This coming September’s Senior Boys NZSS Underwater Hockey tournament at Kilbirnie Pool shapes as one of the most competitive national secondary school sports titles to be contested this year.
Any one of about 10 teams, from the top of the South Island to the top of the North Island, could win, including the leading Wellington schools who filled four of the top five spots at this past weekend’s Central Regional Tournament that was held at the same venue.
Nelson College won both the Junior and Senior Boys titles, with Wellington College teams runners-up in both divisions.
Wellington College Senior A captain Will Durkin praised Nelson College who were something of an unknown to the Wellington teams heading into the tournament.
“We had no idea what they would they were going to be like,” said Will, “ most of us local teams had already played each other multiple times and we all had a pretty good idea of what to expect from most of the teams and the players to look out for.”
“But they put up a good fight, having no previous knowledge themselves of our teams. The final against them was a good game from both sides of the pool.”
Nelson beat Wellington College 4-2 in the Senior Boys final, after coming back from an early 0-1 deficit. One of Nelson’s goals was a penalty shot, which means everyone gets out of the water except for two attackers and one defender and they look to score that way.
Wellington College beat Hutt International Boys’ School in one semi-final and Nelson College beat St Pat’s Town in the other.
Wellington College and HIBS have a healthy local rivalry.
“We have played them several times recently and our results have gone both ways. We would win once, they would win next and then we would win again.”
The local schools play for the Solomon Shield during the regular season, a challenge shield that the holders put up in every game.
“HIBS came into this season with the shield, and then we took it off them and held it for a few weeks, and then literally last week just before the Central Tournament they won it back off us.”
Scots College and St Pat’s Town are also two strong schools in Wellington.
“St Pat’s ended up beating HIBS in the third and fourth playoff and won the bronze medal.”
It’s a similar story in the Northern Zone, where several Bay of Plenty and Auckland schools are all similarly ranked.
Howick College won last weekend’s Northern Zone Tournament, while Tauranga Boys’ College are the defending NZSS Junior Boys and Senior Boys champions, having also won the Senior title in 2017 for the first time.
Wellington College last won the nationals in 2011, but have a successful record, winning the NZSS Senior Boys title 10 times in 14 years between 1998-2001 and again in 2005, 2006 and 2011.
Other Wellington schools to annex the Senior Boys NZSS title include Wellington High School (1985, 1987), HIBS (2003, 2004, 2007) and Scots College (2010, 2012, 2013).
Will spent three years in the Wellington College Junior A team, part of a team that finished second in the Junior nationals in his year 10, but was injured and didn’t play in last year’s Senior nationals as Wellington College came fourth.
Wellington College won the NZSS Swimming title last year, but only a couple of players in the current Senior A underwater hockey squad were also in the swim team last year. Similarly, few players play water polo.
The sport is similar to ice hockey, except underwater and along the bottom of the pool as its name suggests. Games are nine or 10 minute halves, with six players from each team in the water at once.
How do players communicate during games?
“It comes down to the tactics of the game,” explained Will. “That is where it is really important to know where people are in the water. You need to do your personal job and need to trust your teammates that they will too when you are at the bottom of the pool.”
The six players set up in formations. “At Wellington College we play a 2-3-1 formation, which is two forwards, and two wings and a centre in the middle line and then a goalie. But the goalie isn’t like a football or outdoor goalie, they are more like a centre back in football or fullback in rugby.”
The formations change. “When I was trialling for the New Zealand U18 team last year we were being taught to play a different formation, which meant I had to adjust accordingly.”
Plus at any one time only some of the players are actually below water in the thick of the action, owing to players having to come up for air and breath through their snorkels.
“You really want to be on the bottom as much as you can. You can be the best player in a team but you can’t do anything if you are on the surface.”
Wellington College train as a team on Sundays and plays the College Sport Wellington competition on Tuesday nights.
The Wellington College Senior A and Junior A teams that finished runner-up at the Central Regional Tournament are:
Will Durkin, Adam Muir, Ben Stirling, Daniel Markland. Lewie Harland, Caelum de Vos, Tom Adams. Ollie Lau Young. Jacob Rhodes
Mathieu Ewers, Freddie Thorpe, Nicholas Jones, Krishin Cox, Sam Falloon, Tim Stirling. Jed McLachlan. Daniel Ewers, Ben Kuggeleijn, Luke Rhodes, Max Coram
This year, two teams of equal ability will be selected to compete for the Southern Cross Trophy against the six Australian states and the Australian Capital Territory in the 2019 Australian Schools Championships from 27 September -6 October.
The teams are:
Non-travelling reserves (in order of selection)
Senior Boys: Thomas Brendolise (AK), Michael McCormack (AK)
Senior Girls: Anna Cory-Wright (AK), Rebecca Greenwood (AK)Junior Boys: Daniel Wood (CM), James McGuire (CM)
Junior Girls: Rachel Duston (AK), Pippa Plummer (NW)
* Anna Duston’s selection is dependent on her proving her fitness to the Selection Panel’s satisfaction at either the North Island Secondary Schools Championships (18 – 20 July) or the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships (23 – 25 August)
They have caught the adventure racing bug at Taradale High School.
This past Queen’s Birthday weekend a team of 44 Taradale High School students travelled to the Blue Lake Reserve to compete in the annual 3D Rotorua Multisport Festival.
The mixed team of year 9 to 13 students competed in the 30km New Zealand Secondary School Multisport Championships (kayaking, mountain biking and trail running), as well as shorter running and duathlon races.
There were 38 athletes entered in boys and girls U16 and U19 categories in the NZSS Multisport race, with competitors from schools in the Bay of Plenty, North Harbour, Northland, Hawke’s Bay, Taupo, Taranaki, Manawatu, Wellington and Canterbury represented.
Taradale HS athletes won four categories, with Greer Findlay winning the 5.5km run, Ben Smyth winning the Duathlon and Ben Wilson and Matt Adams winning the respective U14 and U19 NZSS Multisport divisions. Sophie Hogan and Jaimee Wilson also finished second and third in the Girls U19 race.
U19 winner Matt Adams was returning from last year and was pleased with his race.
“I did this event last year and I was second in the U16 race, but last year I crashed on the bike leg and my time was over 10 minutes faster this time,” said year 12 student Matt.
Matt was third across the line, with U16 division athletes filling three of the first four places overall.
Whakatane High School U16 athletes, Hayden Sisson and Ari Goodman were first and second overall and Matt’s U16 and year 11 Taradale HS teammate Campbell Gray was fourth.
The 30 km race consisted of a 5 km paddle, a 20 km mountain bike ride and then a 5 km trail run home to the finish.
Conditions were fine and cold, but the tracks were soft and muddy following recent rain.
Matt is mostly a runner – and the longer the better.
“I train mostly for running and have done half marathons and did a full marathon in Waihi last year.
“But in this event just gone the mountain biking is much longer it is where you can make the most gains. On Sunday my best leg was the bike. For example, I was three minutes behind teammate Campbell Gray on the kayak but I caught up to him on the bike. We raced into transition together but I held him off on the run.”
In February, Matt and good friend Jack Graney (didn’t compete at the 3D in Rotorua) competed in the Coast to Coast, the famous race that traverses on side of the South Island to the other.
“Jack and I competed in the tandem category, which means we have to stick together for the whole race. We did heaps of training for that and it was great fun.”
Matt’s goal is to enter the Coast to Coast in 2021 as an individual.
The Taradale High School’s adventure racing team’s next race together is the North Island 6-hour Hillary Challenge race in Rotorua/Taupo on 23 June. “These are the Hillary Challenge qualifiers, and the team comprises four boys and four girls.”
Last year the team didn’t enter the Hillary Challenge qualifiers so making the Hillary Challenge Finals is a goal for the team to aspire for. The combined New Plymouth BHS/GHS team won this year’s national event.
There are some strong rivalries amongst Hawke’s Bay schools such as Taradale HS, Havelock North High School and Napier Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools in all the multisport, adventure racing and orienteering events and one or more is invariably prominent.
Like all adventure racing schools, students from several sporting backgrounds come together to form Taradale HS’s team.
“We train three mornings a week together, but personally I did a lot of kayaking and running on my own. I like to train in the mountains if I can, so a couple of weeks before the event I did my long 21km run in the Kaweka Ranges.”
Taradale High School 3D Multisport Festival results:
NZSS Multisport Championships
1st U19 Matt Adams
1st U14 Ben Wilson
2nd U19 Sophie Hogan
3rd U19 Jaimee Wilson
3rd U16 Campbell Gray
1st Greer Findlay
2nd Grace Hogan
3rd Ella Hogan
2nd Sean Findlay
1st Ben Smyth
2nd Finn Durrant
3rd Dom Collins
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