The nerves of Mangapai's hockey club members and supporters will be jangling come 6.15pm on Saturday.

The supposedly overcast evening will play host to the Northland premier men's hockey final between Mangapai and Springfield at the Northland Hockey Centre in Whangārei and according to the club's secretary, Mangapai have not won the premier men's title since 1993 but are odds on to break the 25-year hoodoo after going unbeaten through 13 games of the 2019 season.

In fact, the men's team only registered one draw (3-all against Springfield) to go with 11 wins through the regular season and a convincing 6-3 win over Maungakaramea in the semifinal last weekend.

A high goal tally has been the trademark of Mangapai's season, scoring 55 and conceding only 18 for a goal difference of 37. The competition's next best goal difference belonged to third-placed Whangārei Boys' High School with five.


The Mangapai striking trio of Frederick Zentner, Luka Clark and Caleb Anderton were deadly in front of goal this season with all three placing in the competition's top five goal scorers at the end of the regular season (Zentner-9, Clark/Anderton-7).

However good the numbers read, none of it will matter if Mangapai don't win on Saturday.

With memories of an undefeated season and a lost final still fresh in his mind, Mangapai premier men's player and coach Mark Thorne remained circumspect on the team's chances.

"Finals are always difficult to win but our guys are in a good frame of mind and playing pretty well at the moment, so it'll all come down to how we perform on the day really," he said.

"We're going to have to work hard if we want to win, Springfield are always a tough team to beat."

Mangapai player/coach Mark Thorne, seen here jumping to avoid a pass from Maungakaramea's Sam Webb, has been pleased with his side's performance this season. Photo / File
Mangapai player/coach Mark Thorne, seen here jumping to avoid a pass from Maungakaramea's Sam Webb, has been pleased with his side's performance this season. Photo / File

Thorne had been through much of the club's dry spell in his 17 years at Mangapai and while he was well aware of the significance of Saturday's game, he was pleased with the season whatever the result.

"I don't really judge a season by one game, it's more about the consistency, creating a good team environment and good bunch of young players, that's more important than winning to me.

"Our record shows our consistency, we've got a good core group of guys really committed to the team and it's good that they've got the reward to make it into the final for the hard work they've done."


Multiple games this season have shown the commitment from Mangapai's players.

Against Bream Bay in June, Mangapai were down 3-nil going into the final quarter before they staged a thrilling comeback to win 4-3.

Thorne, in his ninth year as a player/coach, credited this committed mindset as the reason for the team's success, something which was classed as a requirement at the start of the season

"I made it very clear, if they don't show up, I don't. I'm not going to turn up for training for four or five people, I'm not going to waste my time," he said.

Mangapai's premier men won't be only ones from the club to contest Northland hockey finals this season. Three other men's teams will compete in the reserve grade, division one and division two finals along with a Mangapai women's team and a collegiate team.

Thorne said the club's culture of inclusivity played a big part in its success in 2019.

"It's a thing we've been working on as a club and team, where everyone wants to play for everyone not just themselves, they all want to win and work for each other.

"We've always tried to make it a team environment and we really encourage that team atmosphere."

Thorne hoped this culture and standard of play would feature on Saturday evening in front of a strong crowd of Northland's hockey faithful.

Northland's premier women's final will be played between Springfield and Maungakaramea at 4.45pm on Saturday at the Northland Hockey Centre.