Time for the next very first ever Tournament Report!
Last week or so ago, clubs in NZ converged on Rotorua to battle out the National titles. There were teams in 4 grades, C, B, A and Prem.
Joining them were two teams from Australia to add international flavour and intrigue, a Mens team in Prem grade and a Womens team in the A grade. Who they were and where from exactly? ...I think a mix but mostly from NSW?
Your blogger here played with the Phoenix club from Wellington, and travelled with the majority of the 4 Phoenix teams in a bus. To start the weekend, we thought we were going to have a wee bus, 30 seats with 29 people
But thankfully when the bus turned up it was actually a proper one
...without the luxury of course. We can't afford that! Or the top floor. The best feature on the bus was our intrepid driver, who was a funny dude and pretty good in a crisis as it turned out.
And I guess the skylight emergency exits, which a few of us were dying to try out later on but unfortunately never got to experience.
More than half the bus, OK nearly everyone was extremely young people (ie under 20), so I was having nightmares about this trip from the beginning.
Our first excitement was stopping at our first rest-stop, for our driver to let us out for a food and after-food-relief. Only the doors didnt open. Either of them, and the wee buttons marked "push in emergency" LIED to us! They did nothing. Nothing!!
So, with a busload of bursting bladders and rumbling tummies, we ended up forced to drive over to Palmerston North to the bus depot for the engineer to let us out and change to a less-faulty bus. Palmerston North.
It's a great spot. I lived there once. For 3 months.
But at least they had a Wendys! For when they dont have Burger King.
Anyway so when we finally made it up to Turangi, an actual Burger King had just closed along with all the toilet block doors, so 30 busting kids flowed out into the darkness to water bushes, fences or a dark patch of grass, while Camp Mother led a search party to a public toilet.
They made it back unmolested, and we made it to the accommodation at 3am or some such hour to find the motel block covered in named bits of paper showing us our rooming arrangements. ...Somewhat like the passive/aggressive post-it notes all over the food in the cupboard from that flatmate you had who was sure you were stealing his (delicious) home-made peanutbutter that time.
This labelling was actually incredibly useful, the work of the organising fairy of the group, to whom we were all very grateful on a number of occasions
Every group needs one of these.
We were to find that we also had a cleaning fairy too, which was also awesome and caused many of us to feel guilty for being such slobs. Others didnt notice.
On to the tournament, which was hotly contested in the only grade I can talk about with any knowledge, Prem grade, with no team scoring above 6 goals in a game I think? Many games were only decided by a goal and there were draws as well. Brillo! Great to have so much competition.
In fact, the top 4 teams happened to be playing very similar styles, and any games between any of the 4 looked a bit like this
Only with a lot more water, scowling and straining.
The classic "Sure, we'd love to take the puck wide if only you'd put us under a little less suffocating pressure please" was in full effect for the 4 top teams, resulting in games where the puck was violently spit or squeezed into space and then ruthlessly hunted down by both teams immediately so they could continue their game of puck-wrestle. Fun times!
Mostly evenish games on the first day, then a nice sleep where we were constantly warned about undesirables hanging around our motel place. Just to make sure we didn't get a wink of sleep fearing for our possessions all night.
Undesirables roam free
Back to the hockey the next morning,
The bottom 2 teams were playing a completely different style of game, valuing possession, passing to each other, looking for space to take the puck into, and other crazy mad-cap schemes. These were the Aussie team and KOM, who had a great game in the RR that led to a draw and another close game in the playoff which was drawn and went into golden goal, when the refs suddenly decided to make up for not binning anyone all game and binned 3 players at once, and the game then collapsed immediately from a thrilling contest to a confused 20 second goal, with KOM winning in the end.
Our round robin game against the Aussies brought me back to a distant past, when I looked at my white stick in the subs bench and saw it was covered in black smears... ha! That's right! This is what it was like to play against dudes with wooden sticks and last-minute spraypaint. Amazing the things we forget. 2007 was the last year I played with wooden sticks, so it's been a long time since I was leaving my own spraypaint smudges. How time flies, and in terms of NZ Uwh culture, how things change.
And how some things don't ever change, too. It is always nice to play against the Aussie style, so reassuringly different and yet familiar. And funny to see little young guys on my team learning the hard way that yes, those Aussie bats are big and yes, the hooks are large but YES, they hit so very hard with them and YES, it makes it so difficult to tackle them and stay not-tackled. Brilliant.
Phoenix had a tight semi with Makos, going down 3-0 early but getting back to 3-2 at 45 seconds left and then getting the puck into the Makos bin with 1 sec remaining, only to have a ref huddle pull it back for an earlier infringement, and putting Makos through to the final.
The final itself, I was in the shower for the first half of it until I remembered it was on, but apparently someone went up 2 goals early (Makos?) and then Crocs clawed it back and went up 3-2. It finished full time 3-3 anyway, and in golden goal Makos were attacking on the goal only to have Nick Healy, who I was assured by his team-mates had literally done nothing all tournament long, swim off for a length of the pool breakaway to win it for Crocs and redeem himself.
Off to the function, where our group of kids crept fearfully past the security at the venue who crushed thoughts of underage schenanigans or overage debauchery with steely glares.
Being sleep-deprived at the best of times, I skipped the party after prize-giving to snooze back at the motel as the undesirables prowled around and tipped rubbish into bathroom windows (who does that?), but in the morning saw some good indications a good time had been had by a few.
And we went home. And the doors worked. Thank goodness.