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Thursday July 7, 2016

SPORT

Rongotai College on track to defend titles By Jacob Beleski MASSEY JOURNALISM STUDENT

Being the defending champions would add to the pressure on most sports teams, but Rongotai College’s junior boys’ basketball team is embracing the challenge. After winning the Wellington and lower North Island junior titles in 2015, they have started their 2016 Wellington junior premier campaign with seven consecutive wins. It was a continuation of the scintillating form that also saw them claim the national junior secondary schools three-on-three title in April this year. Co-coach Zico Coronel said they were quietly pleased with how the season was progressing. “We’ve still got lots of things to improve, but we work every day to improve our game.” Having two star players that had a lot of ability was just the starting point. “Jaylin To’o and Ezrah Vaigafa are talented players, but they are also willing to be coached and given feedback in front of the group. The boys hold each other accountable.” They would be working to ensure the school was in a position to contest finals in years to come, Zico said. “We’ll lose some players next year and people will think Ron-

Zach CampbellSmith protects possession for Rongotai College. PHOTO CREDIT: Bob O'Neill.

gotai won’t be good anymore. We want to make sure when our year 9s come back next year they will still be the best team in Wellington.” Rongotai’s director of basketball, Matt Eagle, said he was pleased with the level of performance they were producing. “It’s not easy to be performing consistently week in, week out in Wellington. There’s a lot of competition.” Trying to defend a title would always add pressure, Matt said.

“To have that kind of success – winning two championship titles, there is always a pressure to repeat it. In saying that, it’s a great challenge and we have to treat it that way.” In recent times Rongotai had seen the benefits of talent and resources combining well. “We’ve been up there before, so we know how to do it. It’s just a case of having a good combination of resources coming together at the right time. I’m glad we’re making the most of it at the moment.”

Sports talk with Jacob Page...

Another embarrassing exit from Europe Depending if you are an English football fan or not, their exit from the Euros Tuesday, June 28 (NZ time) was either hilarious or harrowing. On paper, the game against the tiny island nation of Iceland was one England would lose because Roy Hodgson’s men were overwhelming favourites. So it proved to be, as a limp English side were bundled out 2-1 in arguably one of the biggest upsets in tournament football history. Let’s be honest, as neutral sports fans, it’s been entertaining watching England exit major tournaments under the weight of such pressure from home. I spoke to an English friend of mine after the game who, while despondent, was realistic about England’s plight. He said many scouts at schoolboy level value physicality over skill set. He said he remembered a scout saying former English striker Michael Owen would amount to little because his lack of size. This same friend said the

English Premier League was not producing English players worthy of playing on the world stage. It was an honest assessment and one I believe his fellow Englishmen need to understand. The EPL is a great league but there are plenty of foreign players who play a part in making it great. Other leagues around the world like Spain’s La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga, to name a couple, are just as good. The other thing that needs to be realised is maybe England just isn’t a football powerhouse. The fact they haven’t won a major title since the World Cup of 1966 should say it all. Too many England teams have gone away saddled with too much burden of expectation. Iceland has a population the size of EPL champions Leicester City. Take nothing away from their performance in victory but I think a last 16 exit out of Europe is about right where England are at the moment.

Profile for Local Newspapers

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