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State of the nation II – The quagmire strikes back


You asked for it – here it is. A mid-season review of the Super City’s football pitches. Before the start of the season, in the middle of our worst drought in living memory, I drove around all 28 of the region’s Northern League football clubs. The goal was to see how well prepared they were for the start of the season, and get a sense for where our council had or hadn’t been spending our rates. What I found was a lot of parched, dry dustbowls, and at the time it was suggested that another look in the middle of winter would instead yield a lot of sodden mud bowls. Given last week saw the passing of the shortest day of the year, and thus far the winter seems to have been every bit as wet as the summer was dry, now seemed like the time to put the theory to the test.

As before, 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. The number in brackets is the pre-season rating the pitch got so you can see the change. 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.

I faced a bit of a dilemma on how to rate pitches that looked absolutely pristine but only as a result of being closed for long periods due to the weather. I decided that unplayability as a result of poor drainage is a fairly fundamental flaw in a pitch so tended to rate those at and around 5.

North Auckland – average 5.66(5.33)/10

Warkworth – Shoesmith Reserve: 3.5(4)/10  A field of two halves. Southern end boggy and muddy with a fair bit of surface water. Northern end is not too bad.



Hibiscus Coast – Stanmore Bay Park: 5(3)/10 Very lumpy and undulating with a lot of scarring. A little boggy in places but not toooo bad. Fairly green and good around the goals.



East Coast Bays – Bay City Park: 6(4)/10 A fair bit of scarring but dry and fairly even. Large patches in goal mouths but good grass coverage that aside.



Albany – Rosedale Park: 6.5(6)/10 A few lumps and holes but even grass through the middle. Well drained. Sandy around goals – better than mud.



Forrest Hill Milford – Becroft Park: 5.5(8)/10 A real mixed bag. A bit soggy in places but dry enough in others. A bit scarred but nice and flat. A few drainage issues at the northern end.



Takapuna – Taharoto Park: 7(9)/10 Flat and dry. Very patchy around northern goal and through middle of the northern half. Southern half nice though, just a few blotches. Looks great from afar.



Glenfield – McFetridge Park: 4.5(4)/10 Pity about the drainage issues at the southern end – very soggy. If it wasn’t for that would be high marks. Very lush even grass coverage.



North Shore – Allen Hill Stadium: 5.5(9) Very brown as North Shore always gets but not as bad as it looks. Very muddy in patches though.



Birkenhead – Shepherd’s Park: 7.5(1)/10 A little bit of lumpiness but lovely and lush, even grass coverage. Just a bit of minor remedial work around goal mouths.



West Auckland – average 7.5(6.13)/10

Waitakere City – Fred Taylor Park: 8(8)/10 All things considered probably best in show but only by default. A little undulating, mottled, but pretty well drained and only a little mud around the corner flags.



Oratia – Parrs Park: 7(6.5)/10 Boggy in and around the centre circle but not bad outside that. A bit lumpy and bumpy. Light scarring.



Bay Olympic – Olympic Park: 7.5(5)/10 A bit lumpy but not too bad. A little bit of minor bogginess in a few places but nowhere near the worst. Minor scarring from heavy use.



Lynn Avon – Ken Maunder Park: 7.5(5)/10 Would be close to full marks if it wasn’t for the extremely swampy northeast corner letting the side down somewhat. Apart from that only minor squishiness and bobbles.



East Auckland – average 6.25(7.5)/10

Eastern Suburbs – Madills Farm: 6.5(7)/10 Firm and dry, bald around the goal mouths but far from the worst. Grass coverage a bit hairplugesque…



Ellerslie – Michaels Avenue: N/A Turf installed and in use. Have a look at the close up here though. Is it supposed to look like that? *shrug*



Fencibles – Riverhills Park: 6(8)/10 Very soggy and patchy through middle but quite firm and even down the flanks. Northern goalmouth worse than southern. A bit weedy but still pretty green compared to North Shore where they have the same grass that goes dormant in winter.



Central Auckland – average 5.25(6.25)/10

Western Springs – Seddon Fields: N/A Turf finished and looking ready and raring to go!


Mount Albert Ponsonby – Anderson Park: 6(8)/10 Let down by ugly bald swampy patch at northern end. Otherwise a bit pock marked but holding up very well that aside.



Metro – Phyllis Street: 5(8)/10 Undulating, uneven grass coverage, a little boggy but in more of a coagulated, playdough kind of way than a Lake Wakatipu kind of way.



Central United – Kiwitea Street: 5(6)/10 Pretty good apart from slight mottling and the fact that it’s absolutely sodden and you’d need an inflatable raft to play on it.



Three Kings – Keith Hay Park: 5(3)/10 Huge improvement on last time in terms of aesthetics but better suited to synchronised swimming than football at the present moment.



South Auckland – Average 4.71(4.29)/10

Onehunga Sports – Waikaraka Park: 5(7)/10 Another pristine looking swamp. Grass best yet but probably owes much to the fact that nobody can play on it.



Onehunga Mangere – Mangere Domain: 6.5(5)/10 Pitch is almost 100% Kaikuia (more weed than grass) on a very sandy base. Not especially pleasing to the eye but tough and functional. In pretty good nick compared to many others. Surface a bit uneven and lumpy though.



Mangere – Centre Park: 5(6)/10 The all too common mixture of gorgeous to look at but more soggy than a Hugh Grant movie.



Manukau City – Walter Massey Park: 2(0)/10 Sigh. Improved rating on last time but only because it has grass now…



Papatoetoe – Murdoch Park: 7.5(8)/10 Stripy patches but bone dry and nice and firm. Ugly but pretty good surface.



Manurewa – Memorial Park: 4(1)/10 Grass is pristine apart from some sort of tyre tracks running through it, but it hasn’t been played on for almost a month if I’m not mistaken. Poorly drained. I can report that the cricket wicket next door is still roped off and looking marvellous…



Waiuku – Massey Park: 3(3)/10 A cross between a cow paddock and a paddy field. Cut up pretty bad.



Some additional thoughts.

It’s useful to look at the quality of the pitches in the various divisions. Last time the premier league surprisingly had the lowest average at 4.38/10. Division 1 was the best with 7.11 while division 2 managed 5.44. This time it’s more as you would expect. The premier league has jumped from last to first with an average of 6, division 1 is next with 5.83 and division 2 brings up the rear with 5.2.

This begs the question, how much does the quality of the pitch contribute to success on it? One could take from this that it does significantly. This seems somewhat unfair considering that in Auckland, pitch maintenance is largely out of the hands of the clubs and squarely in the lap of Auckland Council.

The region with the lowest average once again is South Auckland. This must be enormously frustrating for the clubs and once again calls into question why this vitally important football area is being so poorly served by the council. It is no surprise that the club with the worst pitch in the region once again, Manukau City, is at the foot of the Northern League standings and looking increasingly likely to be relegated down to the conference, at least in part due to the state of their pitch. Why would decent players want to stick around and put up with it?

The average overall is 5.33. This seems to me to be far too low for a sport as popular as football if we want to produce quality young players who can emerge and represent us well at higher levels. At this time of year, no pitch is going to be perfect because a perfect pitch is one that hasn’t been played on. But the trouble is none of our region’s pitches were perfect at the start of the season when nobody had been playing on them, and as a result of that they are far from perfect now.

I will probably do this again for next year’s pre-season but I don’t think I’ll be redoing the mid-winter thing. What was quite interesting in autumn was, in winter, two days of my life I’ll never get back, a pair of shoes that will never be the same again, and countless games missed. From now on I think I’ll leave examining the finer points of Auckland’s most expensive marshlands to the likes of David Bellamy!

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.

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