Maia Ririnui waited until his Mount Maunganui Intermediate girls’ football team had finished celebrating their Anchor AIMS Games win, then quietly gathered them together.
“Well done,” he began. “You wanted this, you worked hard and you got what you wanted. Remember, it was about all 12 of you here. I’m really proud of you girls but don’t let winning AIMS Games gold be the pinnacle, for all of you. Stick with it.”
His voice remained calm, barely above a murmur. His team hung on every word. It wasn’t a scene of celebration but one of serenity.
“He’s very good at hiding his emotions and he stays calm and he’s a good coach he doesn’t yell at us and he keeps us calm during the game as well,” Mount captain Isla Ganley said, after her team’s 2-1 final win over Auckland’s Baradene College.
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“We all just had fun and it was really cool.”
That team spirit was shared by their opposition; as the final whistle sounded, the two teams descended on each other, hugging and sharing chocolate. Tears and cheers were equally rare – instead, the laughs flowed and the smiles beamed.
The Mount Maunganui supporters had arrived by the busload to Papamoa’s Gordon Spratt Reserve, creating a festival-like atmosphere. It fuelled the home team, with striker Chloe Cheyne drilling two well-taken goals from close-range either side of halftime.
Baradene got one back near the end as a well-deserved consolation.
It wasn’t the first gold of the tournament for Asha James and MacKenzie Bryant – they’d collected a cross country team win – while midfielder Poppy Lane had dominated the Year 8 mountain biking race the day before.
“Winning the individual gold yesterday was pretty cool but winning with a team is even more special because we get to share it,” Lane said.
Meanwhile, Northcross took out the boys’ final with a 1-0 win over Sacred Heart.