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When Jack Fleming was running round playing football in the green and gold of Mid Canterbury, he never expected to be facing off against former All Whites and his football idols.
Now the no-nonsense centreback wears the red and black of Christchurch’s Western in the Mainland Premier League.
On the ladder of football in New Zealand, this is as good as it gets, bar the Canterbury United Dragons in the ISPS Handa Premiership, New Zealand’s national football premiership.
Starting off playing for Eastern in the local Ashburton competition, Fleming first made the step up to Mid Canterbury for the 12th grade Japanese tournament.
“The Japanese teams were meant to come out here but it was the bird flu year so it was just a national tournament,” he said.
Only a few years later, at around age 15, Fleming was making his debut for the Mid Canterbury Seniors side.
“It was fun, it was definitely a step up,” he said.
“Everyone was a lot stronger than me because I was quite small.”
Fleming bounced between the youth and senior sides until he finished school and moved to Christchurch to attend university.
There, he moved to his current club Western, starting out in their reserve squad.
“It was definitely harder. It was a whole different level of commitment required, and there is a lot of hard work involved,” he said.
Fleming was handed his first start for the first team in the English Cup against Christchurch football giants CashTech.
“I was marking the top-goal-scorer of all time in the league, Michael White, which was pretty challenging,” he said.
“Also there are the guys like Aaron Clapham and Ben Sigmund who were playing.
“You can tell they have played at that international level because they were the best players on the field by far.”
In the game, Fleming was given the unenviable task of marking Sigmund on corners.
“I think I only won one header against him,” he said.
Fleming’s first season could easily be labelled a success after he picked up the reserve team’s player of the year, the first team’s young player of the year and the most promising player award.
“Getting them was a pretty big surprise, I had only really spent a month in the first team,” he said.
Despite making the switch to Christchurch, Fleming was more than happy to pull on the Mid Canterbury kit for one more run at the Lotto U-19 Tournament in Christchurch.
It was at the tournament in 2015 where Fleming said one of his proudest footballing moments came, when he scored the winning goal in the quarter-final against CashTech.
The side went on to finish fourth in the tournament, losing in the third/fourth playoff to Selwyn United 1-0.
Being a Manchester United fan growing up, Fleming said his favourite player was Wayne Rooney, while fellow centrebacks Carlos Puyol and Ben Sigmund provided inspiration.
Fleming said his main goals are to avoid relegation with Western this season, before focusing on picking up more wins and possibly picking up some silverware in the coming seasons.
By Jaime Pitt-MacKay © The Ashburton Guardian - 3 August 2017
First-year Otago University student Lucy Clough misses Alex the cat and avocado toast, but is making a busy, new life in Dunedin.
Lucy, 18, is studying first year health sciences and also keeping her passion for music alive through the New Zealand Youth Choir. A competitive swimmer since the age of nine, she has quit the pool to make way for new things.
She was sad to give it up, but credits the early morning starts and training routine as the foundation for her work hard approach to school and now university life.
From an early age, Lucy has wanted to be a pharmacist. That is still her plan if she survives the tough first year. “I won’t lie, it’s hard. But I’m taking every day as it comes.”
Lucy was the first recipient of the Ashburton College Alumni Scholarship in 2016, a $1000 boost to the cost of her tertiary education funded by NBS Ashburton. The award recognises the commitment of a Year 13 student to college life.
A typical day for her now at Otago University starts with lectures from 8am, in papers that include human body systems, physics, chemistry and cell biology. She starts at 8am and has 16 lectures a week from Monday to Friday, plus a three-hour practical lab session for each subject fortnightly, finishing at 9pm.
And in between every single class she studies, in her room at Carrington College or at the library.
Former Ashcoll students Ruby Wills and Albertene Hefford, first-year health science students at Otago in 2016, are among those Lucy can call on for help if she needs it. “Ruby and Albertene have set up a Facebook page and they mentor us, share their notes and words of wisdom.”
The support was crucial for Lucy when she succumbed to two sinus infections in the first semester. Still, she is working hard to hit her academic targets and preparing for tough exams ahead. If she continues with pharmacy, she will have three more years at the university and another as an intern at a hospital or retail pharmacy.
Her new family at Carrington College is also important. “The biggest thing about it is it feels like home. I don’t picture myself at any other college except here. It has such a good community and lots of support networks.”
Carrington College has 240 students, living in a collection of villas and houses on grounds close to the university.
Lucy says there are lots of opportunities to socialise and get to know students from all over the world.
She has also found a way to continue her passion for music which at Ashburton College involved belonging to the Phoenix Chorus, and playing the piano, cello and double bass.
Her musical talents have earned her a reserve place in the New Zealand Youth Choir, the Southern Youth Choir and Carrington College’s new musical scholarship. She is in charge of music at Carrington, running music events and taking the choir, as well as organising inter-college music performances. The Southern Youth Choir performed at the university’s Anzac Day service.
“I have not sacrificed my music by doing health sciences,” she says. “I have lessons with one of the university lecturers and I bus out to her house for classical singing.”
Lucy has also “accidentally” ended up in the University of Otago cello club.
“While I love science, music is my everything. It is such a good mental break and I have met so many lovely people through music.”
Her commitments to the New Zealand Youth Choir involve travelling to workshops around the country on a regular basis and she is hoping to cement a place in the group for its European tour in 2019.
While Dunedin is start of her life as an adult, she does miss her family – mum Carolyn, dad Kerry and brother Matt – and Alex the ginger cat. And as someone who is lactose intolerant, she misses home-cooked meals like steak, eggs and avocado on toast. Her dairy-free options at university are sometimes sadly limited.
She says students in their last year at Ashburton College should take a good look at every opportunity that presents itself.
“Ashburton College gave me some serious life skills about taking the initiative and time management, and learning how to be a good person. Once you get into the real world there is not so much support.”
She says she is grateful to her parents for helping her get to this exciting point in her life. “Now I need to be me, but I know they are always going to be there to support me.”
© The Ashburton Guardian - 29 July 2017
For Ashburton born golfer Catherine Bell, winning and the golf course were always going to go hand-in-hand.
For the daughter of accomplished golfers Robbie and Pauline Bell, who have both been club champions at Ashburton Golf Club, giving the sport a go was always going to happen.
“I first started playing when I was 12 and that was just because of my parents,” said Bell.
“At first it was just something to do but in Year 9 I started to play more seriously.” Entering as many tournaments as she could, Bell gave up on playing netball and tennis to focus on her golf.
“I was just juggling between too many sports so I had to give up netball and tennis,” she said.
“Giving up netball was probably the toughest thing.”
Bell said one of the advantages of golf compared to netball is that it is an individual sport, but can also be played as a team sport.
The turning point was when Bell decided to take golf more seriously at around age 14, when she found herself winning plenty of local tournaments.
She won the Ashburton Golf Club Champs at the age of 15, beating her mother in the final, making it a Bell one-two with her father taking out the men’s top honours.
Bell first represented her region flying the Aorangi flag at the Women’s Interprovincial Tournament, before switching allegiance to Canterbury. Should she make the Canterbury squad this year, it will be her fifth time wearing the red shirt.
Bell said her biggest moment representing Canterbury came at the 2015 Interprovincial, which was hosted at the Ashburton Golf Club, where Canterbury won the tournament for the first time since 1988.
“Winning it there was awesome because family and friends were able to come and watch,” she said.
“It was an advantage (playing at Ashburton) because I knew the course like the back of my hand and all the girls had played there in the past.”
Not only did Bell pick up the team title, but she also collected the award for player of the tournament. Bell said that while it was her proudest team achievement, her best personal achievement was probably making it in to the Junior New Zealand Team that travelled to Australia.
This year, due to work commitments, Bell said she is not able to play as much golf as she would like, with work on Saturdays preventing her from entering weekly Saturday tournaments. However, she still attempts to get out to hit balls three times a week, and play at least one round.
Having a crack at making a career out of golf was something Bell attempted, but was not quite able to make it work.
“There was six months were I just focused on golf and playing as many tournaments as possible with a bit of part-time work on the side but it didn’t work out,” she said.
“Looking back on it there are things I would do differently. It was always going to be difficult to make it work and it would always be easier with more money behind you.”
Currently a member at the Christchurch Golf Club and playing off a +1 handicap, the 23-year- old said it is not something she worries about.
“I just go out and play now and don’t really think about my handicap anymore,” she said.
With golf being as much a mental game as it is a skill game, anxiety is one thing Bell said she has struggled with over the years.
“Anxiety is probably the biggest thing. I’ve been able to control it more as I have gotten older but it is easy to get more nervous if you are losing and go out thinking you have to win,” she said.
Bell said her focus for the rest of the year will be on the inter-club competitions where the Canterbury squad is selected from, before the interprovincial competitions begin, wrapping up with the national Interprovincial in December.
By Jaime Pitt-MacKay © The Ashburton Guardian - 27 July 2017