National champions, regional champions, promotions and unbeaten seasons make for a satisfying year reporting on local sport. CHRIS COGDALE looks back on the teams that were the movers and shakers in 2024.
ST MATTHEW’S CRICKET
It took until the end of the year to add the cherry on top of a pretty good year for Wairarapa sport, and what a beauty it was with St Matthew’s nabbing a rare national title for our region.
St Matt’s belied their status as easily the smallest school at the Gillette Venus Cup secondary schoolgirls’ cricket championship, going through the tournament as the only unbeaten team.
Led by the insanely talented Emma McLeod, who scored the only two centuries in the history of the tournament, St Matt’s outplayed all opponents. However, there was much more to this team than one player, with Vanessa Taylor, Sally Booth, Fran Wells, and Ava Register also shining, and combined with being the best fielding outfit, St Matt’s were a cut above the rest.
The creme de la creme – the gold medal winners!
The silver medal goes to Farriers Dalefield, whose championship-winning experience shone through when they needed it most.
In a cutthroat Wellington premier competition, which saw only the top two teams qualify for the playoffs, Dalefield timed their run perfectly and peaked at precisely the right time, winning a thrilling final 3–2 and wrecking Northern United’s hopes of an unbeaten season.
It was Dalefield’s fifth championship victory in the eight seasons since their return to the Wellington competitions.
However, their male counterparts fell short of glory, going down 7–5 in a bizarre high-scoring final with bitter rivals Hutt United.
In a photo finish, Copthorne Wairarapa Bush take the bronze medal after making the semifinals of the Heartland Championship Lochore Cup.
In a much improved first season under the coaching of former NZ Māori international Reece Robinson, Wai-Bush finished the round-robin with a four-win, four-loss record and earned a home semifinal.
However, the inconsistencies that dogged the team throughout the season returned in a dreadful defensive effort in the first half, and despite a strong second 40 minutes, they couldn’t overhaul the big deficit, losing 33–27 to eventual champions West Coast. Other Notable Achievements
Wairarapa’s two teams in the strong Capital Football leagues won promotion!
Tumu Douglas Villa, under the astute coaching of Mark Taylor, finished second behind a powerful Wellington Marist side in Division Two and won promotion to Division One for next year.
Not to be outdone, Greyfriars Motel Greytown won their second straight promotion after finishing runners-up in the third division and will make the big step up to Division Two.
Wairarapa United flew the flag in the Capital women’s leagues, finishing meritorious runners-up in Division One behind Miramar Rangers.
Carterton Redbacks completed a second consecutive unbeaten season in the local league first division, but their incredible unbeaten run of 35 games stretching back to July 2021 ended with a 3–1 loss to DV Skulls in the Wairarapa Cup knockout final.
Carterton lifted the ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup as Wai-Bush rugby premier champs for the second year in a row in a dramatic final over old foes Greytown. The decider looked destined for extra time, with the scores tied at 26–26 until a last-minute penalty gave Ben Brooking the chance to steal the victory, and he held his nerve to break Greytown’s hearts.
The Wai-Bush women showed massive improvement and finished a credible third in the inaugural North Island Heartland competition, with a try to captain Lisa Te Moananui with time up to snatch a 12–10 win over Thames Valley.
Celtic United completed an unbeaten season in Holmes Construction Wairarapa Premier One Netball. Their dominance was highlighted in the final, in which they outplayed two-time defending champions Wairarapa College 35–21.
Waicol also finished a meritorious 11th of 32 teams in a strong A Grade at the Lower North Island Netball Championships. St Matthew’s will join Waicol in the top division next year after finishing runners-up in the B Grade.
St Matthew’s made it two in a row in the Manawatū Intercity Secondary Schoolgirls Division One Championship, winning a high-scoring final 6–5 over Feilding High School.
Gladstone did the double in Wairarapa local leagues. The Bulls defeated Carterton Vets 3–1, and Gladstone Gold won a shootout 2–1 over Dalefield in the women’s division one final.
Post Office Hotel Wairarapa showed enough to suggest they could push for a Hawke Cup challenge with a rare first-innings win over Manawatū, followed by another against Whanganui, and the Southey Sayer Wairarapa Korus are two from three in the women’s Shrimpton Trophy competition heading into the break.