Wairarapa College’s Ed de Lara-Bell has possession of the ball with Jackson Burling in support against Rongotai. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
After nine years of trying, the Wairarapa College First XI boys’ football team have achieved their long-held ambition of playing premier football.
Waicol have won three of their four grading games to date to qualify for the Wellington premier division with a match to spare.
Assistant principal and head coach Aaron Perkins has been with the team since they first joined College Sport Wellington in 2009 and said it had been a long time coming.
“Last year, I picked a team on a bit of a two-year plan for this year.
“Our goal at the start of this year was to see if we could break into the premier grade – maybe through a promotion-relegation match – but with a game in hand, we’ve already qualified.”
Waicol started their grading campaign with a 4-9 loss to Hutt International Boys’ School but since then have had wins against Rongotai College [2-1], Onslow College [3-1] and Scots College [1-0].
Their final grading match will be against Rathkeale College on Saturday and a win would see Rathkeale eliminated from the race for premier football in 2018.
Perkins said there would be plenty of benefits to playing in the premier grade.
“I think it was a bit of a shock that we made it – probably more for the other schools – but it’s something we’re really stoked about.
“It means we’ll be challenged all year against schools we’ve never played against before – every week we’ll have a real challenge.”
He said it would help the school’s football development and was thankful they had planned ahead during the 2017 season.
“We picked a team looking forward to this year and only losing two or three players from last year meant we were well advanced this year.
“We did a more intense pre-season training and fitness regime and when you get to premier grading your season is on the line in the first five weeks.”
It is still early days, but Perkins said they would sit down as a group and plan out what they wanted to achieve in the upcoming campaign.
“For us, we’re trying to be competitive.
“Realistically, our first goal was to make the premier grade and now that we have, we’ll probably be looking to be as competitive as we can and aiming for a mid-table finish if possible.”
There will be eight teams in the premier division with all teams playing each other once in the first round.
In the second round, they will split into top four and bottom four.
Perkins said his players were looking forward to facing the challenge head-on.
“They’re quite content because they’ve beaten three schools we haven’t played before and, in all honesty, we deserved to win all of those games.
“It’s a great bunch of boys and a great bunch of families which is what you need in school sport.”
Perkins said the move to premier football meant all of Waicol’s teams across the major winter codes would be playing in premier divisions which was a significant achievement for the school.