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
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