Hockey’s tale of two schools


Story courtesy of College Sport Media

Two different schools. Two different titles. Two finals. Two similar stories.

Wellington College and Wellington Girls College both recently enjoyed success with winning their respective Wellington hockey premiership titles. Beyond the wins, there’s plenty similar with their 2023 hockey stories.

With this year’s final win over Wellington East Girls’ College, WGC took their fifth hockey title in a row, having won back-to-back finals since 2019. Prior to 2019, they hadn’t won the championship for 19 years.

Co-captain, Brooke Aiono admits the recent record brings its own pressure.  “Us year 13s, especially, felt it. We just didn’t want to lose, with the crowd, our friends, families and so many schoolgirls behind us. The final was a nerve wrecking experience.”

Adding to the pressure was WEGC scoring early in the first half. For a large part of the game, they showed fortitude to defend their lead. WGC seemed cursed in front of goal. Each failed attempt brought more tension to the occasion. Their passing game was reliable as ever, but they simply could not get the ball in the net.

It took a direct penalty opportunity in the fourth quarter for WGC to finally register a mark on the scoreboard. From there, with minutes remaining and the pressure valve finally released, WGC were able to net two more. Moments of pain quickly became scenes of pure celebration.

Brooke recalls “it was a difficult final. Easts brought a great fight. They were ahead for three-quarters of the game.”

The credit WEGC earned for the way they played will go some way to mend the drubbing they incurred in last year’s final. However, the team in blue would feel they deserved more than praise for the effort they brought to the final.



Immediately after the girl’s game, Wellington College and Hutt International Boys’ School entered the pitch to prepare for their final. Again, it was the return of the same two schools from the 2022 final. HIBS would score first. Again, an early goal in the first half. Again, the pressure was on WC as the defending champions to launch a comeback.

The teams continued their battle through regulation time with nothing separating them at the end. It was 2-2 when the full-time whistle blew. The match would be decided with penalties. In hockey, unlike football, the deciders involve a mobile approach into the shooting area which produces a true 1v1 battle between the attacking penalty taker and the goalkeeper.

Co-captain, Matt Crawford described the final as “a good hard game. We were undefeated during the season. We had won everything in the Wellington league, so this was our only draw. Penalties was something we had done a bit of work on. There was always a chance they would be required. And with Ben, our goalkeeper, our chances would be helped.”

Despite how valiant they played in the final HIBS would again taste disappointment in the hockey finals, this time with a loss in the penalty shootout.   

When asked about their approach to the season, the co-captains of WC and WGC gave similar answers.

For Brooke “there was a different vibe this season. Last year we had key players we could rely on. This year has been about all of us stepping up. Trainings have seen increased emphasis on ball skills. We have freedom to play our game and to be confident on the ball.”

“The focus has been on improving core skills. And making sure we communicate well with each other. Playing the easy passes so that we always retain the ball.”

“Beyond watching lots of game footage, our coaches have been developing ways we can work together. This includes off-the-field. To make sure everyone is engaged and that no one is left behind. It’s really inclusive.”

This is Matt’s fourth year in the First XI. He’s made four Wellington finals and his team now has won four titles in a row. He attributed part of his team’s success this season to “our ability to come together in games. There’s good chemistry. Good unity.”

Next up for both teams are their respective national tournaments.

As part of their preparation WGC have been training with top Wellington club team, Northern United. Brooke describes the experience as fun.

In their hockey traditionals this year, WC, won one (vs Palmerston North Boys High School 2-0) and lost one (vs New Plymouth Boys High School 0-2). The boy’s Rankin and India Cups will be played in Wellington, at the National Hockey Stadium.

Although he has been in the 1stXI for four years, Covid restrictions means this will be only Matt’s second nationals. “Last year we finished ninth, losing 1-0 to St Pauls. But it’s a home tournament. Playing on home turf should help. We need to be grittier. To be successful we need to show more hunger.”

“We have two games on day one against Lindisfarne [Hawke’s Bay] and Whanganui Collegiate. Every game is important. We need to come out of the gate firing.”

In our traditionals we beat Palmerston North Boys’ High School 2-0 but lost to New Plymouth Boys’ High School 0-2.

Rankin Cup and India Shield games are being played at the National Hockey Stadium, all this week. The final is scheduled for Friday, with a 2.00pm start. The Federation Cup and Marie Fry Trophy is being staged in Christchurch.

We wish all Wellington schools participating in Winter hockey tournaments this week, across the country, the best of luck.

Article added: Monday 28 August 2023


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