Glenfield Rovers 4, New Zealand Selection 4
McFetridge Park, Auckland, March 24 2013
With the Northern Regional Football League finally getting underway next weekend, today only one pre-season fixture remained – a sort-of kind-of not really New Zealand Equivalent of the Charity Shield. A nice little crowd of 200 odd strong were treated to a great family afternoon in the sun watching Glenfield Rovers, one of the favourites for this year’s Women’s Premier League, take on and more than hold their own against a Football Ferns selection that resembled something of an all-star line-up from the Northern Conference of last year’s National Women’s League.
Featuring such rising stars as amongst others Estelle Harrison, Chloe Knott, Caitlin Campbell, Hannah Hoeksema, Tayla O’Brien, Tessa Berger, Jessie Mathews, Megan Lee, Emma Taylor, Kristen Molloy and Jessica Innes, spectators recieved considerably more value than the price of admission – a mandatory $10 donation to child cancer charity ‘Cure Kids’.
Just because there were eight goals scored and a wonderful relaxed family atmosphere around McFetridge Park, doesn’t mean that the two sides simply fooled around for 90 minutes. The only real exhibition game aspect was there was a smidgen of player swapping in the second half as the Ferns sportingly lent striker Chloe Knott to Rovers to finish off the game. This enabled her to secure herself a place in trivia quizzes for years to come by managing the unique feat of scoring for both sides without resorting to the traditional own-goal method.
Despite that, there was plenty of strong feeling and will to play hard apparent on the pitch and this was confirmed at half time when the key message for the Football Ferns from their coach was “it doesn’t matter who the opposition is, it’s always important to play to win.” They will have been disappointed with how they let Glenfield off the hook.
Rovers held the lead briefly early on but after the Ferns equalised through a goalkeeping error, there was only one side who looked capable of going on to win. It was 3-1 to the Ferns at one stage as Rovers gave away far too much first half possession, particularly at their own end of the pitch. Midway through the second half they came storming back and managed to level the scores at 3-3 but the Ferns still looked in control and quickly seized back the momentum, before ultimately taking their foot off the throat once again near the end.
Generally speaking, New Zealand football needs more games like this. With a bit of clever marketing they could be quite popular. Spectators today were definitely much more plentiful than at a bog standard women’s match where there is no admission charge. I for one don’t mind paying to see top club players, and interesting match-ups will draw interest from the general public. A gate charge can add desirability as some perceive it as in itself a sign of a quality fixture. If you are not charging admission, the message you are sending is one that the game can’t be worth paying for and if it’s not worth paying for it’s not worth attending. The key is not to be scared of initially low turnouts.
Such was the entertainment value of today’s match that those in attendance couldn’t have helped but enjoy what they saw. Perhaps next time they’ll bring their friends.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.