A footballing showdown made with 20 years of experience.


Story courtesy of College Sport Media

The College Sport Wellington Football Finals programme starts tonight with Hutt Valley High School looking to retain the Capital Football Trophy. This year they will face Wellington Girls’ College in the final.



The clash adds a new chapter to the friendly rival that exists between the coaches of the two First XIs. Both Mark Oates (HVHS) and Ben Frean (WGC) have coached their respective teams for 10 years. This is the third time that the two will meet in the final. Currently the rubber is tied one-each.

This year’s meeting has a twist as Ben has decided to step down from coaching at the end of the season. He no doubt will want to leave on a high note, but he knows he faces a tough assignment.

The two schools have already met in group play, a fixture that HVHS won 2-0 at Wakefield Park only a few weeks back. When asked about that match both coaches gave identical responses. That it came down to key moments and that the result could have gone either way. Then there is also HVHS’ record. If Mark’s records are correct, the team have won 22 of their last 23 College Sport Wellington fixtures with the other result being a draw.

At the start of the competition, Mark was targeting a fourth or fifth place spot in the table. After losing six players from last year’s competition winning team, he’s been delighted with how young players have come through. HVHS finishing top of the table was a surprise for him. “The results have exceeded all expectations. We had to change our formation, but our approach of pressing and wanting to win the ball quickly has remained the same.”

WGC were driven to make the final after having missed out last year. Ben says “there has been a good vibe to the team this year. It has been a fun year. They are good listeners and the messaging to the team has been consistent. We have got to front up. I always say football doesn’t build character it reveals it.”

Similar to Mark, Ben wants WGC to apply pressure and “show urgency in closing space when we don’t have ball.” He knows “HVHS are a good passing team, and their keeper is an excellent shot stopper.”



Ben states the team is “glad to be in the final. We had a healthy respect for all the teams we played, this year. We had to be play well to beat those teams.” He summarises the difference as being “consistency – the top teams were able to play at a good level throughout the season.”

Mark admits that HVHS’ planning for the final is “80 percent about us and 20 percent about how Wellington Girls’ might play. It’s difficult to guess how they will approach this game. They might bring something new or unexpected. We don’t even know what combinations they will field”.

Interestingly, even though they won last year’s finals with penalties against Wellington East Girls’ College, this has not been a major focus for HVHS. “It takes a certain amount of bravery to step up for a penalty. You need to be in the right mindset. It is difficult to replicate that pressure situation and difficult to train”. Mark hasn’t even prepared a list of penalty takers. If penalties arise, he will check in with the players to see how they feel and then decide accordingly.

Wellington Girls’ College lost their semi-final against Easts in 2022, on penalties. As such, they’ve done some work on spot kicks in prior trainings. Ben claims “if you hit it wide off the keeper and you hit it hard enough, it will go in.”

WGC’s training this week will be disrupted as Capital Football are staging their rep trials. As he steps down from coaching, Ben shares a concern that “College football is losing its place, which is a shame as players should be proud of representing their school”. The pressure is on young players to prioritise playing for their club. This can often be a year-round commitment which makes finding time to play football for a school team too hard.

Ben adds “Maybe it is because we didn’t make the final last year, that our players have brought into unity. We normally have players from four or more different clubs in our team.” So, there can exist an element of rivalry within the squad. “This year I didn’t appoint a permanent captain. Players have earnt the right to be captain on a week-by-week basis. Shared leadership responsibilities have also helped bring the team together.”



Most the players in the HVHS squad are from the Petone club and are familiar with playing football together. “We have four players in the Phoenix Academy. They have been supportive of school’s football.” Mark feels they have a good relationship with the Academy.

Mark concludes by telling us about a young Year 9 player who is in the First XI. “She watched our final last year, before she even started here at Hutt High. She became inspired to play a final for HVHS. On Wednesday she will be in the starting eleven.”

Capital Football Trophy. Hutt Valley High School vs Wellington Girls College. Petone Memorial, 16 August 2023, kick-off 7.00pm.  

Article added: Wednesday 16 August 2023


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