Double Silver for Waikato at NZ Senior Nationals 2020
The Waikato Men’s and Women’s teams had a great start at the New Zealand Senior Nationals this weekend in Auckland, but ultimately were unable to dent Auckland’s long-standing dominance at this tournament.
Waikato came away from the weekend with silver medals for both the Men’s team and Women’s A teams, and a bronze medal for the Women’s B team.
In the Women’s tournament, both Women’s teams performed strongly on the first day of the tournament finishing first and second in their respective pools. On day 2, the A team earned themselves a place in the finals against Auckland A, but the possibility of gold faded to silver after Auckland grabbed control of the match and took an early lead. Waikato retaliated with some good play, but it wasn’t enough to slow Auckland’s momentum. Auckland won the match by a decisive 11 goals to 6.
Waikato Head Coach Dean Forman said after the finals “It’s always hard to be uplifting when you have just lost a game, but there are so many positives that have come out of it. I think we did show some good skills and some class today.” Assistant Coach Mike Rush added, “We had a lot of chances, but we just didn’t convert.”
Auckland Coach, Nigel Tan, said “My focus coming into this game was to go out hard and fast. I think we found that with the experience of our players, they knew how to step up straight away, and we relied on that…. For our game plan, I really wanted to focus more on defence, to stop their fast break. We know that Waikato definitely has the wheels and the speed to get past us. So in terms of game, I think we did a really good job of stopping that.”
When Tan was asked if he thought if the gap between Auckland and Waikato was narrowing, he replied “We are just counting down the days now! It’s going to happen one day and we know that when that day comes, we have got to be ready.”
In the Men’s tournament, the Waikato Men’s team had a memorable day on day 1 as it marked the first time that a Waikato side has ever beaten Auckland at Senior Nationals. There were emotional scenes after the game, when Waikato clinched the victory from Auckland White in golden goal and finally delivered on a long-held dream. On day 2, the Men’s team won a place in the finals against the Auckland Blue team but, on this occasion, the Auckland side was too strong and eventually won gold with a final score of 13 goals to 1.
Auckland Captain Max van der Maas said after the match, “We have a very strong left-handed team. So [we] worked about moving the ball to the back side to catch the defence off guard. That was our offensive plan. And in defence, you just have to get out on the players and the more times you make them move the ball, then there is more chance of making an error.”
This year, the NZ Senior Nationals Tournament was also a key selection event for the Women’s NZBLAX as part of their build-up for the World Championships and World Games in 2021. Head Coach for the NZBLAX campaign is Dave Simpson, who brings over 35 years of coaching experience to New Zealand.
Speaking at the tournament prize-giving, Simpson said “It’s been an amazing weekend of lacrosse for me. It’s been my first chance to see the best players throughout New Zealand bring their best effort as they compete at the highest level. It’s been inspiring!”
“Lacrosse remains the fastest growing sport in the world, and nowhere is it growing faster than in New Zealand. I’m personally inspired by the possibility of lacrosse being part of the 2028 Olympics, and with this base of talent and commitment I feel that we have the possibility to not only make it to the Olympics but to perform really well there.”
Women’s Senior Nationals Tournament 2020
Gold: Auckland A
Silver: Waikato A
Bronze: Waikato B
Men’s Senior Nationals Tournament 2020
Gold: Auckland Blue
Bronze: Auckland White
Photos: Lou Kibby Photography and Ange Makara