Thursday 20 March saw 16 under-17 players and their coaches, medic and manager, board a flight to Auckland to take part in the U17 National Tournament.
Collecting bags, rental vans and checking into hotel rooms meant the players didn’t get to bed until 11pm, but true to form they were up and running Friday morning for our 1st pool game against a very physical team from Three Kings. A 2:0 loss was a disappointing start, but a ‘motivational talk’ from the coaches saw the girls’ chins back up for our next pool game against Papatoetoe. Once again a very physical game, very similar style of play to the previous Auckland team, but this time our girls held their own; final score 1:1 draw.
Saturday morning and our final game in the pool round. Playing on the somewhat less groomed pitch at Western Springs High School was like a home-coming for the girls – almost as many dips and lumps as Awakairangi! A 1:0 win over East Coast Bays!
Unfortunately the low scoring games put us into the Bowl quarter finals.
Both coaches and players treated every game as a Championship Final and we took out Eastern Suburbs with a convincing 4:0 win. The bad news was our amazing goalie Jemma pulling up with nasty pain and swelling to her knee. Fast intervention from medic Diane, ice and strapping and lots of crossed fingers!!
That afternoon a well deserved dip at the Erin Point Swimming Pools restored sore muscles and flagging energy. A lovely meal and an early(ish) night, and everyone was back on deck for an 8.30am kick off semi-final.
Sunday, the final day of competition. The on-site physio worked on Jemma for 30min and gave her the all clear to play as able. The result was a very intense game with our defenders trying to protect the goal mouth – and Jemma – as much as possible. Final score 1:0 win after extra time.
Ninety minutes later we were back on the pitch for the Woman’s Bowl final against the home team, Western Springs. The Upper Hutt girls had amazing support from our old foes Stop Out and new friends and hotel-mates Richmond Athletic (Boys) team as well as the many parents who had travelled up for the weekend. The result was a final worthy of the A-League with every play cheered on and every miss heartfelt.
Full time score 2:2, extra time score still 2:2 and we were set for a penalty shoot out – final score P2:P3 to Western Springs.
Although the relatively young age of our players was very evident when on the field (we found out while there that most teams had guest-players and their full allowance of players with dispensation for age) we all felt the girls played exceedingly well. Their training and talent, mixed with determination and a never say die attitude got them through some very tough competition. The ‘team bond’ forged over the years of Dev Squad and reinforced with car washes etc meant a very enjoyable tournament for all the adults involved. While some after-hours antics were expected – and eventuated, the girls were on the whole very well behaved, respectful and polite. This was even commented on from the hotel staff!
Thanks must go to the Club for financial support through the grant. To Aaron Malloch for the fabulous new playing strip; to Phil, Mike and Diane for being so very generous with their time, the families who supported us with the car washes and other fundraising and last but certainly not least to Lorraine for her ‘behind the scenes’ organization and support. Her network of contacts is invaluable!
This was a wonderful opportunity for our girls and I would strongly support sending a team again in the future. I believe with another year of growth and training our girls could easily be bringing home some silverware next year.
Marie Wallis (Manager)
Check out loads of pics from the tournament in our Gallery (thanks to JLSPhotographs.com)