Strong Year for Wellington Girls’ College Hockey

A focus on team culture and a change in playing structure paid off for Wellington Girls’ Hockey First XI this season – unbeaten all year and winners of the College Sport Wellington Girls Team of the Year award at Sunday night’s SPOTYS.

Wellington Girls’ College defended their Wellington Premier One title and won the Lower North Island tournament that ran as a replacement to the traditional NZSS Federation Cup/Marie Fry and Jenny Hair Cup tournaments in 2020 due to Covid-19.

This was a tournament that included 12 of the leading girls hockey schools from Wellington, Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Whanganui and Taranaki.

They beat Wairarapa College in the final, an obvious season highlight explained co-captain and central defender Lesina Pereira.

“We had two goals scored against us all tournament and our final against Wairarapa College was a bit of an unknown as they played in the Manawatu competition this year and this was our first game against them in 2020.”

The final was a tense affair early on, with scores locked at 0-0 at halftime, before Wellington Girls’ scored four second half goals and won 4-0.

“We also beat Palmerston North Girls’ High School in the final, whom we had never beaten before [in the modern era at least], as every year we have a traditional against them and we had never beat them. Palmerston North Girls’ were the only team that scored goals against us.”

Wellington Girls’ only conceded three goals all year in 2020 and scored over 90 themselves.

Returning home to complete the local Premier One competition, Wellington Girls’ went on to defend their title with a 9-0 win over Paraparaumu College in the final. They had beaten Paraparaumu 2-0 and 6-0 in previous meetings this year.

Why the purple patch in form?

“Our coach Riley introduced a new playing structure for us this year and we were struggling with it at the beginning of the season, but just before tournament we played a game with it against Paraparaumu and it all clicked. When we went to tournament it just helped our game so much, because it is not a common structure.”

A happy team culture also reflected the age mix of the team.

“This year we had six year 13s so added experience, but also a group of younger players made up of five year 12s, three year 11s and one year 10, and we gelled really well.”

That year 10 player was Amy McHardy, who was also the 2020 Junior Girls CSW Regional 1500m track running champion and 2020 CSW Intermediate Girls cross country champion.

“The Second XI team is going to be playing top teams from other schools in the Premier Two grade, so they gain experience there.”

This year Wellington Girls’ fielded seven hockey teams, so the sport is riding high and the future is bright.

Lesina is leaving school this year, along with co-captain and midfielder Sorita Pho. Sorita won the Girls hockey Player of the Year at the awards on Sunday night.

But a group of players returning will be spearheaded by midfielder and striker Ruby Baker, who was named in the New Zealand U18 squad in 2019 as a year 11.

As well as the school leavers, Riley Jennings stepped down as head coach at the end of this season after five years.

Before this year, he took the team to victory at the Jenny Hair national tournament in 2018, which earned them promotion to the elite top tier tournament where they finished a credible 13th at the Federation Cup in 2019.

Also last year, they won the Premier One Wellington title for the first time in 19 years. In 2000 they drew the final, so it was their first outright title since 1998.

“Riley is going to Christchurch, and our assistant coach this year, Finn O’Connor, is going to be the head coach in 2021.”

Wellington Girls’ College First XI squad list

Ruby Baker
Zara Beard
Seleena Bhana
Jess Davenport
Abby Draper
Mathilde Gleissner
Kate Kominik Fraser
Juliet Leslie
Amy McHardy
Cara Penetito
Lesina Pereira (co-captain)
Riana Pho
Sorita Pho (co-captain)
Eleanor White
Amy Wills
Katherine Winter


-Story courtesy of College Sport Media