By Hsiao Jia Ying (23A01C) and Johnathan Lim (23S03M)
“…grit, skill and absolutely fabulous teamwork”Mr Frederick Yeo, Principal
You’ve heard Mr Yeo speak about the match. You’ve seen the Straits Times article. That’s right, Raffles managed to clutch victory yet again. In fact, Raffles Hockey has been dominating the championships for a while now, with our team winning our fifth title in a row this year.
Regardless, the stakes were still high as our team was up against what was arguably our fiercest competitor so far — Victoria Junior College (VJC).
“I thought VJC was relatively strong after watching them play in the semi-finals. I knew the game was not going to be easy and we definitely had to put in our all.”Peh Yu (#8)
Without further ado, let’s take a retrospective look at the day itself.
The First Quarter
With a blow of the whistle, the Sengkang Hockey Pitch came to life – the previously hushed spectators now fiercely cheered for their teams as the players began the most important match of their season. Raffles had been the apparent favourites, having secured a decisive victory over Anderson-Serangoon Junior College in the semi-finals with a scoreline of 7-1, and with a pedigree of championships under their belt.
Regardless, VJC was determined to bring the fight to us, and the first quarter was a tightly-fought affair as players on both teams got into the groove of the game, with neither team showing a decisive edge over the other. This was much to the frustration of the Rafflesian team, who had been hoping to show a strong performance from the start.
Later, Peh Yu (#8) reflected, “[The initial disappointment] gave us a wake-up call and that was the turning point for us. We started to pick up pace, and eliminated mistakes which allowed the flow of our game to carry on smoothly.”
The deadlock would not remain for long, however, as the Rafflesians’ efforts finally paid off with a mere four minutes left in the first quarter.
A slip by the VJC goalkeeper in saving a shot taken from outside the shooting circle left the rebound wide open for Joash (#19). Swiftly jinking the ball into the goal, he brought the score up to 1-0 for his team. The Rafflesian spectators roared with delight, as student councillors began the Raffles Dynamite cheer, whilst the team quickly congratulated one another on the pitch.
The Second Quarter
Fired up by their successful goal in the first quarter, the Rafflesians returned to the pitch re-energised after a lengthened five-minute break, which was due to the scorching heat of the afternoon. After a much-needed breakaway, it was apparent that the team on the pitch was now Raffles at its peak, in its truest form.
Even the spectators with no knowledge of hockey or little appreciation for the sport were mesmerised in this quarter, unable to tear their eyes away from the relentless action that unfolded. At the apex of schoolboy hockey, it was truly the players’ skills that made this beautiful game shine, as the Rafflesians displayed their synergy, stringing their passes from the midfield to the defence and then back until there was a chance at a goal.
Persistent, the team made numerous attempts to achieve a goal throughout the quarter, which was aided by several short corners and a penalty stroke awarded to Raffles. Though the Victorian defence managed to keep pace with the offence of the Rafflesians, the momentum was still very much with Raffles throughout the quarter.
After a yellow card was awarded to VJC’s #8 for a foul against Raffles’ Peh Yu, the home crowd erupted into cheers, roaring their approval for the referee’s decision as the carded player trudged off the pitch. The scene had been set, and the tides were in our favour—all that was left was to hold onto the lead, and hopefully, increase it.
At the half-time huddle, the atmosphere was tense, punctuated only by the laboured panting of the players as they took turns to speak to their teammates. Vice-captain Jim (#4) rallied his teammates fiercely, reminding them of their tenacity.
“You’re stronger than this heat. You’re stronger than them. We pass the ball, we transfer, we make them RUN.”Jim (#4)
Even as Raffles was up 1-0, the high expectations the team held for themselves meant that this was an unsatisfactory score, and a still-tenuous claim to the championship. Aware of this, it was not tactics or strategy the team focused on during the break, but rather, their mindset and determination. Having trained together since secondary school, they knew it was the latter which would make all the difference now.
“You’ve all trained for so many years. Just thirty minutes. Just give me your best now,” urged Raffles coach Bakri, who had mentored the team since their secondary school days, and was now watching some of them play their last schoolboy match. There was a palpable recognition of what the match was—their last chance to play together as a team, and to leave it all on the pitch, with no regrets.
“If you’re not playing well, pick it up. If you’re playing well, keep it up.”Raffles coach Ahmad Bakri Marfi
The Third Quarter
In the second half, the goal at hand for the Raffles team was to convert more of the short corners they were awarded, which had been a missed opportunity for them in the first half.
A short corner awarded to Raffles with eight minutes left saw an elaborate play for the team, with Joash (#19) pushing out the ball from the attacker’s mark to Peh Yu (#8), before slipping into the shooting circle to deflect the ball into the goal. Alas, the VJC defence was already onto the play, and stopped the shot before it made it in.
Undeterred, Raffles received another short corner with two and a half minutes left to the loudest cheer yet of the crowd, excited to see the team successfully convert one. Daniel (#10) took a direct hit at the goal after the push-out, which a VJC player attempted to save by blocking the shot with his body, a foul that gave Raffles a second chance at the penalty.
With the second attempt, Peh Yu (#8) received the ball at the top of the shooting circle, nimbly sweeping the ball into the goal with a drag-flick, a beautiful flat ball that skimmed the surface of the turf and beat the outstretched sticks of the VJC defence which were too slow to react.
“The stands started roaring and we were all in high spirits. However, we knew we could not let our guard down as it was still a very close game and the tables could turn at any point,” recounted Peh Yu after the match.
With a 2-0 lead now, the third quarter ended with a buzz among the spectators. Victory was in the air.
The Fourth Quarter
“Let’s go Raffles, let’s go!” cried a spectator, prompting the whole Rafflesian crowd to join in. Spirits had never been higher in the stands, as supporters initiated cheers by themselves, drowning out even the drum sounds coming from the VJC stands.
As VJC started the first ball, they swiftly went on the offence, passing the ball into their attacking 25 only a minute into the quarter. A clever intercept by Jim (#7) stealing the ball from the VJC forwards and passing it back out to the Raffles midfielders saw loud cries of “OH!” from the crowd.
The first short corner awarded to Raffles in the quarter was due to a mistake from the VJC defence as their first runner stepped off the line before the whistle was blown, leading him to be sent off, and their defence reduced to four players.
The perfect pass-out was smoothly trapped by Peh Yu, who stepped aside for Joshua (#11) to drag-flick the ball into the top middle section of the net, easily slinking it past the VJC defence. The players yelled in delight, patting one another on the back and pumping their fists before resetting for the next play.
Raffles’ second attacking short corner came soon after, retaken after a foul by VJC’s second runner. The play was a pass to Joshua, who stood at the top of the attacking circle, feigning a hit but instead passing the ball with the backhand of his stick under the leg of a Victorian first runner to Peh Yu, already waiting for the perfect assist.
A perfect sweep into the left corner of the goal by Peh Yu, and the ball was in. Raffles was up 4-0 in the fourth quarter, and the championship was virtually in their grasp.
Still, VJC tried valiantly with their short corner to score, connecting two excellent passes in the attacking circle to bring the ball to a deflector standing near the goalpost. The VJC forward missed and sank to the ground in agony.
With twenty seconds left on the clock, Raffles supporters began a loud countdown to the final whistle, chanting each second in unison.
“THREE. TWO. ONE.”
And with a blow of the whistle, the Raffles Hockey team was the champion again. The stadium erupted with joy—players running towards one another and embracing their teammates, coaches and teachers shaking hands with one another on the sidelines, and supporters applauding the hard work of the teams.
Beyond the gallant waves of the Rafflesian flag and visceral screams from the supporters, our sportsmen’s full-speed collisions and human hug mountains added an air of cathartic finality to the game.
After the games
With beaming smiles, the players took pictures with family and friends, making sure to flash their gold medals in the photographs. But of course, victory was not their only takeaway from the games.
“Between the third and fourth quarters, during the team talk, our senior ex-captain told us, “Just 15 min more, give it your all”. That really motivated me and I’ll remember that moment forever.”Daniel Xu (#10)
In fact, the games marked a bittersweet end for many of the players’ schoolboy hockey journey. And an emotional one it was, with one of our graduating players, Daniel Xu (#10), shedding tears as he recounted how his father was “always there for me to watch my games, (and was) with me at my lowest points and my greatest achievements”.
Others felt immense appreciation, such as Joshua Poh (#11) who talked about how “[his] journey in hockey has provided [him] with my closest friends and taught [him] many valuable life lessons”.
Players and supporters alike huddled in a circle as they sang the Institution Anthem and performed the Unite cheer, celebrating what was a glorious victory, among many other things.
Boys’ Hockey Team
#11 – Joshua Poh – Captain
#7 – Chow Jim An – Vice Captain
#4 – Matteus Ooi
#10 – Daniel Xu Jue Wen
#9 – Keeratpal Singh
#1 – Ng Shuyang
#8 – Peh Yu
#25 – Rohit Sadanala Satya
#6 – Alif Danial
#17 – Kiefer Lee
#19 – Lim Joash
#14 – Tan Yu Shuen Nathaniel
#24 – Thievyan Koban
#22 – Rohan Mahadevan
#18 – Nathan Ball
#16 – Law Bing Xun
#13 – Mohamad Ezeckiel
#23 – Sanjay Karthikeyan
#44 – Chua Tobey
#5 – Tay Yu Zhe