The St. John’s College Junior Canoe Polo team have been crowned national champions, and its senior team captain won top scorer.
The 2023 New Zealand Secondary School Championship and Cup was held at the Mitre 10 Park Hawke's Bay on March 24-26.
Year 11 student Josh Street, who has been in the team for three years, says while he didn’t expect to win, he expected his team to do well in the tournament.
“The boys' communication on the water was good and everyone was playing as a team.”
Of the eight games they played over the three days, the team won six and drew two.
The final saw them play against Palmerston North Boys' High School, who they beat 5-2.
“We played pretty well, and we had a big win. Our players improved significantly. It just gives us motivation to keep going and doing well in future games.”
Both teams were unable to play in the regional tournament a few weeks prior due to Cyclone Gabrielle.
“During the time regionals was hosted the college had a blanket stand down from all sport whilst it helped with the cyclone recovery efforts within the community.”
Street says their trainings were disrupted.
“We were lucky that they accepted us into Nationals because you need to qualify at Regionals to play.”
The senior team came fifth place, beating Hastings Boys' High School 5-4 in overtime.
“It was our first time playing together as that team but over the weekend came together quite well and towards the end, we were playing really good polo,” Captain Khan Smith says.
Khan, in Year 12, plays Guard and Centre and was also crowned top scorer of the tournament.
“I was up there in the top three consistently over the weekend and in our finals game for fifth and sixth I scored four goals which put me in the lead.”
While he has been top scorer with his former Hawke’s Bay representative team, he has never achieved the title at a school tournament.
The sixteen-year-old is also part of Palmerston North Club, Raiders, where he plays National B Grade.
“I’ve been playing it for quite a long time. It is just fun because a lot of different people do it and over the years it has been getting bigger and bigger.”
Canoe Polo Coach Jason Pearson, also Head of Physical Education says it was great to see the boys finally out on the court together.
“There had been significant disruptions to the programme and the efforts that some players went to was outstanding.
“The growth throughout the tournament for both teams was testament to working hard off the court and doing the right thing at the time. I'm sure it will be something they cherish for the next few weeks.”
Photo: St. John’s College Junior Canoe Polo Team; Jai Smith (left), Jayden Parker, Campbell Thompson, Joshua Street, Taine Smith, Corban Hocking and Ollie Danes.