St John’s College, Hastings, Junior Canoe Polo team were crowned national champions, and its senior team captain won top scorer at the 2023 New Zealand Secondary School Championship and Cup held in Hawke’s Bay, 24–26 March.
Year 11 student Josh Street, who’s been in the team for three years, said, ‘The boys’ communication on the water was good and everyone was playing as a team.’
Of the eight games they played over the three days, the team won six and drew two. They beat Palmerston North Boys’ High School 5-2 in the final.
Both teams were unable to play in the regional tournament a few weeks prior due to Cyclone Gabrielle. During the time regionals was hosted, the college had a blanket stand down from all sport while it helped with the cyclone recovery efforts within the community.
Trainings were disrupted said Josh. ‘We were lucky they accepted us into Nationals because you need to qualify at Regionals to play.’
The senior team came fifth place, beating Hastings Boys’ High School 5–4 in overtime.
‘It was our first time playing together as that team but over the weekend we came together well and towards the end, we were playing really good polo,’ Captain Khan Smith said.
Khan, in Year 12, plays Guard and Centre and was crowned top scorer of the tournament. The 16-year-old is also part of Palmerston North Club, Raiders, where he plays National B Grade.
Canoe Polo Coach Jason Pearson, Head of Physical Education, says it was great to see the boys out on the court together. ‘There had been significant disruptions to the programme and the efforts some players went to was outstanding. The growth throughout the tournament for both teams was testament to working hard off the court.’