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The Auckland Grammar School First XI hockey team were runners up in the India Shield last year, a result that didn’t accurately reflect their ability 2016 captain Will Stables says.
“We were disappointed to be honest. We finished third in our group at Rankin Cup which meant we went into the bottom half of the draw. We recovered well to make the final, but ended up losing to Timaru Boys,” he says.
Grammar won the Auckland Championship, a feat they have repeated this year.
In the round robin of the Auckland Championship they thrashed St. Peter’s College (7-0), St. Kentigern College (3-0) and MacLeans College (9-0). In the semi-final they battled past Mount Albert Grammar School (1-0). The final against King’s College proved to be a real cracker.
“It was a really good final. There was a big crowd and it was a tough game. We started well and got ahead 2-0. We then conceded a card and they pulled one back. King’s started to pressure us and it soon became 2-2. With about five minutes left we won a penalty corner and Marshall Wells, our drag flick specialist, put us in the lead,” Stables recalls.
The ability to defend is a real strength of the Grammar outfit in 2016. The majority of the defensive until from 2015 has been retained.
“Were quite an experienced team this year. We look to play balanced hockey with an emphasis on attack, but obviously the ability to defend for long periods is important. To only concede goals in the final was a great effort,” Stables says.
The top four teams in Auckland now combine with the top four teams in North Harbour for the Super City competition. Matches are played on a Wednesday night and Stables believes Grammar are in good shape to make a real tilt for the title.
“I think we got ahead of ourselves at times last year. We didn’t bring the same intensity every week and suffered for it. I think we have learned not to take anything for granted. Westlake, the Rankin Cup winners, were only third in Harbour this year so the Harbour teams are looking strong. In Auckland MAGS and King’s were tough games,” Stables says.
Stables is an experienced campaigner. He has played over 50 games for the First XI since 2013 and occupies the central midfield space when his excellent passing skills and leaderships helps coordinate Grammar’s offense. In addition to his school duties, Stables plays for the Somerville Seniors on Saturday and has been an Auckland Under-18 representative.
“Hockey season is pretty busy and exciting. I love the challenge of playing with seniors and marking current and former Black Sticks. School hockey is good, especially the games against Kings. I think it we can stay in the right head space this season it’s going to be a good one,” Stables concludes.