Hockey players tickled pink

Two Waipā schools achieved top-three finishes at the 2024 Waikato Intermediate and Middle Schools tournament in Hamilton this week.

The annual tournament, held at Gallagher Hockey Centre on May 28, attracted eight mixed teams this year.

Cambridge Middle School got off to a flying start in pool play, defeating Berkley Normal Middle School 6-0.

Their coach, Stephen Butcher, also began the day with sparkle, supporting the tournament’s “good vibes only” philosophy by pulling on a pink hi-vis vest and tutu to match the pink cap and rainbow socks he had arrived in.

“Pink’s my favourite colour,” he said.

Butcher said his year 7 and 8 players had taken a while to settle in but had supported each other well.

“Once they got that first goal they all relaxed,” he said.

His team impressed again in round two, dispatching defending champions Rototuna Junior High School 3-0.

“When we moved the ball and supported the ball carrier it was effortless and we made it look easy,” Butcher said.

Wrapping up pool play by beating Matamata Intermediate 5-1, Cambridge advanced to a semifinal against Te Awamutu and beat their Waipā rivals 5-1.

Butcher said the team had put the match to bed in the first half.

“They played really well, applied good pressure and were starting to exploit the space in behind the defence,” he said.

Interviewed before the final against Fairfield Intermediate, Cambridge goalkeeper Freddie Fulforth was feeling “really good”.

“I’m just nervous because we lost in the final last year,” he said.

“I was two all, then we had a penalty shootout. We didn’t even know that was in the rules, we weren’t prepared and so we lost. The strikers hit too early and I slid too early; I just wasn’t prepared.”

Hockey coach Stephen Butcher and his wife Nadine celebrate a successful day at Gallagher Hockey Centre in Hamilton.

The final began at 1pm and Cambridge conceded a penalty just three minutes in, going down 1-0, before Darcy Jenkins streaked up the right wing and crossed to Taane Young, who levelled the score.

Jenkins broke through for Cambridge again a few minutes into the second half, surging up the middle and smashing the ball past the goalkeeper.

Four minutes later, Cambridge’s player of the day Benji Lee created another chance with a powerful cross-field pass to Young, who showed superb control to chip the ball over a defender’s stick and lift it into the goal.

Young featured again in the final minutes of the match, blasting down the right wing to fire a smooth cross along the deck to a composed Brody Urbahn, who connected with perfect timing to send the ball past the keeper.

Cambridge player Emily Cameron, said it had been “really fun” playing in the final and praised Butcher and his wife Nadine.

“They are really good coaches,” she said.

With a 4-1 victory in the bag, Cambridge finished their day by watching Te Awamutu defeat Matamata in a sudden death penalty shootout to take third place overall.

Cambridge Middle School’s 2024 Waikato Intermediate and Middle Schools hockey tournament champions. Back row (from left): Cruz Morgenrood, Anaam Sandhu, Navvir Sing Kang, coach Stephen Butcher, Zebe Rippey, Emily Cameron and team manager Nadine Butcher. Front row (from left): Abheyjot Kaura, goalkeeper Freddie Fulforth, Taane Young, Benji Lee, Colin Johnston, Brody Urbahn, captain Darcy Jenkins and teacher Tia Robinson.

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