Courtney Halle has enjoyed a stellar season by anyone’s measure

The Maritzburg College first team defender played a big part in the team’s ranking by as the number one schoolboy hockey side in the country.

Halle was also selected for KZN Inland U18A, KZN Inland U21, SA U18 and the SA U21 Junior World Cup training squad.

So how has it all happened, what are the key factors in this boom year for the Ladysmith, KZN-based Halle who filled senior positions as a boarder and in the school at College.

“As proud as I am of myself and my achievements, it’s only a result of hard work and dedication plus the support of many people,” says the tall defender.

“There’s no real way to express my feelings about this year as they are overwhelming! This year was my second and last year playing for the college 1st XI. The reason why we are such a successful hockey school is because our hockey staff buy into the idea from the lowest to highest teams. We work extremely hard at practice and look to earn the respect of others by assisting on our off days with the coaching of teams as low as the U14G and F teams who deserve as much respect as the 1st team.”

Halle admits that much what drives him comes from within. “I am a very competitive guy who wants to always raise the bar and be better than what’s expected. I am driven by people who have told me I can’t do it and also to do my parents proud.”

Of the Maritzburg first hockey team Class of 2015, the immediately likeable Halle says the guys bonded as a team and came together to do a job. “We have successfully finished 1st in SA again according to the SA School Sports rankings and had more than the whole first side in the provincial set up.”

Alongside Halle in the SA U21 Junior World Cup training squad are good friends and College team-mates Tyson Dlungwana and MK Letuka as well as Old Collegians and ex-team-mates Tevin Kok, Peabo Lembethe, Onke Letuka and Siya Nolutshungu.

“College boys who represented KZN Inland were myself, Tyson Dlungwana, Andile Ndlovu and Michael Godfrey amongst the defenders; links Landon Campbell and Gareth Herselman, and strikers Michael Forrest as well as Bob Njapha. Our College coach, Devon van der Merwe, was also our provincial coach.”

College boys selected for the SA U18 side were Halle and Dlungwana, with Andile Ndlovu and Sanele Magoso being selected for the SA U17 squad.

Halle is acutely aware of the responsibilities he carries for the team. “Being a defender comes with its pros and its cons. The slightest of mistakes could result in the scoreboard ticking against your favour. So yes, I feel it puts huge strain on you as you have to take the smallest window of opportunity to turn over possession and win back that ball. Dealing with the strain though just means you need to work harder than ever before. Backing your goalkeeper to assist is also a key aspect.”

Penalty corner drag flicking is one of Halle’s favourites. “I thrive on knowing I have to be better than the opposition goalkeeper and that I have the potential to put my team ahead. There’s no better feeling than knowing you contributed a large amount to your teams success in a tight game, winning no more than 1-0.”

It takes time to know your game, develop the necessary mettle and advance your emotional make-up to really blossom and Halle appears to be getting there – and fast.

“Through the years I have matured as a hockey player and learned to deal with certain situations. I have learned to be calm in all situations, as you need to be so as a drag flicker. When we are under pressure to equalize I wouldn’t say I thrive on it but I like to set the pace at the back and get the game moving forward to get that needed goal.”

As for memorable, nail-biting games, there have been plenty stored in the Halle memory bank. “From beating Glenwood in our second last game last year to move into first place in SA, to beating Westville and Jeppe both 1-0 this year with seconds to go as a result of drag flicks.

“Although I think my most memorable game would be College vs Pretoria Boys for our third meeting of the year when we came from 2-0 down on Pape’s Astro at College to win 3-2, scoring two goals inside 90 seconds at the start of the second half.”

As far as individual goal strikes are concerned, the St Albans match stands out for Halle. “Against St Albans at the start of the season I scored a hat-trick and College went on to win the game 4-3. It was a huge milestone to achieve as I began to find my feet as a drag flicker. It is a memory I will not forget.”

Another highlight was last season. “When we played Glenwood at home after previously losing to them in Durban that same season. College won the game 4-1 to have the last say in their last game, and our second last game. We had to win by three goals to take the title of first-ranked team in SA for 2014.”

Halle loves the schoolboy hockey festivals, like the annual Nomads festival. “These festivals are extremely enjoyable as they bring competition that we would not normally play in KZN and allows us to be out of our home environment. It’s an important bonding time for the team as it sets the standard for the rest of the season. It also allows for you to make many friends, who you will see time and time again on and off the field during the year, and the years to come.”

As for his 2016 ambitions, one in particular is crystal clear: “Next year I will be looking to make the SA team that will take part in the Junior World Cup Africa Qualifier.” The winners of that one go through to the Junior World Cup finals in India later in the year.

Varsity Cup hockey also looms large in 2016 and Halle will likely be at Tuks or UJ studying towards a B.Comm with the focus on the entrepreneurial world.

Ultimately he would love to earn senior men’s national colours.

“It’s just unfortunate that we cannot make a career of hockey in South Africa; I think it’s a huge downfall and a burden on our potential success. I would love to look to make a career and play in the Indian and Belgium leagues.”

As to his mentors, Halle doesn’t hesitate for a second. “My parents have always played a huge roll in my success with their continuous support and interest in me. However I can’t forget about my coaches, from day one being my mother! My high school coaches played a huge roll too. Brandon Swart, Kyle Emerson, Devon van der Merwe and Chris Oldnall were always pushing my boundaries and driving me to succeed.

“I must make special mention of Devon van der Merwe. He has coached me the last two years and has had something to add to every aspect of my game, and ensures you are always pushing the limits. I can’t forget though, the part played by Mr Brandon Swart, where my seeds were planted.”

It all started for Halle at Monument Primary School in Ladysmith. “I have always been a fan of hockey since toddler days, although I only really started enjoying it last year. What makes hockey different to any other sport for me is that the game is never won, and can go either way at any moment! It’s all about the team who pitches on the day.”

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