Challenge laid down for Nayland, Nelson
A recent run of sunny days has seen the football pitches at Saxton Field hit pristine condition in time to host what is likely the largest football tournament in New Zealand.
Thirty top college football teams will arrive in Nelson over the weekend, joining the two local qualifiers. They are here as part of the New Zealand secondary schools tournament week to contest the Lotto Premier Cup, Bowl and Plate.
Nelson will have representation from two teams, the traditional powerhouses of college football in the region. Nayland College will start in the top 16 while Nelson College are placed in the bottom 16, and cannot win the cup competition.
In the final regional qualifying match last month Nayland College beat Nelson College 2-1 on the front field to take top spot. Despite finishing ninth and sixth in the last two years, Nelson College were not granted a wildcard spot in the top 16.
Dave Shaw, coach of the Nelson College First XI said his side will bring some good form but the "box of chocolates" pattern was prevalent at these tournaments . . . you never know what you're going to get.
"We have played Francis Douglas previously but not the others [in our pool] and don't, at this stage, know too much about them, which is often the case with the secondary schools.
"Teams tend to go in cycles, particularly with the smaller, less football-orientated schools.
"The lads' form going into the competition has been good generally.
"To be fair, I think their performances all year have been encouraging, if maybe not the results, but the last month they have been much sounder defensively and have been unbeaten in the last three [men's division one matches], so hopefully they can take that into the competition."
Brendan Crichton said his Nayland College First XI side have had a reasonable buildup, with games in Christchurch against Burnside High School and Cashmere High School as well as a couple of hit-outs against Golden Bay and Waimea College since the qualifying games.
"This year we are a very young team in age and experience but we are tight and have combined and played well as a team," said Crichton.
"Nayland has a particularly strong pool; to me it is the hardest on paper, to get out of the pool with a top-two placing would be a fantastic effort. I can see that over the first two days every match will be like a cup final.
"A big focus for Nayland is to continue the history we have created over the past 10 years in football at a national level and do the Nayland Old Boys proud. It sounds a bit flowery, I know, but this is important to the players, management and school."
The tournament begins on Monday with a full day of finals set for Friday. Every team will place from 1 to 32. For the first three days 24 matches will be played each day. The majority will be played on Saxton Field with Avery Field and Ngawhatu being used as reserves.
Clive Beaumont, general manager of Nelson Bays Football, said the tournament would be of a high standard.
"There will probably be 800-900 people coming to the region - it's the biggest football tournament in the country. We hosted the event in its current format in 2009 and were given great reviews about our hosting ability and we are hoping to surpass that."
Along with local referees and some travelling from Christchurch, the New Zealand Football Academy of Referees will also be in Nelson for the event providing expert officiating. Beaumont said the academy referees would help to produce a very professional tournament.
Squads for NZSS Lotto Championships:
Nayland College First XI: Zaimon Sansom, Josh Sansom, Lency Norman, Matson Fenny, Bjorn Van Ginkel, Izaak Cunningham, Zek Brown, Fletcher Slierendrecht, Sean Scott, Willow Milligan, Neil Mason, Danny Hampton, Riley Haymes, Keegan Jeffries, Jack Knowles, Sam Maxwell (C).
Nelson College First XI: Jordon MacMillan, Joe Krinkel, Hal Fish, Harry Tod-Smith, Daniel Allen, Andrew Baxendine, Lian Cinzah, Vincent Whittington, Jamane Wilson-Duggan, George Kaikui, Philip Tunepa, Joel Harden, Ben Abel-Jacksties, Jonty Andrews, Tom Graham, Jared Kirk.
- The Nelson Mail