What a weekend. Where to start.
The 13th grade Sharks headed to Taupo for their 4th Annual appearance at the McCartney tournament on Friday 10th October. We had the whole 13-man squad and a highly capable addition in Baker Christie. The only one concern was that 5 of the boys had spent a week on a very intensive, two sessions a day National Talent Centre camp at Rathkeale in Masterton. Could they survive three games a day for the next two days? (More on that…)
We have had some shocking conditions in Taupo over the years, this weekend the weather was nigh on perfect.
Saturday morning – Game 1 – Karori. Karori started brightly with a Phoenix Academy prodigy looking to impose himself. Enter Reuben Andrews who marked him magnificently and dominated that particular contest. As the game wore on the boys began to dominate and the final result was a 4-2 victory. The Sharks owned midfield and had some impressive combos going down the left with Reagan and Henry, and down the right with Xavier and Will. Unfortunately, this was to be the last game for goalkeeper Fred who picked up a nasty foot injury.
Game 2 was against Hereworth from Hastings. While coming up against an exceptional goalkeeper, the lads really did dominate this game ultimately running out 5 – 1 winners.
Game 3 was against Mount Spurs – a big, strong, fast and physical side. It was route 1, but practised and before the boys had really woken up we were 2 – 0 down. Well, what a turn around – every single player “manned-up” and despite the size difference, we started to win the physical contest. Henry nearly lost his legs more than once and Finn and Fletcher started to boss the midfield. Then the skill factor took over. The pace of Henry, Callan and Will really troubled them. However despite some wonderful creativity, we could only pull one back. They scored with their huge centre back from a corner in the last minute. Final score: lost 3-1. Boys were a bit down but justifiably proud of a fierce performance.
Now you’d think they’d just want to slow down, take it easy and relax – but no. Most went straight to deBretts, and later that night we all got together for the annual BBQ – a great night for parents and kids to hang out.
Sunday 12th – Game 4 was at 9.15 – despite being very sick the night before, Regan was back on board but this was offset by Xavier aggravating his Achilles injury. And so was borne the comedy duo of Fred and Xavier who did their best to keep the boys entertained and well supported (in between some friendly flirting with numerous young women within the vicinity).
The Game was against Papakura Chelsea , who like the Mount were strong and fast and route 1. We created so many chances it could have been 8 – 2. In the end we won 3 – 1 despite some (attempted) Auckland intimidation. A triumph of football skill over physicality. To put the win in context, Papakura only conceded 3 goals in the weekend.
Game 5 – against Bay Olympic. To be honest, a bit of a mismatch as they were a Grade 12 team. However, it is telling about our boy’s attitude and professionalism. We were 3 – 0 up and cruising but knew that goal difference might count and we ran out 9 – 0 winners. Credit to an out-classed opposition who never gave up and to the Sharks who were never arrogant.
Last Game – against Waitakere Gray. A win here would give us an opportunity to win the tournament but we needed Mount to draw or lose. (What is it about these Northern teams? Yes, you guessed it: big, strong, physical and route 1.) They never knew what hit them. Pace, skill, support, (better) finishing, team-work. So much credit goes to our kids – they played all the football (and I thought that Steff had one of his best games of the season) and ignored the niggle that they received as their dominance grew.
Mount drew their last game and our boys were CHAMPIONS.
While it was a full 15 man performance, I need to commend the 4 National Training Camp (NTC) (outfield) players: Sean Lane-Turnbull, Finn O’Connor, Fletcher Wong and Henry Hamilton, for putting in the level of energy and commitment in that last game after the previous 6 days exertions. I don’t know how they did it but they did. Special mention should also go to Gianni for stepping into the goalkeeping gloves when Fred was injured – great job.
Sean Lane-Turnbull (c), Reuben Andrews, Julius Searancke, Reagan Sommerville, Henry Hamilton, Finn O’Connor, Fletcher Wong, Will Simonsen, Callan Rohtmets, Gianni Darroch, Stefan Chmielewski, Xavier Paine, Fred Schwarz, Baker Christie and Boston Christie
A triumph of attacking flare and skill over anything that was thrown at them.
These young men were a credit to themselves, their families and their club. This leads me to a couple of observations. It was great to see these guys support and be supported by the Grade 14 team of Mike Ashby and by the Flames and especially the Flames Cheerleading Squad (the Sharkettes?)who yelled and cheered throughout the final game. Also worthy of special mention is Baker who was a fantastic addition – slotting seamlessly into the squad and contributing like he had been with the team all year, and his big brother Boston who, in-between playing up front for the U14’s, was fantastic in goal for us – thank you to both the Christie boys.
Finally, thanks to all the parents and supporters who made this a fantastic weekend: to Kevin for getting the boys stretched and warmed up before every game, to Russell who kept the player rotation going so well, to Paul for the tent and Alistair for the BBQ, to Jason, Rob, Paul and Jan for hosting Saturdays function and to Jan for reffing.
If I have missed anyone – apologies!
See you next year – GO SHARKS