The nation’s largest hockey tournament is coming to Tauranga for the first time since 2005.
Set to take place at Tauranga Hockey and Tauranga Boys' College, from Sunday, February 28, until Saturday, March 6, the Vantage National Masters Hockey Tournament will see men and women from various age groups over 35 in action.
Clinton Butler, general manager of Tauranga Hockey, says it is “fantastic” for the city to be hosting the games, which due to its increased size has not been viable until a recent build of a new hockey turf at Kawaka Street.
“This tournament is about hockey but it is also about connection,” says Clinton. “I think a lot of people that are involved will be grateful they can get out and play hockey but also socialise and enjoy their week.”
Whilst tournament director Kit Rutherford jokes that it will be a lot of “eating and drinking, with some hockey” he is keen to point out just how competitive the event is as well.
“On the field even the over 65s think they are 20,” Kit says. “One thing that happens out of here is that the New Zealand Masters team is selected. So yes, social, but also very competitive as you can imagine.
One of those over 65s is Mahendra ‘Mo’ Singh.
Mo is part of a two-generation dynasty at Mount Hockey Club. His two sons, Krishan and Narayan, will also be playing in the tournament in the men’s 45s and 40s pools respectively.
Mo agrees that the tournament also represents an opportunity for old friends in the hockey community to catch up.
“It’s really quite good fun,” Mo says, smiling. “It’s good camaraderie. Same faces come around and lots of beer to drink and lots of lies to tell. Everybody is looking forward to it because for a lot of them it is their annual holiday as well.”
Krishan and Narayan believe it is the perfect blend of a social and competitive atmosphere.
“I think there is a strong competitive side to it but equally it is social,” says Krishan. “It is quite a positive environment.
Narayan, known as ‘Squid’ around the club, agrees.
“It is heaps of fun,” says Narayan. “We have a good laugh and a good time. It is really social for a lot of people but also kind of competitive and there’s some pretty good rivalries.”
Mo is also hopeful of victory with his Kaimai team in the over 65s. He turns 75 in June and has been playing at the Mount since 1984. Retired at 50, playing hockey, he says, keeps him sane.
“You have got to keep moving. You have got to keep playing. Otherwise once you give it up you’re giving up. I find the sport really good for me.”
Mo’s longevity is something that has left Narayan in something of a predicament.
“I said years ago, ‘hurry up and retire because then I can’. I can’t retire before he does and he is still going.” Narayan jokes. “He really enjoys it. He is kicking really well.”
What about a third generation? For now, Krishan’s two sons have taken a footballing path. Whilst Krishan is just happy they are active, Uncle Squid is hopeful his nephews will keep up the hockey heritage.
“They have got time to mould into the right sport. They come and watch at the weekend so they are into it. They are good little critters.”
The Vantage Hockey Masters runs from Sunday, February 28, until Saturday, March 6, at Tauranga Hockey and Tauranga Boys’ College.
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