By Anamika Ragu (23A01A) and Loh Zhao Hong (23S03A)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society.
25 May 2022: the bus to Sengkang Hockey Stadium was filled with supporters’ heady excitement and whispers of, “Do you think they’ll have to postpone?” amid the rainstorm raging outside.
This was a game of high stakes: the Raffles Hockey Boys were facing off against Victoria Junior College’s (VJC) boys, also known as our fiercest rivals.
Not only was this the first NSG Hockey Final the team had seen since the pandemic, it was the last one twin captains, Hiren and Harshen Koban (22S06H and 22S06T) would ever play with RI.
“I’m not nervous, because I’m confident with myself and the team.”Hiren Koban (#10, 22S06H), Captain.
Most of the players had started playing since Y1, and their loss to the Victorian players in the 2019 Finals on the Y1-4 side only fuelled their determination to clinch the Champion title this time round.
There was also added pressure to defend the Y5-6’s winning streak from 2017 to 2019. Their return to the pitch was flanked by high expectations from all-around.
“The boys really want to end off our season on a high,” said Harshen Koban (#7, 22S06T), Vice-Captain of the team. “As long as we follow our game plan and strategy, everything will go well.”
The game kicked off with a nearly impenetrable defence on VJC’s side, the ball flitting from one yellow-clad player to the next. Raffles looked to be struggling to turn the tide; winning this game would be no easy feat.
Eventually, Matteus Ooi (#4, 23S03M) managed to swoop in and perform a drag flick from across the pitch. The crowds watched with bated breath as the ball just rolled past the goal.
The game continued as such, with both teams matched in skill and ambition. However, with just two minutes left in the first quarter, Daniel Xu Juewen (#5, 23S06N) saw his chance and took a shot, scoring the game’s first goal in the D.
The second quarter then saw an impressive display of speed and technique. Yet again, VJC’s brilliant defence caused the current score tally of 1-0 to stagnate. Even then, the players remained resolute, nearly getting a successful break-in as Harshen (#7) performed an expert steal from VJC.
From Harshen, the ball travelled to Chow Jim An (#19, 23S06H), then Joshua Poh (#11, 23S06O), who made yet another attempt to score. Though it was a near-miss, it was preceded by a remarkable display of the team’s synchrony and unwavering trust in one another.
“No matter how many good players you have, what matters more is chemistry.”Joshua Poh (#11, 23S06O)
As the half-time intermission ended, the players returned to the pitch against the backdrop of cheers led by the Students’ Council. Having seen the last quarter comprise fallen players and falling leg guards, paired with too many futile attempts to score, there was a noticeable change in the atmosphere as both teams came for more blood.
Tensions ran higher as the goal-keeper periodically struck his leg guard with his hockey stick to intimidate the other team.
The third quarter began with a Victorian player sending the ball soaring across the pitch. Players set off running after it, with Raffles managing to successfully take possession.
The ball was deftly passed from player to player. Raffles then doubled their tally with brilliant dribbling and blocking tactics as Kiefer Lee (#69, 23S06K) stood at the forefront, making the goal.
The match only grew more intense from there as the team was faced with a barrage of body and stick fouls. And yet, they remained confident in their own abilities and that of the referee’s judgement.
Mr Larry Lee, the Hockey Teacher-in-Charge beamed with pride as he recounted this: “They played the most disciplined game throughout […] they withstood a lot of physical onslaught and still did not retaliate.”
“The fact that they played like gentlemen is something I am very proud of.”Mr Larry Lee
Each player was putting in every last drop of strength to see the match through. With breathless anticipation, the 10-second countdown to the end of the last quarter began to the rhythm of Council’s drumroll.
Finally, despite VJC’s valiant defence, Raffles had once again defended its title with a final score of 2-0.
The crowd erupted into thunderous hollers and ear-splitting cheers. Players froze momentarily before running towards the stands and sliding to their knees in celebration. Friends jumped over fences surrounding the pitch to tackle players, congratulating them.
They were grinning triumphantly as they took a final bow.
Donning their gold medals, the players took pictures, basking in the pride of their friends and family. They shook hands with their Victorian counterparts, congratulating them for their formidable defences.
When asked how the captains felt about the outcome, they were thrilled. Harshen owed it all to the team and their camaraderie: “This is our first win as a team. We played our hearts out for each other and not for anything else.”
To Hiren, this game was a testament to one lesson: anything is possible.
“It’s possible. No matter what, with hard work, we can do it.”Hiren Koban, Captain
“It feels unreal,” admitted Keeratpal Singh (23A01A). The rest expressed equally astonished sentiments, before recounting their loss in 2019. “This feels like redemption, and even more so because it’s together with my teammates,” said Alif Danial (23S06B).
Despite the many setbacks they faced, every single player donned a winning smile during their interviews. “I played my heart out. I mean, I vomited, but it was all worth it,” chuckled Kiefer.
After that thrilling Final, the players packed up and left for a team dinner, excited to celebrate their well-deserved win. When asked what they would take away from this match, the captains turned to mirror their grins before answering, “Auspicium Melioris Aevi.”
Boys’ Hockey Team:
#10 – Hiren Koban (22S06H)—Captain
#7 – Harshen Koban (22S06T)—Vice-Captain
#1 – Ng Shu Yang (23S06R)
#2 – Alexander Tan (23S03E)
#4 – Matteus Ooi (23S03M)
#5 – Daniel Xu (23S06N)
#6 – Simon Joseph Toh (22S03M)
#8 – Peh Yu (23S06N)
#9 – Nathaniel Goh (22S07A)
#11 – Joshua Poh (23S06O)
#14 – Bhuvan Anantham (22A01A)
#17 – Venkatesan Ubanishathan (22S03G)
#19 – Chow Jim An (23S06H)
#21 – Rohit Sadanala (23S06Q)
#22 – Rohan Mahadevan (23S02A)
#25 – Keeratpal Singh Pannu (23A01A)
#36 – Alif Danial (23S06B)
#69 – Kiefer Lee (23S06K)