Underdogs’ thrilling run

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Central Otago hockey youngsters are celebrating their best result in the Collier Trophy since the competition began – more than 80 years ago.

The U13 girls’ side, which includes four Queenstowners, finished runners-up in the week-long national tournament, held in North Harbour, Auckland.

A thrilling run to the grand final saw the underdogs beat Auckland, Northland, Eastern Southland and Bay of Plenty.

But the 15-strong team lost the final 2-0 against favourites Canterbury.

Assistant coach Rachel Prendergast says: “The competition has been running since about 1935 and the highest Central Otago has placed previously is sixth – in the early 1990s.

“We definitely went in as underdogs. We were hoping to get top eight, so it was a fantastic result.

The team spent 10 weeks preparing for last week’s 22-province showdown, practising at the hockey facility in Cromwell and playing four mini build-up tournaments.

Knock-out matches against Northland in the quarters and Auckland in the semis were nail-biters.

Central won 3-2 in a shoot-out against Northland after a -0 match, and scored against Auckland in extra time ‘drop offs’ to win 2-1.

“I think it was down to the cohesiveness of the team.

“The girls really got along well together. It was about team spirit but also good technique.”

Prendergast says the girls weren’t “overly disappointed” to lose the final, after playing a clean, tidy and fair game.

“They were just so excited to be playing in the final. The whole week was a really great experience for them.”

Queenstown players were Sammy Fookes, Abby Fookes, Phoebe O’Donnell and Abbey Ragg.

Wanaka’s Billie Crowe and Cromwell’s Amy Winter and Natalia Geneblaza were also on the team, coached by Geraldine Duncan and managed by Tash Kane, along with seven players from Maniototo and one from Matakanui.

Meanwhile, U13 Central Otago Boys finished 19th in the equivalent 2018 Under 13 Boys Hatch Cup, held in Nelson.

ed@scene.co.nz