North Harbour and Canterbury have emerged as the favourites in the Vantage National Under-18 Men’s tournament while Auckland are leading the charge in the women’s competition as we head into the play-offs today.
In the men’s tournament at Hamilton’s Gallagher Hockey Centre, Canterbury will face Otago in one semifinal today after Otago came from behind to beat Waikato 2-1 yesterday to win their pool thanks to strong efforts from co-captains Patrick Ward and Benji Culhane. Leading the way for Canterbury have been Adam Redway with six goals and their captain Charlie Swan in the midfield.
North Harbour will play Hawke’s Bay in the other semifinal after the Bay held off Auckland 1-0 yesterday to win their pool with Jonty Elmes topping the goal-scoring table with eight goals including six from penalty corners. Harbour’s top goal-scorers have been Keenan Bhikha (six), and Scott Cosslett and Kevin Wei (five each).
Twenty teams have been competing in Hamilton for the Paul Ackerley Memorial Trophy – named after the 1976 Olympic gold medallist and former Black Sticks women’s coach who passed away in 2011 after a short illness.
Meanwhile in the women’s tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Wellington, Auckland Blue is the only side to come out of pool play with maximum points with midfielders Emma Irwin and Neve Ferguson driving their team’s efforts.
Auckland Blue will play Waikato in one semifinal, with Waikato sneaking in on goal difference after a 1-1 draw with Wellington yesterday. Captain Molly Davis and Jaimee Eades have looked strong for Waikato.
North Harbour will face Canterbury in the other semifinal, with Canterbury also making the play-offs on goal difference from Hawke’s Bay. Angelia Ballhorn and Arabella Irwin have been the stars for Harbour while Niamh McKenzie (six) and Hayley McKellow (five) have led Canterbury’s goal-scoring efforts.
Twenty one teams are competing in the women’s tournament for the Amanda Hooper Memorial Trophy – named after the former Black Stick who was tragically killed in the Christchurch earthquake.
The two Under-18 tournaments saw the return of Association-based competitions for the first time in over a decade, with the Under-18s now the first age-group tournament opportunities for players, umpires, coaches and managers to perform on the national stage.