A tournament that began in 2011 to give Year 9 and 10 boys competitive experience is now a sanctioned national event.

The Hillsdene Junior Tournament is the brainchild of Scott Furness, teacher in charge of football at Tauranga Boys' College.

He is proud of how his tournament was adopted last year by NZSS Football to be a part of tournament week taking place all over New Zealand this week.

"I think it's essential for the development of junior players at all schools involved, including ours," Furness said.

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"We won it the first year, but as it's grown in stature and other schools have identified its importance on the calendar we haven't been winners since. It provides exposure to tournament play for the footballers that will go on to play for the first XI.

"Boys at our school see first XI football, especially the NZSS Premier Tournament, as the pinnacle of what is available to them up to the age of 17 to 18."

There are 16 teams entered for this week's tournament that kicks off this morning across four pitches at Fergusson Park. Teams will play three games today and eight games each of 25-minute halves before semifinals on Wednesday and finals on Thursday morning.

The calibre of teams competing is the strongest yet assembled.

Top-ranked schools are from Dunedin (King's High), Wellington (Wellington College), Auckland (Green Bay and Westlake) and Hamilton (Hillcrest, Hamilton Boys' and St. John's). The others are mostly Super 8 schools, plus Aquinas College and Matamata College.

Furness is picking Hamilton Boys' to be the team to beat this week but he gives his team more than a starter's chance.

"Hamilton Boys' has 36 football teams, compared to our 19, so the depth across the hill is much deeper. They will be favourites. We've played them twice this year and lost by five goals.

"We hope to make the semifinals, and from there it's two error-free, top-quality performances to win the tournament. A lot will come down to how teams manage fatigue and injuries they have. There is some luck within that too."

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Westlake are the holders of the Hillsdene Trophy from last year that has become the NZSS Junior Challenge Trophy. It will be on the line each time the holders play at the tournament, in a similar system to the Ranfurly Shield.

The new trophy for the winners is called the Steve Burnley Memorial Trophy, named after the former Palmerston North Boys' coach who passed away in November 2015. He had been at the school since 1989 with his first XI side winning the Super 8 title seven times.

"With the introduction of the Steve Burnley Memorial Trophy we wanted to retain the original Hillsdene Trophy within the Hillsdene Junior Tournament. So we've set it up as a challenge trophy," Furness said.

Match officials are all senior school students who have achieved their refereeing qualifications.


Hillsdene Junior Pools

Pool A: Westlake Boys, Palmerston North Boys', Kings High, Matamata College
Pool B: Napier Boys', St Peter's (Camb), St John's (Ham), Aquinas
Pool C: New Plymouth Boys', Tauranga Boys', Green Bay, Hillcrest
Pool D: Wellington College, Hamilton Boys', Hastings Boys', Gisborne Boys'