Dominant Nuggets go back to back


North Otago Hockey has gone back to back.

The North Otago Nuggets defended the Ian Smith Trophy in Gore at Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

It is the first time North Otago has won the regional tournament consecutively since the 1980s, when hockey was played on grass. The team won the trophy on its home turf last year for the first time in six years.

Player-manager Jared Ovens said it was a thrilling victory for the team and region this year.

‘‘We’re really stoked about it,’’ Ovens said.

‘‘We knew we had a very good team, which was better than last year when we won it . . . but you never know going into these sorts of things how you’re going to go.

‘‘To win it pretty comfortably was even better really.’’

Comfortably might be an understatement, as North Otago only conceded one goal in its five matches. It put on a dominant display, beating South Canterbury 7-1, Eastern 8-0, Mid Canterbury 4-0, Invercargill 4-0 and Central Otago 5-0.

‘‘To go unbeaten and to be that dominant I don’t think that’s ever happened before — not in my time anyway.’’

The additions of Ethan Booth, who coached the team last year, and George Eldridge gave the team a boost and most of the team played for Tainui, in the Dunedin club competition, which had lifted their skill level.

While some teams had been impacted by Covid-19, North Otago still had to work to win the tournament, he said.

‘‘Anything that we talked about we put into action on the field.

‘‘We always had a bad five or 10 minutes here and there, but we always reverted back to what we wanted to do before the game and executed it to come away with some pretty damn good results.’’

Playing in their 20th Ian Smith tournament, Ovens and Richard Knight were made life members of the tournament.

‘‘It was pretty special to do it with one of my best mates [and] to have all these other guys who have been battling away for years, and years, and getting no result . . .some of the changes we are making in North Otago are starting to pay off.’’

A tournament team was selected, and Ethan Booth, George Eldridge, Greg Webster, Jonty Naylor, Josh Caldwell and Nick Dalziel were picked from North Otago. That team will play against Otago in the coming months.