The goal for the Taradale High School First XI hockey team in the Johnson Cup in Invercargill this past week was clear cut; qualify for the semi-finals to ensure a place in the 2020 Rankin Cup.
Taradale went one better; finishing runners-up to Rathkeale College.
Sean Findlay has helped drive Taradale into the top flight of New Zealand Secondary Schools’ hockey.
The New Zealand Under-21 selection was the leading scorer at the Johnson Cup, netting 12 goals in six games - six more than any other player.
Findlay, who scored in every outing, is an attacking midfielder and striker and offers an earnest appraisal of his game.
“One of my biggest strengths is my ability to pick the ball off other players as well as my stick work. One of my biggest weaknesses is my size. I’m quite a physical player, but sometimes I struggle against bigger opponents because of my lack of size.”
Findlay started playing hockey when he was seven years old, following in the footsteps of his father. He has been in the Taradale First XI since Year 9 and this season helped Taradale win the Hawke’s Bay Secondary Schools Division I competition, featuring five others teams.
“We won the final 3-2 [against Hastings Boys' High School], scoring two of the three goals in the last quarter. The team has really grown this year,” Findlay enthused.
Findlay identified his parents as major mentors. Simon Nation and Greg Nicol have been frequent coaches, while Shea McAleese is a dominant voice at present.
Findlay’s excellence in front of goal has been recognized by representative selectors. Findlay was part of the Hawke's Bay side that beat Australian Country and was MVP of that game as well as playing for the senior Central men’s team who faced Midlands.
“Playing for Central was a good step up for me. The game against grown men is a lot faster and physical which is an ideal situation in which to improve,” Findlay observed.
He is back at school this week, but next week his hockey takes him from Invercargill to Tauranga, selected int he 18-player Central squad for the National Hockey League tournament from 14-22 September.
Findlay will have ample opportunities to continue improving after that. He has been picked for the New Zealand Under 18 squad who have a National camp next month. Findlay was also named in the New Zealand Under 21 team which is competing in the Sultan of Jo Hor in October.
“It’s been a great season. I love the sport. I’d like to thank Just Hockey for helping me out with some quality gear to which allows me to compete at the top level,” Findlay concluded.
Taradale First XI Johnson Cup Results
Group: Southland Boys’ High School, 5-4 (Findlay 3 goals)
Group: Marlborough Boys’ High School, 5-2 (Findlay 2 goals)
Group: Rathkeale College, 3-3 (Findlay 1 goal)
Group: James Hargest School, 6-2 (Findlay 4 goals)
Semi: Cashmere High School, 3-2 (Findlay 1 goal)
Final: Rathkeale College, 1-4 (Findlay 1 goal)
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