Saturday, 17 November 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

A solid hockey foundation

By Meg Tatton-Brown

After a significant drop in interest in 2015, no team from Mercury Bay participated in any of the Thames Valley Hockey Association competitions during 2016 and 2017. That changed the beginning of this year when Rachel Smith, a Whenuakite School parent, asked fellow Whenuakite parent, Shane Rasmusen, if he was interested in coaching a Mercury Bay hockey team. Shane used to play competitive hockey and is an experienced coach.

“I immediately told Rachel that I would do it,” says Shane. “And I’m very glad I did. It was an exceptional season for our team.”

Rachel is a mother of four. She contacted Shane because three of her children were keen to play hockey as a winter sport.

The “Red Sticks” was a mixed boys and girls team made up of a group of 14 regular players. “We competed in the Thames Valley Year 7 and 8 hockey competition this year,” says Shane. “Some of our players were quite young and we’ve had to ask for dispensation for one player who was older than 13 years of age. A total of 10 teams played in the competition.

“Our players mostly came from Whenuakite School, but we’ve had a few from Mercury Bay Area School join in as well.”

The team name came from the players’ red uniforms, made available to them by Whenuakite School. The team trained once a week on the small astro turf at Whenuakite School. Of the 14 students in the team, only one had previous experience playing hockey.

Competition games were all played in Ngatea, mostly on Saturday afternoons, but a few Friday evening games were played as well. The Red Sticks ultimately finished eighth in the competition. “Our place on the leaderboard was by no means a reflection of the quality of the hockey we played,” says Shane. “The team was nothing short of inspirational. We won games, we lost games and we drew games, but they were all close affairs. We didn’t lose any games by any kind of runaway score.

“Our players’ enthusiasm and dedication were absolutely outstanding. Make no mistake, they were up against the odds. No experience, inadequate training facilities and a lot of travelling, but nothing deterred them.

“Their true passion for hockey is reflected in the fact that eight of them tried out for Thames Valley representative teams after the regular hockey season and all eight of them were selected.

“In addition, at the recent Thames Valley Hockey Association prize-giving two of our players received awards. Quinn Smith got the ‘Most Promising’ award and Holly Smith the ‘Best team Member’ award.”

During the spring school holidays, the Red Sticks selected for the Thames Valley Under 13 teams played in national tournaments. The boys played in Nelson and the girls played in Rotorua. One of the Red Sticks was selected for the Thames Valley Under 15 Girls team. She has also played in a national tournament in Carterton.

Both Shane and Rachel look forward to another enjoyable hockey season next year. “This year has provided us with a very solid foundation,” says Shane. “We have a core group of highly motivated and dedicated players and most of them have learned a huge amount at the national tournaments they participated in during the winter school holidays. We hope more hockey players will sign up next year. Who knows, with more players, we may one day end up getting a full size astro turf of our own somewhere in Mercury Bay.

“Rachel and I have both had a lot of fun this year. We can’t wait to jump into next year - hockey sticks at the ready!”

Pictured are the Mercury Bay Red Sticks hockey team. Back, from left to right - Jack Fiddler, Che Simmonds, Shane Rasmusen (coach), Holly Smith, Mateo Niclas, Quinn Smith, Will Lockhart and Rachel Smith (manager). Middle, from left to right - Hugo Smith de Zeeuw, Pippa McEwen, Makaylah Hull, Kitana Bartlett, Aliza Niclas and Carlotta Ward. Front - Avalon Smith (left) and Lily McEwen.

 

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.