Waikato Wins New Zealand U15 Championships

26 Oct

Ongoing commitment by Waikato Lacrosse to their U15 development programme yielded big dividends this weekend at the 2020 New Zealand U15 National Lacrosse Championships.

In a rare double, Waikato teams won both the Girls and Boys U15 Championships, as well as taking silver medals in both tournaments, with Auckland teams in bronze position.

In the Girls’ tournament, Waikato Gold won the Girls Championship after an epic tussle with their regional co-team Waikato Red. While the Reds came out of the starting blocks well and managed to keep the Golds on the back foot until the third quarter, the Golds grabbed and lead as the Reds started to flag, taking the overall title by 12 goals to 9.

Melissa Gratwicke, coach for Waikato Gold, commented “They were really hungry and gritty, and they just fought for everything. They weren’t giving anything, they really had to dig in. They got behind and didn’t have a great start, but managed to dig in, pull it back, and take on a good lead. We placed a big emphasis on our team values, what lacrosse means to us, and what kind of players we want to be. And I think they really shone.”

The Auckland teams had tricky lead into the event with level 2 lockdown interrupting both their high school league and preparations for the U15 tournament.

Hilary Eyres, coach for the Auckland Blue team, commented “I’m just really thankful that we had a tournament! For Auckland, we were quite late to coordinate and publicise because we were in the middle of the local lockdown. So we are really thankful we had it in the Waikato this year, to have a little more leeway there and also some potential certainty that we could play. The Waikato – from a developmental standpoint – it’s really wonderful to have a highly competitive, highly organised programme for young athletes. So it really awesome to go down and compete against really fantastic players!”

Speaking about her team, Eyres added “For our A [Blue} team, I think they had great experience playing. I think a lot of them were really appreciative to get out and play lacrosse with their teammates. I think we definitely struggled with fitness overall without having had a school season and without training for long together. You could feel some disappointment from both the coaching side and the player side, as you knew there was more you could do probably! But, having said that, I think the girls felt really positive in building on skills every game and team-play every game, and starting to make corrections and starting to grow together. We really saw that in the win against the [Waikato] Black team and then the third place finish.”

In the Boy’s tournament, now in its second year, Waikato Black came away as U15 Champions after winning the finals against Waikato Gold by 11 goals to 7.

Joshua Muller coach for the Waikato Blacks commented “A few of our bigger boys were a bit bruised up from yesterday. A lot of my younger boys stepped up today. Waikato Gold played exceptionally well as well. They made us claw tooth and nail, especially in that third quarter they started really pulling it back and my guys were starting to feel it. They were coming back for a draw, but in the end my guys held it and we ended up rounding the game out with 11 to 7.”

Kris NebeskÓŻ, who oversaw the Boy’s tournament, commented “Both Auckland and Waikato are putting in some good teams, and are playing some very good lacrosse. Good to see the Waikato boys get up and finish the tournament with a win. Obviously being a Waikato native I take that to heart! It’s a good victory for us.”

The lacrosse calendar has been full of uncertainty in 2020 because of COVID-19, including the recent cancellation of the NZ High School Nationals. The NZ U15 National Tournament has been a rare bright spot in a difficult year, with a total of 9 teams taking part (6 in the girl’s tournament and 3 in the boy’s tournament).

At the end of the tournament, Marina Samountry, Secretary for the New Zealand Women’s Lacrosse Association, said “It was a great weekend of lacrosse! It was really great that we had fantastic weather and the opportunity to play full-stop! Really high level of play from these young girls, just I can’t believe they are under 15. It was great to see so many teams come down and a good level of sportsmanship too. Everyone was very friendly towards one another and thanks to all the volunteers, and umpires.”

The New Zealand U15 National Lacrosse Championships runs annually and alternates between the Waikato and Auckland. The tournament will return to Auckland in 2021.

New Zealand Lacrosse U15 National Championships 2020 Results

Girls Tournament

1st Waikato Gold

2nd Waikato Red

3rd Auckland Blue

Boys Tournament

1st Waikato Black

2nd Waikato Gold

3rd Auckland

Sign up to the 2024 WLA Youth Development