INTO THE FINALS: Nelson Royal 11th grade players celebrate winning the Jack McKnight semi-final on Saturday morning. They are from left; Simon Wilson, Alex Lindbom, Bawi Chung Hichal and Lucas Hogg. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Local youngsters win SI title

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The Nelson Royal 10th grade football team are the South Island champions with three other local teams making finals on the weekend.

The results capped off another successful tournament held at Saxton Field with more than 450 young footballers taking part. Nelson hosted the 10th grade and 11th grade tournaments with the 12th grade competition being held in Blenheim.

The 11th grade tournament, which is known as the Jack McKnight Tournament, featured 17 teams from across the island.

Blessed with fine weather over the first two days, Nelson Bays Football CEO Clive Beaumont says the tournament went well and continues to grow. “There were certainly no complaints. Every match was refereed and I couldn’t tell you how many matches were played because there were an awful lot. The weather on Saturday morning was a challenge but the pitches held up well and each team played in good spirits.”

The Nelson Royal team beat Nelson White in the 10th grade final; before a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat saw the Nelson Royal 11th grade team lose its final against Canterbury, having tied 1-1 at full time. The Nelson Royal 12th grade team also made a South Island final, losing 4-1 to Canterbury Red in Blenheim.

Nelson Royal 11th grade coach Nick Brooks says his side was drained after two consecutive matches featuring extra time. “The boys worked incredibly hard to get there and I think by the end there was just nothing left. I’m really, really proud of the way the boys played, they gave everything they had.”

Nick was unsure why Nelson Bays Football was so strong at a junior level but says it was probably due to the high participation levels and the good coaching on offer amongst the grades.