“We really wanted to keep our unbeaten record, but during the game it's not something you think about. It’s about performing the best we can and getting the outcome we deserve,” Louie Ferigo responds when asked if he was nervous at three quarter time in the National Secondary Schools Water Polo final yesterday.
Unbeaten Auckland and North Island champions, Sacred Heart College only led surprise finalists Westlake Boys’ High School 8-7. Sacred Heart had scored three unanswered goals in the first two minutes with Ferigo netting two of them.
Was sudden complacency a reason for Westlake’s come back?
“We weren’t complacent at all,” Ferigo retorts.
“We had only played Westlake once all season and that was in our second game. We knew they had been improving and had beaten some strong teams in the tournament like St Kents, Rangitoto and Rosmini,” he continued.
What was said at the break?
“Our coach, Kurt Goldsworthy, is experienced and has been in many finals. He told us to play our game and put away our opportunities. Westlake would be looking for counter opportunities so we had to keep our defence strong.” Ferigo reveals.
Sacred Heart didn’t concede in the last five minutes and pulled clear to win 12-7. Ferigo scored four goals in the decider and was named tournament MVP.
“I’ve always been smaller than most players so I’ve had to work really hard on defence. However my size allows me to move quickly around the pool, and a lot of the goals I score are counter goals because of my swimming,” Ferigo replies when asked why he believes he was named tournament MVP.
Who is the toughest player Ferigo has marked this season?
Rowan Brown from Rangitoto College. He’s got strong legs, speed and game awareness. His cross cage shot is hard to block,” Ferigo says.
Ferigo has been in the Sacred Heart Premier team for three years, but his association with the top side stretches back a lot longer.
“A lot of Sacred’s success comes from the investment in the water polo institute for Year 7 to 10 students. Most of the current team have all come through the institute. Were lucky to have had great coaches like Jonathan Ware, Matthew Lewis, Josh Campbell and now Kurt,” Ferigo explains.
National triumphs are an obvious peak for Ferigo, but winning the local league earlier this month was equally satisfying.
“Winning the Auckland final in front of many Sacred Heart supporters was awesome. The Auckland final was held during a break of play in the Fina World League tournament and the Fina Reps enjoyed witnessing the school spirit,” Ferigo enthuses.
Ferigo comes from keen aquatic family. His three older siblings all played water polo and Louis has coached younger teams at Sacred Heart. Earlier this year Louis was employed by Swimtastic as a swim instructor.
Next year is Ferigo’s final season at Sacred Heart. His goal is to defend the 2018 titles, but acknowledges with eight players departing it will take time to form a team with similar quality.
The National Secondary Schools Water Polo finals were held at Kilbirnie Pool in Wellington this afternoon.
The favourites in both the male and female competitions prevailed. Sacred Heart College, Auckland and Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland, completed the triple crown of secondary schools water polo by winning the Auckland, North Island and National titles in the same year.
In the Boys playoff for third and fourth, Rangitoto College beat Saint Kentigern College 8-5. Aquinas College beat Rosmini College 9-6 in the fifth versus sixth match.
In the Girls, Kristin School beat Rangitoto College 8-6 in the third versus fourth playoff and Mount Maunganui College A beat Carmel College 6-3 to finish fifth.
Western Springs won this year's Boys Division 2 title and Epsom Girls’ Grammar School won the Girls Division 2 title.
Premier Girls Final
“This is about who wants it more. Do you want it more?” A hoarse Angie Winstanley-Smith screamed at her Dio team at three-quarter time.
Defending champions St Cuthbert’s looked to be in Dio-Straits when trailing 4-1, but charged back to square proceedings with five minutes remaining.
Tournament MVP Shinae Carrington responded to her coaches plea when she flung the ball into the top right corner to make it 5-4 to Dio with 90 seconds left.
However St Cuthbert’s weren’t lacking in desire and dramatically levelled with six seconds to spare when Caitlin Mary Parker Allen beat the keeper from long range.
In the penalty shootout the first nine shooters were successful, leaving Dio with a 5-4 lead. Mary Parker Allen stepped forward and sought to repeat her regulation time heroics, but tragically missed to gift Dio the title. Winstanley-Smith was triumphantly tossed in the water to cool down.
At one stage the pool was bloody after a Dio player was clobbered in the face and claret gushed from her nose.
The long stoppage galvanised St Cuthbert's. Ellie Tomoana was exceptional and scored two goals to cancel out the two goals scored in the first period by Dio New Zealand representative Megan McDowall.
Dio were runners up to St Cuthbert’s in 2018.
Premier Boys Final
Sacred Heart College scored four unanswered goals in the last quarter to subdue a spirited challenge from surprise finalists Westlake Boys’ High School.
At the three quarter-mark the game was in the balance with Sacred Heart narrowly leading 8-7.
However quick goals by Corey Kellow and Hamish McAleese stung Westlake as Sacred Heart assumed full control and coasted to victory.
Sacred Heart started supremely rushing to a 3-0 lead within two minutes. Tournament MVP Louie Ferigo illustrated his obvious quality by scoring the first two goals.
Westlake rallied and drew level. Twins Liam and Corban-Wedlock-Aston both confused the Catholics defense.
Ferigo was a constant threat for Sacred Heart and added another two goals to his tally, but Korban Kite was flying high for Westlake and a personal hat-trick raised the prospects of an upset.
However Sacred Heart’s defence tightened in the last five minutes Westlake in desperation lost the attacking fluency that had been integral in their success throughout the tourney.
Sacred Heart was unbeaten for the entire season and completed the triple crown for the second consecutive year.
The National Secondary Schools Division 1 Water Polo championships are being held in Wellington this weekend, but expect schools from Auckland to dominate.
The last non-Auckland school to win the boys title was Rongotai College, Wellington, who triumphed in 2007. The last female winner outside the ‘City of Sails’ was Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt, in 2009.
There are 16 teams in the boy’s tournament and 14 in the girls. Nine of the 16 boy’s teams are from Auckland. The proportion of girl’s teams from Auckland is even greater with only two girl’s teams from outside New Zealand’s largest city involved.
Pool A: Sacred Heart College, St Bede’s College, St Peter’s College, King’s College.
Pool B: Rangitoto College, Palmerston North BHS, Tauranga BC, Westlake BHS.
Pool C: Rosmini College, St Patrick’s College, Wellington, Aquinas College, Auckland Grammar School.
Pool D: St Kentigern College, Mount Maunganui College, Mount Albert Grammar School, Hamilton BHS.
Sacred Heart College are the overwhelming favourites to win the title, having won the 2017 Nationals as well this year’s Auckland and North Island titles. Sacred Heart are undefeated in 2018.
St Bede’s College won the South Island title, but are the only South Island team in Wellington suggesting the quality of play in the South is a long way behind that of the North.
St Peter’s College and King’s College were middle of the road in a tough Auckland competition. King’s finished in the top five at Nationals in 2017.
Rangitoto College won the National title in 2012 and 2016 and were semi-finalists in Auckland. They should top Pool B - though their rivalry with Westlake is always keen.
Pool C appears to be the ‘group of death’ featuring 2015 National Champions, Auckland Grammar School and Aquinas College who have finished runners-up twice in the last four years.
Saint Kentigern College have gone mighty close to winning the Nationals in recent seasons and pushed Sacred Heart in the Auckland final recently. They will be favourites to top Pool D, but MAGS have been a top four Nationals team in the past three years.
Hamilton are vastly improved and stretched Sacred Heart in the quarter finals of the North Island championships while Mount Maunganui are a particularly strong defensive team.
Boys to Watch
Bae Fountain (Mount Maunganui College) - The goalie recently represented the New Zealand senior men’s team. Quick to dive and block in both directions, Fountain has won many matches for the Mount this season with his shot-stopping prowess.
Louie Ferigo (Sacred Heart College) - A prolific goal scorer, Ferigo is a top leader and a major weapon in Sacred Heart’s offense. Ferigo is a New Zealand age group rep.
Billy Simpson (St Kentigern College) - The centre forward is a very strong player with a powerful arm, quick stroke, noise for goal and instincts for putting others in scoring positions.
Pool A: Diocesan School A, St Kentigern College, Baradene College.
Pool B: St Cuthbert’s College A, Mount Maunganui A, St Mary’s College, Auckland.
Pool C: Kristin School, St Cuthbert’s College B, Carmel College, Wellington East.
Pool D: Rangitoto College, Mount Maunganui B, Westlake Girls’ High School, Diocesan School B.
Diocesan School for Girls are the 2018 Auckland champions, but haven’t won the National crown since 2008. St Cuthbert’s are the reigning National champions, losing the Auckland decider by one goal.
Westlake Girls’ High School won the National title three times in a row between 2014 and 2016, but didn’t enjoy a vintage Auckland season finishing fifth.
Rangitoto College were National winners four consecutive times before Westlake. Rangitoto haven’t beaten Dio or St Cuthbert’s this year, but did soundly beat Carmel 4-1 to finish third in Auckland.
It’s hard to see anything but a Dio against St Cuthbert’s decider
Girls to Watch
Bernadette Doyle (St Cuthbert’s) - St Cuthbert’s scored 82 goals in seven round-robin games in Auckland and Doyle was responsible for many of them. The left hander is a quick swimmer, good passer and played for the New Zealand senior women’s team at the 2018 Intercontinental Cup.
Bridget Layburn (Westlake Girls’) - Westlake’s prospects of winning yet another National title will largely depend on the fortunes of the outstanding goalie who recently earned her first cap for the New Zealand seniors.
Morgan McDowall (Diocesan) - The daughter of former All Black Steve McDowall is only Year 11, but has made a huge impression in her three years of playing the sport having already represented the New Zealand senior team. One of the quickest swimmers in Auckland, McDowall has a strong arm and sound grasp of tactics too.
The full draw is here: http://www.waterpolo.org.nz/Events/New-Zealand-Secondary-Senior-Schools-Champion
In June 2016, Ben Gardner returned home from school with a badly swollen knee. No strenuous physical activity or unusual symptoms had signalled this aliment could occur, but it was serious.
“I went to the doctor straight away and was diagnosed with Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Knee or OCD. Don’t ask me how to spell that, but basically the cartilage underneath my knee cap was separating,” the Year 12 student at Sacred Heart College, Auckland recalls.
A knee brace was attached and the prospects of resuming water polo were bleak.
“My rehabilitation took 18 months and has required four surgeries. It was tough,” Gardner complains.
Ben’s father Peter Gardner was one of the first New Zealand players to earn a water polo scholarship to a US university when he represented California State between 1988 and 1990.
Ben says dad’s support and expertise was essential in his recovery.
“Dad is always giving me tips on how to improve my game, but he also understands injuries. He had back and shoulder injuries while he was in the US and had to come home early. He knew exactly what I was going through,” he acclaims.
Gardner eventually returned to the water in October last year at the U16 club Nationals won by his Marist side. Gardner has regained full strength and has enjoyed a rapid ascent.
Last week Gardner played an integral role in Sacred Heart’s recent North Island Secondary School Water Polo Championships success.
Gardner scored two goals in the final against Rangitoto College, which Sacred Heart won by 8-6.
In fact, finding the back of net at the North Island Championships wasn’t an issue at all for the undefeated Sacred Heart outfit. In seven games, Sacred Heart outscored opponents 101-21.
“The score in the final was a fair reflection of the match. It was pretty close and we expect Rangitoto will be tough to beat at Nationals should we play them,” Gardner observes.
What about the other opposition?
“Some of the pool games were very easy. In the semi-finals we beat Saint Kenitgern College 7-3. They are good. We beat Hamilton Boys’ High School in the quarter finals. They have some quality players,” Gardner responds.
Sacred Heart boasts a stacked roster. Patrik Zatko was MVP at the North Island Championships. Harry Finnigan is captain and a New Zealand representative. Louie Ferigo and Bronson Larsen are both NZ Waterpolo representatives and currently reserves for the New Zealand Senior Men's teams second team, which is participating in the World League competition in Auckland this week.
How does Gardner fit alongside this talent?
“I’m like a point guard in basketball. On defence I play centre back and instruct guys where to be while closely marking an opposing player myself. On attack I play point which means I’m generally in the middle of the pool and try and get guys into good positions to score, while occasionally doing so myself,” Gardner answers.
Gardner’s younger sister Holly is also a keen player at Saint Kenitgern College.
Gardner is a keen photographer and has covered National Secondary Schools sevens, football and water polo to a high standard for College Sport Media.
Water Polo coming up:
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