Sajan Patel was in the New Zealand Under-18 hockey team last year. He is the sports prefect and First XI captain at Rongotai College and has trained in the same gym as Olympic rowing champion Hamish Bond.
“It’s pretty surreal when I think about the opportunities I have if I work hard. Hamish Bond was at my gym,” Patel enthuses.
Patel is a member of the newly established Capital Hockey Regional Performance Centre (RPC) programme for the most talented 16 to 21 year old’s nationwide. One of the few school-aged athletes involved, Patel is working under the tutelage of Black Stick and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Dane Lett – Capital Hockey’s high-performance manager.
“It’s pretty intense. We train four times a week in addition to workshops and games, but I’m growing all the time,” Patel reveals.
Patel dabbled in football and rugby as a youngster but inevitably switched to hockey given his family lineage in the sport (mum and dad played). Patel is a striker, but plays in the midfield at Rongotai.
“We don’t have as much depth as some other schools so I play in the midfield for the First XI. As a senior player I’m in a position where I get the ball more and try to lead by example,” Patel explains.
Rongotai finished in the bottom four of the Wellington Premier competition last season but enjoyed a late resurgence making the Founders Cup final, thus confirming their place in the Rankin/India Cup Nationals in 2018.
“Our performances in Wellington were a bit disappointing, but we played well at the Founders Cup, beating HIBS (Hutt International Boys’ School) in the semi-finals and losing to a pretty handy Taupo Nui a Tia College side in the final. It was a good way to finish the season,” Patel reflects.
Patel scored four goals in six games in the Founders Cup and his diligence and fierce shot caught the eye of representative selectors. Patel (who also plays senior club hockey for Naenae) is hopeful Rongotai will perform better local fixtures in 2018.
“We’ve got a good bunch of boys with two Wellington Under-18 reps and a few 15’s and 16’s reps. I think we can be in the top four,” he says.
Patel identifies local Black Stick Stephen Jenness as his favourite player. Sara Cooper (Wellington Girls’ College) is the only other Wellington player involved in the RPC.
Following grading rounds, the Premier 1 secondary school competition gets underway at the NHC next Friday.
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