"We kept on trying hard. We never gave up. I was 70/30 confident I could score, but you never know," Reuben Andrews recalls of the moments prior to his last-play penalty corner goal to level the Rankin Cup final between St. Paul's Collegiate and Wairarapa College on Saturday.
Andrews had to score to extend the match and duly delivered in an eventual St. Paul's victory.
December 14, 2012, Whitehall School closes its gates. The primary school 40 minutes south-east of Cambridge has a roll of 17 students. Andrews is a former pupil and recalls hockey was the only choice of sport.
"I started playing in Year 5 in five-a-side games. We weren't big enough to have a rugby team," he laughs.
Andrews made quick progress. At St. Peter's Cambridge he played representatively at the Hatch and Collier U13 tournament and there was a clamour for his college services.
"The coach of the rep side was a teacher at St Paul's so he convinced me to come to St Paul’s. It was an easy decision really because a lot of my mates were going there," Andrews recalls.
Andrews debuted for the First XI in Year 9, but success was initially hard to come by. Hamilton Boys' High School was the powerhouse hockey school in the Waikato, winning the Rankin Cup in 2013 and 2014.
"For a while there was a perception if you were any good at hockey you had to go to Hamilton Boys.’ They had exceptional sides, all the big names in New Zealand Secondary School hockey. We lacked belief, but once we gained experience and started to get more competitive things changed. Our coaches Craig Hardman and Matt Rees-Gibbs have been amazing," Andrews says.
In 2015 St Paul's beat Hamilton to claim the Waikato Secondary Schools title for the first time in several seasons and finished fourth at the Rankin Cup. Andrews scored 56 goals in 32 games during the year and was selected for the Junior Black Sticks.
St. Paul's won the Pitu Shield, Midlands intercity competition and Matt Allen trophy en route to the Rankin Cup. Reaching the quarter final was a breeze, but the quarter-final against Wellington College required more than good fortune to be won. Andrews explained what happened.
"Wellington College was a really tough game. With about five minutes to go we scored a goal which shouldn't have been allowed. I watched the video afterwards and the ball was lifted into the circle and hit the body of one of our players. It should have been called a dangerous ball, but the referee said play on and we got a goal. We were lucky. I felt for Wellington College."
In the semi-finals Rangitoto College was afforded no mercy and were dispatched 5-2.
By contrast St. Paul's stared the final in shaky fashion. What was said at halftime?
"It wasn't the greatest first half. We struggled to get our game plan into action. Our coaches were really calm at the break. They told us to be patient and do the things we had been doing all year and the result would look after itself," Andrews reflects.
St. Paul's pushed ahead 2-1 with Andrew's scoring twice. Wairarapa responded to reclaim the lead 3-2.
"It was an amazing game of hockey. Wairarapa were such a great side. They kept on pushing. We had to hold our nerve. The boys get on so well and that was such a big part of this success," Andrews says.
Andrews scored a leading 15 goals at the Rankin Cup to finish the season with 66 goals in 29 games. He played 144 games for St. Paul's Collegiate First XI and scored 138 goals.
"It's been an incredible season. I will most likely remain in the Midlands program which is strong and study business at Waikato University. I might seek a scholarship elsewhere because hockey in New Zealand is not very lucrative, but I would love to go to the Olympics one day. I love the game," Andrews enthuses.
Andrews’s parents run a farm and butchery in Cambridge. In the summer Andrews plays First XI cricket and enjoys golf. He plans to study in 2017.
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