Hannah Donald in action for the Wairarapa College girls’ first XI. PHOTO/JAMES CRAWLEY

HOCKEY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

A draw against rivals St Matthew’s Collegiate was enough for the Wairarapa College first XI girls’ hockey team to earn home advantage for this week’s hockey grading playoff match in the Wellington premier 1 division.

Waicol took on the St Matthew’s Collegiate first XI at Clareville on Friday night, with both teams vying for top spot in Pool B.

Both teams were unbeaten through the first two rounds of grading, but Waicol had the advantage after securing one extra bonus point in the process.

That meant defending champions St Matthew’s needed to win to leapfrog their rivals into top spot on the ladder.

A 1-1 draw ensured Waicol would stay in pole position and will get to host the runners-up from Pool A, Wellington Girls’ College, this Friday at Clareville.

For St Matthew’s, they will head to the National Hockey Stadium in Wellington to take on the winners of Pool A, Queen Margaret College.

That will be a rematch of last year’s premier 1 final, which St Matthew’s won 1-0.

Should both teams win on Friday, they will meet again next week in the grading final.

St Matthew’s coach Phil Hall said they were sitting in a good position.

“We haven’t lost in the grading round yet.

“This time last year we were in the bottom four and then went through and won the competition, so we’re on target for our goals – it’s looking good.”

He said a strong player base had enabled them to produce consistent results in the last few seasons.

“Each year we always lose around four players, and that’s what we had last year.

“We have a structured development programme at the school which is helping the firsts and the seconds – we don’t have the ups and downs like we used to have.”

There would be added pressure after winning the competition last year, but that was something they would just have to adapt to.

“It’s all about starting new with the new group and setting the goals within that group.

“There’s a bit more pressure because we’re classed as a team to beat.”

In boys’ premier 1 grading, Waicol did enough to sneak into second spot in Pool A after beating Onslow College 6-0 on Friday.

Things have not gone to plan for the Rathkeale College First XI through the grading rounds, and they slumped to a third defeat on Friday against Wellington College.