APPROACHING it, doing it, the right way… every time.
SA Schools hockey player, Maritzburg College first XI cricket captain, prominent school leader and noted academic Andre Bradford is one of those quietly efficient boys who gets on with the job with the minimum of fuss and produces the goods.
Feature image: WALKING TALL – Andre Bradford… SA Schools.
KZN10.com wanted to find out more – So Andre, what was your overall impression of last month’s SA U18 vs Oz U17 Schoolboys series, what you learnt from it about yourself as a player, was there a good vibe between the teams, the atmosphere during the matches?
“I will never forget the surreal feeling I experienced walking onto the field on the first night, lining up, singing the national anthem…
“It was an amazing opportunity and a great honour to be a part of an SA Schools team but it’s even better to be able to participate for that team against another country. Playing against Australia was an experience that I will never forget, and I think it is a good initiative to improve schoolboy hockey in South Africa.
“With the matches being held during the U16 iWYZE Old Mutual Boys and Girls Hockey Nationals – and so much hype about the series beforehand – the crowds on all three nights were bigger than I have ever played in front of and the atmosphere was electric.
“The series was hard-fought, challenged me to my limits and taught me lots of lessons – on and off the field. I learnt so much in training from our head coach Mr Devon van der Merwe as well as Mr Krinesan Moodley (St Alban’s College director of sport and Northern Blues men’s head coach) – and just being able to play and train with the best schoolboy players in the country improved my game.
“The vibe between the two teams was friendly and the games were played in good spirit. The two teams had a few opportunities to get to know each other and I’m sure some of those friendships will live long after the series. Overall, I thought the whole series was a huge positive for me personally and for schoolboy hockey in South Africa and I feel privileged to have been a part of it.”
And what about Andre’s favourite 2018 iWYZE Old Mutual Hockey Nationals match in KZN Inland colours? Where, as mentioned, KZN Inland were silver medallists to a very smart KZN Coastal team piloted by head coach Keegan Pierce (Clifton College director of hockey) and captain Guy Morgan (Kearsney College).
“My favourite match… probably the semi-final against (defending champions) Western Province. In previous years I have played against Province and on all three occasions I have lost. Being a semi-final, it was always going to be a big game. I think what made it so special was the fact that we defended so well and were able to take our chances at crucial moments. Beating Province for the first time will always be memorable.”
In that match, KZN Inland head coach Matt Fairweather (Hilton College) devised the perfect game plan. It was in KZN10.com’s opinion one of the most flawless schoolboy hockey team performances seen in decades of watching stick-and-ball schoolboy classics.
On a nuts-and-bolts issue, Andre
Bradford also performed the vital role of penalty corner injection trapper for Maritzburg College and KZN Inland – and when necessary for SA Schools.
Andre’s thoughts on the set-piece technicalities? “It’s really important to have a quick, accurate push because with a good stop it allows the flicker much more time at the top of the D, thus giving the flicker the chance to pick any spot on the goal. With a slow or inaccurate push and stop, often the first wave will run the flicker down, and not allow them to get a flick off.”
It’s a no-brainer that achieving SA Schools selection doesn’t just happen. It’s the schoolboy hockey player’s most coveted prize… many years of toil on training pitches have already been banked in learning, then honing, skills/tactical/technical knowledge before implementing the full package come big-match time, thereby catching the national selectors’ attention.
“I started playing hockey when I was 7 years old. Paul Gonlag was a big influence in my primary school years, encouraging me to use my talent and work hard.”
* A soldier of the game in KZN Inland, Eston Primary’s Paul Gonlag has nurtured some astonishing young talent both at his school and in provincial U13 sides – the sight of now SA men’s striker Tevin Kok, probably the smallest boy at that particular U13 Hockey Nationals, wielding his hockey wand like a wizard (mixed metaphor? You be the judge) on Papes will remain forever-etched in my bank of hockey memories. Let’s get back to Andre before I wander off in a fairy-tale of memories.
“In high school, Mr Swart, Mr (Kyle) Emerson (MC and KZN Inland U16A head coach) and Mr (Devon) van der Merwe (then MC hockey director, now Hilton College first team and SA Schools’ coach), pushed me and improved my technical ability immensely.
“Also having been coached this year by the likes of Mr Coombes (MC) and Mr Fairweather (KZN Inland), I learnt a lot about what it takes to play at the top levels because they are experienced at the highest level.”
On the domestic front – the following number of paragraphs illustrates what it means for a boy to represent his school:
Saturday, 4 August was The Big Show… Andre and the boys’ last match in a Red Army shirt… their last match on Fortress Pape’s Astro… Maritzburg College Reunion Saturday… an expectant crowd, many seeing their only alma mater match of the year… wanting to assure those Old Boys, in the flesh, that Maritzburg College hockey was maintaining its heritage of excellence – and it couldn’t have been scripted any better than what happened for real.
The Red Army put on a stunning first half… totally in keeping with the illustrious traditions of MC first team hockey. A good KES side, who were shaded 2-1 in the Johannesburg leg of this biannual fixture, were subjected to a 4-0 blitzkrieg in the first 30 minutes. The grizzled Old Boys, most still a little fragile from the festivities the night before, were impressed… an adjective that actually doesn’t do justice to their assessment.
“The first KES match in Johannesburg (4 May) was a tough one, having travelled up there the day before. It is never easy against a dogged KES team. I think the first game came down to us taking our chances in a tight game. I am sure KES came to Pape’s with lots of motivation to try and turn that around. They are a team that never give up and play with a lot of heart.”
Indeed, once KES had absorbed the 4-0 first-half rout, they were much better after the changeover, but the end-game score was 5-0. You don’t allow any Red Army side a four-goal lead.
“The College boys were extremely motivated – Reunion Day, the watching Old Boys, final game of the season, the very last game for the Grade 12’s. It was an emotional one for all of us. Having said that, it was important that we all focused on doing our job – and then savoured the moment when it was all over.
“We are so fortunate to have been involved in such a professional hockey programme at College. I have trained under a series of great coaches on Pape’s. The past two years, playing for 1st team, have grown me enormously as a player and the two years are packed with good memories.
“Despite the 5-0 and the excellent team performance, it was to an extent a sad moment when the final whistle went and the realisation hit that I would never again be able to pull the shirt on and play for the Red Army.
“I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given to represent College and will cherish the memories for the rest of my life.”
KZN10: Andre, apart from your hockey achievements, your cricketing and academic prowess has also been notable. As the Maritzburg College first XI cricket captain, wicketkeeper and top-order batsman, plus a deputy head prefect, as well as one of the school’s leading grade 12 academics, do you find the responsibility puts a strain on you or brings out the best?
Andre: Definitely brings out the best in me. I’ve always been really busy and I find I do better under pressure. There are times when I struggle with it all but I always seem to find a way through it.
KZN10: You obviously have an extremely busy schedule as far as sport, academics and student leadership is concerned, how do you manage your time in order to do justice to all these activities plus have some leisure time?
AB: I don’t procrastinate much, so when I do something, I do it properly and don’t waste time. I also organise everything in advance so I can see where I’ll need to apply myself more. This allows me to have enough time for everything and be able to do it to the best of my ability.
KZN10: You played a key role in the 2018 Maritzburg College first hockey team’s successful year – and in the excellent KZN Inland team that did everything but win the iWYZE Old Mutual Boys U18 Hockey Nationals on Pape’s Astro at Maritzburg College last month, what is it about your hockey that has enabled you to add value to your teams?
“I am a midfielder but I’m also able to play at the back. I find myself most comfortable playing a deep centre mid (a deep blocker) position because I enjoy distributing. In this role I was able to do this more often than not – and being quite a defensive player, I was able to add value to the defensive unit of both my school and provincial team.”
In your hockey, cricket careers so far, what representative teams/squads have you played/been selected for? Provincial and SA.
“In cricket, KZN Inland U17 (last year), in hockey, KZN Inland U14A, U16B, U16A, U18B, U18A, and SA U16B, and SA U18A.”
There you have the evidence of a sportsman’s consistency over time and progression up the ladder, one step-up, followed by another.
Braderz made his Red Army first team hockey debut at the beginning of last year and as of the last match of the season, the 5-0 defeat of KES on Maritzburg College Old Boys Day Saturday, 4 August, was not far off 50 appearances. So how has his game improved over the two years?
“I have come a long way since my Red Army debut, developed a lot mentally and technically. In my first few games I really struggled with the speed and intensity but gradually got used to it and able to keep up with it. I’ve become a lot more confident in my ability and feel much more comfortable on the Astro.”
* Dylan Coombes, in his first year as Maritzburg College director of hockey and first team head coach, has completed a wonderful season in which the school’s depth and quality of hockey across the age-groups has ensured a remarkable win/loss percentage.
So Braderz, which has been your most memorable Red Army match?
“It has to be Westville last year. We played at home and won 8-2. Mr Swart, who was our coach and is now the deputy headmaster, co-curricular, always spoke about ebbs and flows of sports – and this was definitely the highest point of our season.
“As I mentioned, we played on our home pitch, Pape’s Astro, and everything just seemed to fall into place – we took the majority of our chances and controlled possession for very long periods of the game. It was a very strong Westville side at the time and that’s what made it such a memorable victory.”
Westville versus Red Army is always a massive contest. A couple of years ago, the 2015 Maritzburg College Reunion Saturday, outstanding Westville captain Ryan Bradfield led his side to a memorable win over yet another very good Red Army squad.
As I write, I vividly recall the disappointment etched on the faces of that particular MC first side as they trooped off Pape’s. Andre and his grade 12’s of the Red Army Class of 2018 are indeed fortunate to have experienced a diametrically different outcome to their red-letter day.
And this year, at Westville, director of hockey and first team coach Cam Mackay’s posse of high-calibre players scored one of the rare 2018 victories over College’s star-studded Red Army, so Andre’s favourite game – placed in all these contexts – indicates just how well coach Brandon Swart and his Red Army’s plans came together in the 8-2 of 2017.
And on the cricket front?
“I started playing cricket at the end of my grade 10 year, in 2016, I think I have approximately 46 caps for the 1st team. When I first started out I was very weak and didn’t understand my game very well. With all the coaching and experience, though, I have developed good game plans and now am able to bat longer periods and absorb pressure better. I have also developed lots on the mental side of cricket and feel I am a lot more positive than when I first started.”
In first XI cricket terms, the match Braderz signals as extra-special can also be placed in context of the calibre of the opposition. St Stithians College cricket, under the direction of Wim Jansen, have held sway in South African schoolboy cricket over a number of cricket seasons in these early years of the 21st Century.
“Yes, my most memorable first XI cricket match has to be beating St Stithians on the first day of Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week last year on Goldstones.
“We bowled first and got St Stithians for 149. The wicket was quite grassy, so even batting second wasn’t the easiest but the top order batted well to chase it down and win by 6 wickets. At the time Saints were regarded as being number 1 in the country and this was a very good result for us. I’ll never forget that game.”
So where did the Captain Dre cricket journey begin?
“As in hockey, I also started playing cricket when I was about 7 years old. Chris Anderson was my private coach for many years as I grew up and he helped me develop my technical skills.
“Recently, Doug Watson (a recent MC cricket director, first XI and latterly HP coach) has had a huge impact on my cricketing skills. Also having played at a very high level, Mr Watson’s knowledge of the game and understanding of what works and what can be improved, has been very beneficial to me. He helped me to focus on and understand the mental side of all sports.
“Also, (current first XI head coach and MIC cricket) Dave Pryke, has been a big influence on me and has been very supportive and positive for the past two years of 1st team cricket. He has also really helped me to grow my leadership abilities and is always there to bounce ideas off.”
* The knowledge gained in Prykie’s long first-class career has certainly been invaluable to MC first XI cricket in the relatively short time he has been working at his alma mater. Indeed, the first XI management team of head coach Prykie, his assistant Kevin Smith (also MC director of rugby and a prominent MC cricketer in his day), Ellie Pryke the team manager (that husband – the head coach- and wife- the manager – combination is surely unique in SA schoolboy cricket), and biokineticist/conditioning coach Jason Greef is one of the major elements in the hugely talented 2018 team’s success.
I’ve posed the following question in previous KZN10.com feature articles – and I will always pose it to the boy interviewed, it’s that important… – ‘Andre, has the support of family and friends also been a major boost in the good times (making a provincial or SA team for example) and the bad (injuries and illness for example) that are inevitable in every sportsman’s career?’
“Fortunately I come from a very supportive family, Mr Cook. I struggle to remember a game where my parents have not been there to watch. I think at times I take this for granted but it really does make a big difference. My family have never pushed me into anything and always support my decisions and provide all the help they can. None of my success would have been possible without them.
“My dad (Michel) is someone I can always go to, bounce ideas off and just talk in general about my games and the what-ifs moments. I haven’t had many serious injuries yet, thankfully, but my mom (Gail) has always been there to help me when I’ve been sick, which I’ll always be grateful for.
“My brothers (Paul and Jacques) have also had a huge influence on my sports. I spent most of my childhood playing ball games with them and ‘making’ them throw-down to me or hit at me for long hours.”
Yup – you’ve said it Andre, just about every schoolboy sportsman – whether he plays E’s, F’s and G’s or A’s, B’s and C’s owes much to those who support him.
KZN10.com wishes you everything of the best for the rest of 2018 and the future.
One thing’s for sure – work ethic will not be an Andre Bradford problem.
Andre Bradford off the field? Go to http://kzn10.com/maritzburg-colleges-andre-bradford-in-20-seconds/
Explore Maritzburg College the school at maritzburgcollege.co.za/