The weather played its part on the first day of Tournament 2023 with fine hot conditions. Game One featured tournament newcomers, the NZ Maori Jr Men, against last years finalists, NZ Pasifika Men.
Pasifika started the game strongly and were rewarded with an early goal to Rocco Ludolph. The experience of the senior players was clear throughout the first half with Pasifika making numerous entries into the attacking circle and finally being rewarded with a tap in by Kelvin Ratubuli from a Jan Peterson shot to take the score to 2-0 at half time.
The Maori Jr Men’s team had been working through their new combinations early in the game and in the second half, started to show more cohesion on both defense and attack. Brad Hartigan finished an outstanding goal with a sledgehammer shot from wide of the post to completely change the game with a quarter to play. Pasifika played with a more defensive mindset to hold on to their one goal lead while the Maori Jr team grew in confidence. However, Pasifika did just enough to hold out the Maori Jr attack to finish the game winners 2-1.
Game Two featured the same teams but on the women’s draw. NZ Maori Jr started off where their male counterparts finished with an early goal to Murphy Phillips from a penalty corner to put the NZ Pasifika Women on notice that the Maori Jr were here to play.
Pasifika started to show their experience as the game built and were rewarded late in the first quarter with a field goal to Hannah Rose Elia. Their control on the game became apparent with two more field goals in the next two quarters to Kaea Elliot and Ruby-Jane Meehan. The NZ Maori Jr Women made the final quarter interesting with an early field goal to Jaime Lewis, but NZ Pasifika held on for a 3-2 win to complete the Pasifika double on Day One.
The third game was between longtime rivals, the NZ Maori and NZ Indian Men. The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair despite a series of early penalty corners to the Maori. It was an absolute bullet of a reverse stick shot from Vance Harvey buried high in the back of the net in the 16th minute that broke the deadlock.
The game was a series of the NZ Indian missing their opportunities while the NZ Maori took their chances with two more goals to Mark Bell-Kake and Denym Clarke to extend their lead. The NZ Indians finished with a consolation penalty corner goal in the last quarter to Prashant Patel to finish the game 3-1 down to the NZ Maori.
The final match of the day was the women’s match between NZ Maori and NZ Indians in what ended up a one-sided affair. NZ Maori started slowly initially taking nearly the full first quarter to capitalise on their possession dominance with a late goal to Awhina Rickard from a penalty corner.
From there, the goals started to flow with a goal in each remaining quarter for the NZ Maori from a Claudia Hanham drag flick, a second field goal to Rickard and a final penalty corner goal to Hanham. The NZ Indian team fought until the end and were rewarded with a late goal to Ella Leighton finishing the scoring with the game concluding at 4-1 to the NZ Maori Women.