Striker hits his targets

NZ Herald:

The Sacred Heart College First XI football side will miss Lucas Imrie at this week’s nationals in Papamoa.

They will miss his leadership and his striking, which yielded 20 goals and the Golden Boot in this season’s Auckland schools premier league, helping Sacred Heart to their third title in four seasons. Imrie is in Vanuatu with the New Zealand Under 20s for the OFC Champs, seeking 2017 World Cup qualification. The Under 20s enter the OFC Champs as favourites, but the pressure will be on in the hot conditions.

Imrie was five goals clear of the next best scorer, Mt Roskill Grammar’s Gilberto Souza Dias, as Sacred Heart won with three rounds to spare. Matt Palmer, with eight, was Sacred Heart’s next most productive goal scorer.

“It’s been a great season. We weren’t favourites going in. That was St Kentigern. But we worked hard on and off the pitch,” says the 18-year-old, year 13 Imrie.

He never set out with the primary aim of winning the Golden Boot, that was a consequence of Sacred Heart’s dominance.

“Without the team work, I couldn’t have scored 20 goals. The primary goal was to win the league and one of my other goals was to get 20 goals in all competitions,” Imrie says.

He scored one in the Knockout Cup to up his total to 21.

“We play quite an aggressive, pressing kind of game and that sets the tone. We talk about it as a team of 11,” he says.

His favourite goal of the season was a header which saw Sacred Heart go 2-1 up against St Kentigern. That secured the league title.

Coach Danny Hay has been a huge influence on Imrie’s career, as have 2015 Sacred Heart strikers Connor Probert and Dylan Bull. Imrie scored eight goals from the wing position in 2015 as that duo had the strikers’ slots sewn up.

“Danny has had the biggest influence on me. He took me under his wing in year 10 and took me to the nationals for experience. In year 11 he pushed me to start. He doesn’t accept anything other than 100 per cent work ethic.”

The relationship with the former All White goes beyond the Sacred Heart boundaries. Hay took the New Zealand Under 17s, of which Imrie was a part, to the 2015 World Cup in Chile. There Imrie scored the most important, and certainly most high profile, goal of his career, a late volley to help New Zealand edge Paraguay.

Next year, Imrie has his eyes on a possible US scholarship, following in the footsteps of Probert, now at Kentucky. In the meantime, he plays premier footy for Western Springs.

The game is central to Imrie’s life, but it is not the only focus. He is also a good student, which helps immensely at this time of year when exams start looming.

“I like being busy. If I don’t have football, I just get bored.”

By Campbell Burnes

Photo / Getty Images