St Kevin’s College has been a goldmine of talent for Otago hockey.
Nadine Jellyman represented Otago at the national under-18 tournament recently, while River Cunningham and Fenella Ballantyne (both 17) represented Central Otago at the same event. Former St Kevin’s pupil Maddison Bleach (18) also played for Central Otago at the tournament.
The group trialled for Otago but, after a massive turnout, River, Fenella and Maddison were offered a spot with Central Otago which needed more players.
Both teams competed in warm-up matches in Gore in preparation for the tournament, which was held in Wellington during the school holidays.
Nadine, who plays goalkeeper, had previously been to an under-15 national tournament with an Otago development side. She enjoyed the opportunity to play for Otago at a higher level.
Otago and Central Otago were in the same pool, alongside Canterbury B, North Harbour A and Wairarapa.
Otago beat Central 3-0, drew against Canterbury, and went down to North Harbour 3-1 and Wairarapa 3-2. The loss to Wairarapa occurred in the last second of the game, but the team came back fighting, beating South Canterbury 7-0 in the next stage of the competition.
Otago faced Tauranga in playoff for 13th place, but one quarter into the game, the match was called off due to bad weather. The turf flooded and rain “bucketed down” for most of the competition, Nadine said.
It was a tough pill to swallow, as Otago was winning 3-0.
“We would’ve trashed them. It was pretty gutting. We knew we had it and we were pretty annoyed,” Nadine said.
Despite a few losses, and the unusual finish, she enjoyed the competition and being surrounded by other good players, who were mostly from Dunedin.
“It was pretty cool. I learned a lot and we were the youngest team in the competition. We did well.”
Fenella and River also relished the opportunity but said it was a tough pool for Central Otago.
The team lost 7-0 against North Harbour to win the tournament went on to be competitive against Canterbury and Otago.
Following the pool games, Central Otago beat Southland 1-0, but its final game, against North Harbour 2, was cancelled.
Fenella loved being able to interact with the new players, and enjoyed the national competition.
“They were a really welcoming bunch of girls – they were really nice to play with,” Fenella said.
All of the players missed out on the tournament last season, as a result of Covid-19, so this year felt like a massive step up.
“It was a really new style from what we are used to in North Otago. I even learned a lot just from watching the other teams.”
River, who previously played Otago under-15 hockey, said the tournament helped her develop as a player.
“I definitely learned a lot from both under-15 and under-18s. It helped improve my hockey and helped lift my game, and know how to bring my hockey level up,” River said.