The best schoolboy hockey teams in New Zealand start their Rankin Cup campaign in Tauranga this morning as the city hosts the week-long pinnacle of the secondary schools' hockey season.
Tauranga is hosting the 2018 AON Rankin Cup/India Shield Tournament - a prestigious national secondary schools event involving the country's top 32 teams - something every first XI hockey team aspires to be part of every season.
The competition starts today and runs until Saturday, with full days of competition played between turfs at Tauranga Boys' College and the Tauranga Hockey Centre.
During the competition, teams will play off in eight pools of four with the top two from each head into the finals series for the Rankin Cup and the bottom two playing off for the India Shield.
Tauranga Boys' College's first XI hockey team, captained by Connor Garner, is the only Tauranga school that has made the competition this year.
Garner, 17, who has been playing hockey since he was 5, says hosting the competition allows the community to be able to witness quality matches in their home city.
"It's just a good opportunity to showcase hockey around Tauranga a little bit more," says Garner.
Tauranga Boys' finished eighth last year and are eyeing a higher finish this year.
"We plan to improve on that performance," says team manager Logan Gemming.
The highest placing Tauranga Boys' have reached was second place in 2003.
It was Gemming's first year as coach and, with an up and down season this year, Gemming is happy with how the team have been playing in the lead up to their Rankin Cup campaign.
"It's certainly the pinnacle of the year, it really is what every team aspires to do," Gemming says.
During the competition, the Tauranga side will be staying together for the duration of the tournament to ensure they get to enjoy the team atmosphere that other teams will.
Gemming says it will make team talk and planning a lot easier throughout the week.
Tauranga Hockey Association general manager Clinton Butler is looking forward to hosting the 2018 AON Rankin Cup - an event that has been running since 1923 - which was last hosted in Tauranga in 2000.
"It's pretty exciting for us to have it back," he says.
"There's going to be some really good hockey."
Hockey New Zealand allocates where the tournament will be played each year, describing the opportunity to host the event again as "awesome".
He says with 31 teams coming from outside of Tauranga, each of which have about 18 players each, more than 500 people will be coming to Tauranga just to play.
Butler says that doesn't include coaching teams or supporters, which could be hundreds more - with most people arriving in time for finals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The competition will have a full day of competition each day, running from 8am, with the last game scheduled for 6.40pm.
Butler says the Tauranga Boys' College team has lead the way for school-aged hockey and would love to see other schools have the opportunity in future years.
Butler says the association has been planning for this event for about a year. He says they have a great volunteer base who are all passionate about the sport, working hard to make sure everything is a success.
"Our ultimate goal is to deliver a fantastic event that the community can be proud of," Butler says.
Tauranga Boys' College games:
Playing Lindisfarne College at Tauranga Hockey Centre's Beach Turf today at 10.40am
Playing Rosmini College at Tauranga Hockey Centre's Beach Turf today at 6.40pm
Playing Burnside High School at Tauranga Boys' College tomorrow at 1.20pm