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La Grande Finale

Northern Football Federation 2, Auckland Football Federation 0
Fred Taylor Park, Waitakere, December 16 2012

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Auckland versus Northern, Auckland versus Waitakere, Auckland versus North Harbour. The Super City Derby or the Battle of the Bridge. Call it whatever you want – how often does it all come down to this? Two Auckland teams battling it out in the final of a national competition. Whether it’s rugby, cricket, football or tiddlywinks – our nation’s biggest city boasts half our nation’s population and on the sporting field it so often punches right around its dominant weight. Never more so than on the football pitch.

North met south in the semi-finals of the National Women’s League, yet today we ended up once again right where we so often do, at Fred Taylor Park for a local grudge match.

On paper, with a much more experienced side, defending champions Northern always looked like hot favourites for this. The two sides first met in round 2 when they drew 2-2 and then again in round 4 when Northern ran out 2-5 winners. Northern cruised into the semi-finals with room to spare and easily dispatched Capital last week. Auckland scraped into the semi-finals by the skin of their teeth and needed extra time to account for Mainland Pride and advance to this stage. And with that, the two Northernmost teams in the league entered the arena today with expectations high for a close contest.

As with most finals, it was a nervous encounter in the first half. Both sides scrapped away at each other and found slim pickings as neither was able to assert much authority on proceedings. It was the underdogs who came closest to edging it. Auckland appeared to have hit the lead when Northern goalkeeper Pam Yates fumbled a fairly routine cross over the line, but she was adjudged to have been fouled by Auckland’s Rebecca Tegg following through. With that goal disallowed, a typically acrobatic Erin Nayler stop at the other end, and not a whole lot of else worth mentioning, the two sides went into the break with the score remaining bolted down at 0-0.

Things opened up a bit more in the second stanza though, when Northern finally started to play some football and Auckland were able to eke out some opportunities on the counter attack. It was Tayla O’Brien who snatched the opening goal for Northern though, by heading an Estelle Harrison cross past a sprawling Nayler. The lead was then doubled about fifteen minutes later thanks to a rebound off the post from a Harrison free-kick that was bludgeoned home by Georgia Brown. From that point on, Northern parked the auld proverbial bus and there was only going to be one outcome. A well-deserved second straight title for Northern Football – New Zealand’s undisputed best domestic football team!

Once again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s a crying shame that this league doesn’t last longer. Particularly when you think that it is a good 3-4 months between drinks until the Northern Women’s Premier League starts up again. It remains a real pity that we didn’t get to see more of the Southern teams in the North. Perhaps at some point in the future, we could have teams in each conference play everyone in the other conference once during the round-robin before the semi-finals take place? This would cost a little bit more to run but I’m sure the benefits would far outweigh the investment. Until then however, that ends my coverage of women’s football for 2012! It’s been a blast and April 2013 can’t come soon enough.

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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