Star hockey player helps WP clinch gold

SHIFAAN RYKLIEF

Ottery’s Kirsten Wagner, 24, and her Western Province Women’s Peninsula hockey teammates returned to Cape Town after winning gold at the annual Inter-Provincial Tournament (IPT) in Johannesburg, earlier this month.

It was the brave goalkeeper’s first appearance in the Western Province colours in seven years. The shot-stopper hung up her WP jersey after she matriculated in 2009 at Wynberg Girls’ High School to focus on her studies.

And, last month, her club coach at Western Province Cricket Club (WPCC), Andi Bernstein, convinced her it was time to don the blue and white jersey once again.

Not only did Wagner make the cut for the WP squad who played in the six-day tournament – that ended on Saturday April 30 – but she was also given the responsibility of the vice-captain role.

WP beat KZN 2-1 in the final with Kaydee Miller and Robyn Pinder scoring the goals.

“We won every game leading up to the final against KZN. It was a really tight game and the score was 1-1 up until the last six minutes of the game. We managed to score and take the lead in those final minutes and got the win,” said Wagner.

“It was a true final showdown and KZN was definitely our toughest opponents. We did quite well in the games leading up to the final, beating teams with scores like 8-0,

7-0 and 5-1.

“The structure of the tournament was that there were four teams in each pool, and each team has a chance of playing in the final. Which meant that no matter where you ended up in the pool, you’d still play a quarter-final game,” she said.

The candidate attorney, who enjoys playing her guitar and draws in her spare time, brought her IPT experience to her club league match on Saturday against rivals Pinelands Hockey Club. Wagner pulled the strings from the back and helped WPCC beat Pinelands 4-2, at the Hartleyvale Stadium.

Following their third place finish in the Women’s Grand Challenge league last season – behind winners Stellenbosch and Somerset West – WPCC got off to a perfect start this season.

They’ve claimed maximum points with five wins from their opening five games – including their win against Pinelands.

They beat a star-studded Constantiaberg side 2-0 in their opening game of the season, and followed that up with wins over Victorians, Central and Somerset West.

“There is a bit of rivalry between us and Pinelands, so it was great to get the win against them. The game was tough. We got off to a rocky start and they scored first.

“But, we equalised off a short corner to level the score at 1-1 before half-time, and dominated after that,” she said.

Wagner took up hockey in Grade 6 at Grove Primary School. She got hooked onto the sport and continued playing throughout high school, where she also tried her hand at indoor hockey and volleyball.

“In primary school I had to choose between hockey and netball. I chose hockey and the sport has been good to me.

“At the time, the team was looking for a goalkeeper and I decided to try out for the position,” said Wagner.

“In Grade 10, my school coach encouraged me to join a club and that’s when I started playing club hockey at Constantiaberg. I played in their Women’s Grand Challenge team and have always played first team hockey since then.

“In my final year of school in 2009, I made the WP under-18 team and toured with them to Durban. Our high school team were unbeaten in that year and we won the school’s league.

“At school, I did art as a subject and still do it as a pastime.

“And, my guitar I received from my best friend Broghan Ross, who got it for my 13th birthday,” she said.

Wagner has been with the WPCC for the last four years and said she will start focussing more on her hockey now that she’s done with her studies.

WPCC host UCT tonight at 7pm, and play log leaders Stellenbosch on Sunday May 22.