Close finish in Wellington Senior Hawks Cup

The Wellington Senior Hawks Cup has resulted in an incredibly tight finish, with points differential required to separate the teams.

Wellington College, St Patrick’s College and Porirua College competed in the tournament, with teams that featured rapidly improving AFL athletes.

In the first match, St Patrick’s College upset a highly regarded Wellington College, with a performance characterised by clever link play. Their side featured experienced players, including many who played in AFL Secondary School programmes. The final score was 5.1:31 – 2.2:14.

Staying on the field, St Patrick’s College next played Porirua College. While St Patrick’s made much of the early running, Porirua College kicked two late goals. It proved to be the difference between the teams, with Porirua College winning 4.5:29 – 1.5:11.

With one match to play, Porirua College and Wellington College both had a chance to win the tournament. Naitoa and Utu Ah Kuoi, brothers who are both part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme, linked well to build a platform for Wellington College. In the end, the match was the closest of the day, with Wellington College winning 3.4:22 – 2.2:14.

Each team now had one win apiece, meaning the best differential carried the day. This went to Porirua College, with 2nd place going to St Patrick’s College. Cruelly, after their stirring late win, Wellington College were relegated to third place.

Jack Nelson Murray and Francis Pederson, both AFL New Zealand High Performance players, deserve much of the credit for St Patrick’s College’s strong performance. However, it was Korvarn Togiatama who was deservedly awarded the Best on Ground for his team.

From Wellington College, Utu Ah Kuoi was declared Best on Ground. Porirua College’s Best on Ground, Luke Cummings, was also declared Tournament MVP.

Teachers and volunteer coaches played a vital role with the Wellington Senior Hawks Cup. Leading the Wellington College team, Shannon Wall volunteered his time and extensive experience, along with student Hugo Phillips. Porirua College’s Filisione Koloamatangi coached and managed his school’s team.

St Patrick’s College PE teacher Alastair Van Boom managed his school’s team, with AFL New Zealand Wellington Regional Development Manager and former St Patrick’s College student Sam McKenzie assisting in a coaching role.

Porirua College is the former school of Joe Baker-Thomas, now signed to an International Scholarship with the St Kilda Saints. Baker-Thomas was scouted at the 2013 Hawks Cup.

Wellingtonians will see further high-level AFL over the coming months. The Under 16 and Under 18 National Championships are scheduled for March and April respectively.

The St Kilda Saints will also be returning to play their annual ANZAC Day match in Wellington, which will give fans in the capital an opportunity to watch some of the very best players in action. Their opposition in 2014 will be the Brisbane Lions.

Photography by Jun Tanlayco