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