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State of the nation*

[*Nation meaning the Republic of Auckland AKA the Super City AKA the centre of the known universe AKA as far and wide as I could be bothered driving – sorry Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland.]

Manukau City took to Facebook last week to vent their frustrations with the difficulty they have been having getting Auckland Council to do something about the appalling state of their ‘pitch’ at Walter Massey Park. This got me thinking and it occurred to me that the once in 70 year drought Auckland is currently experiencing will have brought the Council’s priorities into sharp focus. Nothing like three months of no rain to highlight where the pampering occurs, where the neglect is evident and where the ratepayer’s money is and isn’t being spent.

So last weekend I decided to do something a little bit crazy. I drove around all 28 football clubs with men’s teams in the Northern Regional Football League that are situated within the boundaries of Auckland Council. The task took a serious crapload more time than I expected and at times (specifically during the long slogs to Warkworth and Waiuku) it felt like an incredibly stupid idea but I think in the end it was worth it.

Below I have worked roughly North to South and grouped clubs into sub-regions so we can look for trends. Each ‘number 1’ pitch has been given a rating out of 10 and I have provided a few brief notes on what I saw. Each club has a wide angle photograph, and unless I couldn’t get through their perimeter fencing, an additional close-up of an area I deemed ‘typical’. Click on the thumbnails to view large high resolution images.

Some of these pitches are obviously a work in progress so this should be read as a report on current status. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be in similar condition when the season starts.

North Auckland – average 5.33/10

Warkworth – Shoesmith Reserve: 4/10 Patchy. Holes. Brown patches.


Hibiscus Coast – Stanmore Bay Park: 3/10 Very patchy and bumpy. Large brown patches.


East Coast Bays – Bay City Park: 4/10 Not great. Sandy, holy, weedy, patchy, but clearly in the process of being fixed.



Albany – Rosedale Park: 6/10 Being used for softball. Badly scarred in places. Patchy and undulating but most of it is very lush.


Forrest Hill Milford – Becroft Park: 8/10 Recently relaid. Some kaikuia but otherwise pristine.


Takapuna – Taharoto Park: 9/10 Coarse but even, no patches.


Glenfield – McFetridge Park: 4/10 Good in places but terrible in others. Obviously having work done on it though.


North Shore – Allen Hill Stadium: 9/10 Impressive. Looks brown from a distance but just dead clippings.


Birkenhead – Shepherd’s Park: 1/10 Being relaid albeit very late in the piece. Birko playing their first few games away while it gets sorted.


West Auckland – Average 6.13/10

Waitakere City – Fred Taylor Park: 8/10 A few holes consistent with use in summer league but otherwise lovely.


Oratia – Parrs Park: 6.5/10 Lots of lumps and bumps . Undulating but lush and green. Note: Oratia also have artificial turf.


Bay Olympic – Olympic Park: 5/10 Pock marked and holy.


Lynn Avon – Ken Maunder Park: 5/10 Bumpy and lumpy, literally rough around the edges but nice and green through the middle.


East Auckland – Average 7.5/10

Eastern Suburbs – Madills Farm: 7/10 Looks pale but good enough, although setting up for ‘Round the Bays’ when I visited. Difficult to see it emerging from that unscathed.


Ellerslie – Michaels Avenue: N/A Getting artificial turf installed. Cheating.


Fencibles – Riverhills Park: 8/10 A few brown patches but otherwise pretty good. Flat and smooth.


Central Auckland – Average 6.25/10

Western Springs – Seddon Fields: N/A Turf being installed. Won’t be ready for start of the season I wouldn’t think.


Mount Albert Ponsonby – Anderson Park: 8/10 A bit of kaikuia but otherwise difficult to fault.


Metro – Phyllis Street: 8/10 A bit of softball scarring but otherwise fine.


Central United – Kiwitea Street: 6/10 Very mottled, hard and dry. Damage consistent with high summer use.


Three Kings – Keith Hay Park: 3/10 Looking disturbingly similar to my lawn at home.


South Auckland – Average 4.29/10

Onehunga Sports – Waikaraka Park: 7/10 Green, a bit undulating, a few patches of brown, a few weeds but all minor.


Onehunga Mangere – Mangere Domain: 5/10 Lumpy, bumpy, almost exclusively kaikuia, some softball damage.


Mangere – Centre Park: 6/10 Just been cored, not great but clearly on the mend.


Manukau City – Walter Massey Park: 0/10 A disgrace to Auckland Council. Pot holes, very bumpy, no grass whatsoever, dry and hard. No redeeming qualities. A real pity. This club has enough hurdles without this. It deserves better.


Papatoetoe – Murdoch Park: 8/10 A bit weedy but otherwise great.


Manurewa – Memorial Park: 1/10 Brown, unkempt, full of kaikuia. Not a football pitch. Only thing going for it is it’s flat. Lovely cricket wicket off to the side shows you where priorities lie… Needs ripping up and starting again.


Waiuku – Massey Park: 3/10 Very patchy and pock marked. Dry. No work done since last season.


A couple of additional thoughts.

North Shore’s average is skewed downwards by several clubs, particularly Birkenhead and Glenfield, who are having expensive work carried out on their surfaces. Where is the money for this in South Auckland where two pitches are just irredeemably terrible? One of them is a Premier League club. I can’t help but feel like the pretentious parts of town are getting resources thrown at their already luxurious sports facilities while the areas that need them most miss out.

You also have to wonder about the serious money being spent on multimillion dollar artificial turf in some areas when there are important pitches all over Auckland that badly need some simple remedial work. To me the benefits of artificial surfaces scarcely outweigh the downsides. Apart from the amount of injuries they cause there is also a social cost. Sports fields are community assets paid for by ratepayers and don’t belong to football clubs. Yet once turf goes down they are fenced off and unable to be enjoyed by the general public. The development at Western Springs for example takes up a massive area where Kilikiti (Pacific Island Cricket) could be delightfully seen being played on most summer weekends in the past. Where does that go now? Down to South Auckland where the facilities are rubbish?

I can’t believe I’m saying this but there’s more to life than just football.

Categories: Other Football Topics

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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.

20 replies

  1. I have played at Manurewa and Papakura recently and both were quality pitches. Obviously they had taken a beating over the summer but will be great for winter. Did you manage to have a look at Drury on the way to Waiuku? They just had drainage laid, after getting a sizeable amount from the council. The pitches are unplayable in the rainy winter months but now its just a sandy mess and there are sand holes everywhere (many ankles will be broken this season).

    1. I hope you’re right about Rewa but it looked pretty dire yesterday. Unless there’s another pitch tucked away somewhere that I didn’t see (wouldn’t rule it out). I didn’t see Drury but good to hear it’s getting some work done! I shudder to think about the state some of the non NRFL pitches must be in…

      1. Great article. The Rewa pitch is in a bad state and despite the fact it may come right for a couple weeks when the rain comes, it will turn the other way pretty quickly. 1/10 is a fair reflection of the field and the council input for the most part.
        The small training area over the other side is worse and is nothing but a mud pit come winter… embarrassing that the club and first team have come so far and can’t even train on a flat surface. Disgraceful training area for Prems team.
        I have played on the main pitch and trained out back week in week out for a few years now.

  2. Hi Enzo – firstly i must say that’s a mammoth effort and you have brought up a massive point that needs attention by councils and local boards.

    I do have to disagree about artificial surfaces – i can only speak with any authority about my own club, and we didn’t want to replace our number 1 with tiger turf but faced with the ongoing ineptitude of the council to provide a quality surface (ours would have been a 0.5 or a 1 last season) we had no other option than to go down this route. It’s also a big call for our club rather than just our first team – the club with 23 senior teams this year and over 1000 junior players is one of the biggest clubs in Auckland and and a number one pitch which was only ever used by the top teams and two substandard lower field pitches just wasn’t helping the club at all. We hope to redevelop our park so that we have a number one grass field in the next year or two, but in the meantime the turf suits us perfectly.

    I also disagree about your point about injuries – it’s in my opinion a myth that turfs cause more injuries – especially in Auckland – as you have rightly pointed out most pitches are below a 6 rating, those pitches are the real cause of injuries. Does a turf cause more injuries than a 10 ranked pitch – yeah probably – but we don’t have those so it’s not fair comparison.

    In my opinion more turfs should be installed over pitches that the council just can’t seem to get right (esp in high use areas), one season they spent over 150k on re-doing our sand based pitch, only for it to be worse in 12 months time – and it was only trained on twice a week and played on twice a weekend – hardly massive use.

    I am open to further discussion about turfs but in Auckland’s football landscape the turf field has a massive part to play in the next couple of years.

    FYI – if you want more info about our turf, check out


    1. Thanks Tim, great comment and lots of food for thought. I’d love to read more debate from people who have had the experience of playing regularly on tiger turf. I imagine it’s one of those things some like and some hate. But you’re right, I can appreciate how it would be vastly preferable to a poorly maintained grass pitch.

  3. Hi Enzo, Top effort but i have to agree with Tim regarding artificial pitches. As a club with around 2000 members it was the only way to go for us. In winter for the last 3 years more than 70% of our members have been unable to train at our home fields, Council were always closing the fields -generally due to overuse. To give people football the fields were getting more than 20 hours use per week and just couldn’t handle it. They would be closed for 10-12 weeks per year for repair and renovation work. We will end up with 2 and a half artificial pitches fully lit and able to be used by the club after hours and local schools during the day. We have a 7 a side football competition played 4 nights per week over summer and Gaelic football on Sunday’s in summer. From my memory Kilikiti hasn’t been played down here for around 9 years so that wasn’t relevant but we will still end up with an off leash dog walking area covering 2.5 fields along with a bush walk beside the fields to keep the non footballing ratepayers happy!

    1. 9 years since Kilikiti was there? Yikes!! Shows how long it’s been since I drove past there in summer. Time flies… Great to see the new pitch will be multiuse and the non footballing ratepayers are being looked after. I only wish that other footballing ratepayers around Auckland were being looked after a small fraction as well. 🙂

  4. It has suddenly occurred to me that I had meant to look at the averages of each league but it slipped my mind. They are:

    Premier – 4.38/10
    Division 1 – 7.11/10
    Division 2 – 5.44/10

    Interesting that the Premier Division is the worst of the three!

  5. The problem that most people dont realise, is that even though the fields may be terrible now, they will be worse during winter.
    due to over use and under maintanence (Thanks Auckland Coucil!) most training areas and “No. 1 Fields” in south Auckland are grassless dust bowls, as you already mentioned.
    Problem is, when winters rains arrive, those grassless dust bowls are going to become grassless mudpits.

    Why do other clubs complain about there 6 or 7 rated field? at least you have sprinklers, and club based groundsmen looking after your grass.
    please spare a thought for “the poor cuzzies” out south auckland. yes we may have a premier and a few div 1 & 2 teams, but there is no financial or physical support from council like some other clubs are receiving.

    I happen to know that at a certain club, members spent a whole afternoon with home hoses, sprinklers, and buckets, desperately trying to revive their No. 1 pitch while three lush, green, well watered cricket pitches are sitting not being used since feburary. obviously still being watered. . .

    Rant over 🙂

    1. Good rant. I can guess which “certain club” you are talking about and that really illustrates the problem beautifully. It breaks your heart to know that they have to do that while other clubs have beautiful green carpets. Where is the justice or equity in that?

  6. Enzo
    Great article and a timely look at the state of pitches right across Auckland. At Fencibles we have worked hard over the last three years to form a collaborative approrach with the council and more specifically the Howick Local Board on the whole question of sports feilds and parks availability and quality. We currently have a total re-development of William Green Reserve which will see it have a full size pitch and 5 youth pitches, all bulit to FIFA compliance with new lighting. This surface is not and will not ever be our premier playing surface, it is meant entirely for training from 3pm through to 10pm or later. It is a council owned facility and is being shared by ourselevs and Bucklands Beach AFC. On saturday afternoons and sundays it will be turned over to the AFF to scheduled games on. BUT our main pitch for the NRFL is Riverhills #1. This decision was taken mainly because with a club of our size there is no way that we can promote the skills development of football when kids and adults alike are playing/training on a dangerous and bumpy surface, which can be closed for up to 10 weeks a year. Quite simply even a top quality sand carpet pitch will not take the damage from over a 100 teams training on it week in and week out through winter.
    We are currently happy with our number one, it is a sand based pitch that was re-done 3 years ago and over this summer was converted to couch and rye. This is now the favoured mix in Auckland. It looks horrible in winter as it goes dormant and looks dead, but it offeres a nice flat easily maintained playing surface. We still have a few patches but are happy with where it is for this time of the year.
    Thanks again for putting this out and for your continued reporting on our sport.


    1. Thanks Wilson that’s good to know. I know what you mean about that winter dormancy. I noticed North Shore’s pitch looked terrible when I went there last season but look at it now, it’s a 9. That mix of grasses clearly produces a beautiful surface at this time of year and the number 1 at Fencies I think is a credit to all involved. Great to see what can be achieved when the club and the Local Board work together for the benefit of everyone.

  7. Its not perfect, we still have our moments with them, but we have found that yelling and screaming and pissing them off actually doesnt work. Its a formula that has worked for us and may help some of the other clubs with council controlled grounds

  8. If you get a chance you should check out Melvilles ground…. not sure how that is going to become playable in the next year

  9. I loved the article. It reminded me of something similar that I tired to do a few years back which was to video all the grounds I played at a kid. I gave up because of the distances and that several of the grounds are now no longer football pitches, eg Western Springs, Victoria Park. I was hoping to show how some of the grounds have changed in their physical nature like Brains Rd in Kelston. Maybe a suggestion for a follow up article, a tour of the non league clubs like West Auckland, Ranui-Swanson and Norwest. I can imagine that Unimount may score rather well.

  10. Heya Stevo, your project sounds really interesting and if you ever decide to do it I’d love to run it for you!! I might include the Conference clubs when I do this next season but in the meantime I do plan a follow up on the ones in this post to see how they are surviving the winter. Look out for that in the next few weeks. 🙂

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