St Mary’s Primary School, Whittlesea, teacher Joe Ciavarella and grade six hockey team players prepare for the state championships. ​

By Pam Kiriakidis

The grade six hockey boys’ team at St Mary’s Primary School in Whittlesea are driven to take on state level at Footscray Park on September 8.

The team, consisting of 11 boys, progressed from regional to district games and are now representing the Bridge Inn North District for state title against three other schools from across Victoria.

Physical education leader Joe Ciavarella and coach Jessica Verzin have watched the team progress, achieving their goals at a high level.

“It is a big achievement for a small school with 250 kids out in Whittlesea to get that far,” Mr Ciavarella said.

He highlighted the school’s sport culture was a huge factor, teaching values for students to adopt in training and games.

“It’s something I am very proud of, I think as a small school we pride ourselves on the values that we carry in terms of sport, not only we try really hard in terms of training, but we put a lot of time and effort into teamwork and showing that value of respect and sportsmanship with the other schools,” he said.

Mr Ciavarella said the grade six boys embraced the blue and yellow colours with pride, stepping up their game to prepare for the next big games in a few days.

“They are over the moon. They don’t need much encouragement these particular group of boys, they’re always pushing us for more training, I know next week we have three trainings after school that we’re going to be doing, so they’re willing to put in the time,” Mr Ciavarella said.
To prepare for the big day, the team used their connections at the Greensborough Hockey Club who have been helpful to the team’s training.

“They have been amazing with the relationship with our school in terms of providing us with equipment and facilities whenever we need and coaches to progress the kids,” Mr Ciavarella said.

Mr Ciavarella said coach Jessica Verzin had been an asset to the team, wielding her knowledge of hockey to assemble the team.
The school’s parents have also helped, cheering on the students at at each game.

“Our school has a good community backing, so a lot of parents come to watch. I know with the regional event, most of the parents were up there getting involved,” he said.

Last year, the boys in the grade below achieved state level, however due to COVID, games were not able to be played.

Mr Ciavarella said this time round there was an even greater sense of excitement.

“We had to do it all over again and play again, and its an even better feeling,” he said.

The following students in the team include captain Kade Coulthard, Lachlan Bird, Leevi Tasevski, Paddy Skehan, Morgan McDonald, Kaydin O’Connor, Kaydan Cox, Angus Howe, James Maher, Ethan Draper, and Will Varley.

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