A handful of the St Bede’s College First XI hockey team have played together for a number of years.
Captain Joey Morrison leads a cohort of boys from the Marist club who were dominant at the intermediate level, but had failed to repeat the success at Papanui.
It was clear things had to change in 2019 to avoid a repeat of the disappointing fifth-placed finish in the Canterbury Premiership last year.
“In the past our only pre-season was an ANZAC tournament,” Morrison reveals.
“We have a lot of Year 13’s and decided if we were going to achieve anything this year we had to substantially increase our work and skills,” he said.
Personalised fitness programs, accompanied with morning practice, gym visits and skills sessions were introduced. Coach Matt Walcott benefited greatly from a period in the UK.
“Matt’s been the coach since I first made the First XI in Year 9. He’s always been really supportive, but when he came back from England he was way more hands on and had increased his skill-set,” Morrison explains.
“Ben Grimshaw is a good assistant too. We all have greater work ethic.”
St Bede’s have just gone through the round-robin of the Connetics League unbeaten. In 11 matches they achieved eight wins and three draws, outscoring opponents 31-14.
On July 26, St Bede’s won the Connetics Challenge Shield for the first time, edging perennial powerhouses St Andrew’s College 1-0.
“We had never got our hands on it before so it was a great win,” Morrison enthused.
“We managed to get an early goal through James McSweeney and held on after a great performance by our goalie Duncan Kennett who is usually in the 2nd XI.”
The suppression of StAC was a triumph for the St Bede’s defence. St Bede’s have conceded the fewest goals in the competition, while St Andrew’s have scored the most goals.
“We really pride ourselves on defence. My co-captain is Charlie Hall who is the leader of the defence. He’s really explosive and leads by example,” Morrison acclaimed.
Christ’s College have set the benchmark in Christchurch the past two seasons. In 2017 they won the Rankin Cup Nationals and returned to the final 12 months ago. Morrison had never beaten Christ’s until this season.
“It’s fair to say I’ve been part of a few hidings by Christ’s; one time they beat us 8-0 or something ridiculous like that,” Morrison mourned
“They’re pretty handy again, but we’ve beaten them 2-1 in both games and were better in the second game. In the first game George Baker scored a PC with the last shot. In the second game we got up 2-0 and let them back into it.”
St Bede’s beat fierce rivals Christchurch Boys’ High School 2-1 and 5-2.
Morrison, a sound defending and precise distributing midfielder, has been selected for the New Zealand Under-18 training squad in September in Mount Maunganui, alongside St Bede’s teammate George Baker.
However the immediate focus is next week’s local semi-finals and the bid to improve from a 23rd place in New Zealand 12 months ago.
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