“It was a bit lucky. The ball got loose and Branden Russ managed to get a stick on it and nudge it in,” Tom Nicholls recalls of how the winning goal was scored in the Super 8 hockey final.
The New Plymouth Boys’ High School co-captain might be a touch modest in capturing the gravity of ‘Russty’s’ strike.
In extra time and with each side reduced to nine players, including no goalkeeper, New Plymouth managed a pivotal play which won them the Super 8 title for the first time since the inception of the tournament in 1997.
The Super 8 is one of the leading hockey tourneys in New Zealand. Last year, Palmerston North BHS (3), Hamilton BHS (6) and Tauranga BC (8) were all in the top eight at Rankin Cup Nationals.
Two years ago in Super 8, New Plymouth were seventh and last year won the Mayhill Cup. What is the Mayhill Cup?
“The Mayhill Cup is one of the third tier Nationals,” Nicholls answers.
“Our goal was to win it and we did beating Rotorua Boys’ (another Super 8 side) in the final. We felt we were good enough to be a Rankin Cup side last year. We actually got beaten in the final of Super 8 by Hamilton Boys,” Nicholls expanded.
New Plymouth only lost one player last season and the benefits of retaining a familiar squad were best illustrated on a development tour to Malaysia earlier this year.
Monte Burmester is Nicholls co-captain and explains the background to the trip.
“It was about three years in the making and cost us $3500 each. We did a lot of fundraising like quiz nights, wool shed cleanings and anything we could do really. It was a great way to bond,” Burmester reveals.
New Plymouth played six games in 12 days, in mostly oppressive heat, earning three draws and a victory.
“The standard of hockey was really good. The Malaysians play quiet a fast and skillful game. I learned a lot,” Burmester enthused.
New Plymouth set a high standard in pool play at Super 8 conceding just a solitary goal en-route to the semi-final where Napier BHS awaited.
Napier, boasting Lucca Burley, the tournament’s leading goal scorer with 11 goals presented a tough challenge.
“Napier were a good side, them and Hastings actually as well as Palmerston North. We had to produce our best to beat them both,” Nicholls said.
In the final, New Plymouth seized an early lead, but an even tussle saw Hamilton equalise. The balance and experience of the New Plymouth team ultimately proved telling. Nicholls was recently selected for a New Zealand Under-18 squad while Ryan Gilmour, Graydon Scott and Branden Russ each scored four goals while Michael Spurdle scored three, illustrating the all-round attacking threat of New Plymouth.
New Plymouth is being coached by Jamie Stones, who is the Hockey Development Officer for the school and a PE teacher. Jamie has been at the school for the last four years, after returning from studying at the University of Waikato and working for Sport Waikato. He has been involved in coaching age group Central sides over the last few years. David Stones (Jamie's dad), assists along with Black Stick Ben Collier.
How far can the NPBHS go in the Rankin Cup?
“We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We're just taking things one game at a time,” Burmester warned.
New Plymouth Super 8 Results
Pool Play: Hastings BHS, 2-0
Pool Play: Rotorua BHS, 10-0
Pool Play: Palmerston North BHS, 3-1
Semi-Final: Napier BHS, 4-3
Grand Final: Hamilton BHS, 2-1
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