A young Horowhenua hockey team has climbed their equivalent of Mt Everest to win the New Zealand Hatch Cup tournament in Palmerston North at the weekend.
It was the 100th year of the Hatch Cup, a tournament for under-13 players, and during that time there was seldom a team outside the main city centres that claimed the title.
Until now. Against 23 other teams and some fancied opposition, Horowhenua defied predictions by progressing through the week, winning game by game, sharing a pool with heavyweights Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Northland.
Coach Corey Prouting said he was blown away by the result, of which his players should be proud.
"They should be extremely proud. It was not one player that got us there. Where some teams might have had a stand-out player, that only made it easier for us to shut them down," he said.
"It was truly a team effort. It's a big achievement. It's pretty unbelievable really."
Prouting said their squad of 14 was smaller than some other sides that were carrying as many as 18 players to combat a demanding week of hockey when they ended up playing seven matches in five days.
While other associations would have held trials, Prouting said he ran a series of coaching clinics leading up to the tournament, and basically those players who turned up were in the team.
"I think they are just talented players who have shown the benefit of playing together for a couple of years now," he said.
It was a satisfying result for Horowhenua Hockey, which was celebrating 20 years of building the Halliwell Turf in Levin this year, and comes after the girls' team won the equivalent trophy a decade ago.
For Prouting, it was a season to remember. He coached Manawatū College Old Boys to win their first senior title in the Manawatū men's competition a month ago, while he also took the Central Mystics to fourth place in their competition.
Somehow he found time to play third division hockey himself, but rates the weekend win as a pinnacle.
"This is the biggest achievement in hockey by a long way," he said.
On Monday afternoon they beat Northland 3–0 with Trey Kotua, Codie Parata and Revill Gardner scoring goals.
On Tuesday they were up against Auckland and came away with a one-all draw 1 – 1, with Parata scoring again.
On Wednesday the team faced with two games. They beat Otago 4 – 3, with Byron Lammas (2), Kotua and Hari Murphy scoring, while that afternoon they beat Canterbury 3–1, with Lammas and Kotua (2) scoring.
Those results had Horowhenua top their pool heading into the quarter finals, which Prouting said was against all predictions.
It set up a game with Wellington, and after a one-all draw, with Revill Gardner scoring, the game went to a shootout where teams had five chances each, for a one on one player versus goalie situation for eight seconds.
Keanu Jennings was the goal keeper for Horowhenua and had a fantastic result with a final score of 3 – 1 after shootout, with Lammas, James Drewett and Trey Kotua scoring to set up a semi finals against Nelson.
Two first half goals to Codie Parata sealed the 2-1 win and a spot in the final against South Canterbury. It seemed a long wait for the 3pm start time.
There was a sea of red, white and blue colours surrounding the turf with many past and present players, families and supporters from Horowhenua travelling to Palmerston North to cheer their team on.
The first half started evenly with the ball travelling from one end to the other, but both teams were unable to score a goal, as nerves started to settle half time was called with no goals scored.
But a steadying halftime talk by Prouting produced the goods as they scored twice in quick succession after the break, to Cody Pedley and Lammas.
The South Canterbury team continued to put pressure on Horowhenua, but they didn't falter and held their positions, continually passing the ball in an solid display of hockey.
Keanu Jennings was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament by Horowhenua and the captain duties for the team were shared by both Codie Parata and Tyler Schulze.
The team for Horowhenua Hockey Association for 2019 was; Cameron Davis, James Drewett, Revill Gardner, Ethan Jansson, Keanu Jennings, Whatukura Kiriona, Trey Kotua, Byron Lammas, Hari Murphy, Cody Pedley, Codie Parata, Dante Roper, Tyler Schulze, Tanner Wilkins-White, Khyle Wood and Nicholas Zhou. Coach Corey Prouting, assistant Coaches Reon Sayer and Jared Davis, Team Manager Lindsey Davis.