Tom Wagner on the attack for the New Zealand Secondary Schools Under-19 team. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

FOOTBALL
JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Rathkeale College football stars Tom Wagner and Scott Morris made their mark on foreign soil in the recently completed New Zealand Secondary Schools Under-19 tour of the United States.

The Year 13 first XI players, and former first XI coach Steve Coleman, were all part of the team that went on a six-match tour of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A gruelling schedule meant the team had to play their first match one day after touching down in Los Angeles, and they came up against a strong Loyola Marymount University side.

The New Zealand squad performed admirably, but the jet lag ultimately took its toll as they went down 3-1.

Scott Morris.

The next match was one of the big ones on the tour itinerary – a clash against LA Galaxy’s professional academy.

With the temperature soaring to about 30 degrees Celsius the New Zealand team were always going to be up against it, but they managed to produce an outstanding performance and come away with a 1-1 draw.

The team then headed to San Francisco for the remainder of the trip, and their next game was another huge match against the San Jose Earthquakes Under-19 professional academy.

Morris said the match turned into a “feisty encounter”, but the Kiwi team came away with a 3-2 win.

The next game ended in a 2-1 loss to the Santa Cruz Breakers, but the New Zealand team saved their best for their fifth match against San Jose State University.

Both teams held the ascendancy at different points throughout the match, but the final result was a 5-4 win to New Zealand.

Wagner scored a crucial goal in that match, and said it was one of the highlights of the tour.

“The whole tour gave us a really good perspective of what it’s like to play over there – they’re pro athletes and we had to try and match them.

“They use rolling subs there, so the intensity is really high for the whole match, which is something we weren’t used to from playing at home.”

The team could not sustain their momentum in the sixth and final match, however, as they crashed to a 5-1 loss.

In an online post to the Wairarapa Sports Education Trust, Morris said the disappointment of the final match could not take away from an amazing tour.

“The tour for me was an unforgettable experience and was something that gave me many opportunities to see what the quality of football was like over in America and also how we, as Kiwis, went up against the best in their age groups.

“Overall, the tour was a very successful one for both the team results and for individuals . . . being able to showcase the talent in the team to the college coaches and academy coaches was an opportunity that is very rare.”

Wagner said he made a host of friends from playing in the team, and also said getting the opportunity to visit famous sites like Alcatraz and Universal Studios had made the experience all the more memorable.

Both players wished to thank the trust for funding that had helped them take part in the tour.