game was tense throughout and numerous attacking corners were not converted. Our key goal scorer, Charlotte Arthur, and Margot Willis created some good opportunities. The game went to drop off; once again the defence were calm under pressure with Gunn making a number of timely tackles. The attacking skills of Margot Willis, Sophie Radovonich and Charlotte Arthur led to the winning goal.
What were some of the tournament highlights leading up to the final?
We played against Columba College late on Monday evening on a flooded turf in torrential rain. The ball could not travel more than a few metres so it was a memorable game with skilful over-heading by Danielle Ackland ensuring we maintained a territorial advantage and got the win.
A highlight also was the complete team effort on defence against Villa Maria in the semi-final and Claudia Reid’s winning goal from a powerful strike at the top of the circle.
A turning point in the tournament was when one of our key players Annabelle Wilson was injured before our quarter final against Auckland Dio and suddenly we had to change all our plans. The girls overcame this obstacle with focus and determination to prove we could win games with our team structure altered. We won 4-1
So there were several leading players that contributed to the tournament win?
Charlotte Arthur was a standout with her skill and leadership throughout the week. She was the tournament’s leading goal scorer with 10 goals. The senior leadership team of Arthur, Rebecca Skurr, Radovonich and Gunn provided maturity and leadership in the games and the younger players Amelia Wilson, Brittany Wang, Emma Hewitt, Alex Summerfield, Alice Luxton, Reid, and Lucy Simpson developed throughout the week. Our goal keeper Aimee Hayward had a wonderful week and did not concede a goal in the semi or final. The team were supportive of each other and had fun which contributed to a positive attitude.
How is the team shaping up for the future?
The team has an even spread of players across the age groups. There are only four Year 13s so it leaves a strong core of players for the future and we have a strong group in the Second Eleven to fill the spaces. Rangi Hockey is strong and focusses on developing players throughout the season.
How does the rest of the year pan out locally for Rangi Ruru?
We have finished our season for 2015. The girls will now be focussing on their school work and some individual hockey programmes. The Canterbury under 15 Girls will be going to a National Tournament in the holidays and Rangi Ruru has a number of girls involved in this programme.
Who were some of the other people behind the scenes that helped you win the Federation Cup?
Vanessa Trent has been an amazing physio for many of the girls and helped with the rehabilitation and conditioning throughout the season. Her expertise was crucial to our success. We also appreciated the support from Rangi - Dr Stubbs at the tournament and Jo Fogarty, Head of Sport. Also huge thanks to the parents who catered for us in Tauranga with their nutritious meals. To Karen Radovonich, the Team Manager, plus it’s terrific reward for Rachel Mcann and I as coaches who have spent many hours planning and coaching.
Mitchell Ottow has played a lot of hockey for Westlake Boys’ High School. He has been a part of the First XI since Year 10.
Ottow is a seasoned campaigner. Prior to this season he had contested two previous Rankin Cup finals, both ended in defeat.
In 2012 Westlake stumbled to King’s College. In 2013 they were ripped apart by Hamilton Boys’ High School. Ottow reflects on those disappointments:
“The King’s game could have gone either way. We lost 1-3 and were left to rue some missed chances. Hamilton destroyed us 9-1. They were unbeatable to be honest.”
In 2015, Westlake won the Auckland City title defeating King’s College 3-2 in the final. They won their first three pool games at the Rankin Cup to guarantee a place in the quarter finals. The last pool game against Hastings Boys’ High School proved to be a valuable lesson.
“That was a real struggle,” concedes Ottow.
“We were already in the finals and our approach was too casual. We nearly lost, and might of last year.”
Westlake won 4-3 and was switched on for the quarter and semi finals.
In the final they faced St. Andrew’s College from Christchurch. A South Island school hadn’t won the Rankin Cup since 2010 and STAC proved to be talented and stubborn opponents.
“We weren’t sure what would happen. We picked out a few of their players to target, but it was a real tight game. We both had chances, but lucky for us we took one of ours.”
Ottow admits his experience as a captain helped him keep claim in tense moments.
“I guess my experience is the biggest thing I bring to leadership. I have been in this position before and I was a bit more confident about what to do,” he says.
Westlake scored a solitary goal to win their second Rankin Cup. Their last was in 2008. Ottow describes the goal.
“The goal was scored in the first half. One of our players dribbled the ball baseline and passed it into the circle. Wesley Sleep dived towards it and tapped it on the dive into the goal.”
Sleep is a South African exchange student. He was the team’s leading goal scorer and a First XI cricketer who was due to return to his native country in October, but will stay for December’s Gillette Cup which Westlake qualified for by winning the Auckland competition.
Sleep scored both goals in the tough semi-final win against St. Paul’s Collegiate.
Mitchell was named Westlake’s player of the tournament. He is a member of the Future Black Sticks squad who will compete in the Junior World Cup in India next year. He plans to study engineering at University in 2016.
Goals For: 149
Goals Against: 19
Rankin Cup Results
5-0 versus Rathkeale College
5-1 versus Sacred Heart College (Auckland)
4-3 versus Hastings Boys’ High School
3-0 versus Christ’s College
2-0 versus Wairarapa College (Quarter Final)
2-1 versus St Pauls Collegiate (Semi Final)
1-0 versus St Andrew’s College (Final)
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