Ngaruawahia United 5, North Shore United 0
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, September 14 2013
One of the things I often get praised about for this blog is my lack of bias. I struggle to understand this. Like anyone, I have emotional reactions to various clubs and that means soft spots for some and irrational dislikes of others. I don’t go out of my way to hide these. I am not a journalist and have never pretended that this is a news site, so when I want a team to win, I say so. Further to that, I have never been shy to admit that if I am a ‘fan’ of any team in the Northern League, it would be Ngaruawahia United.
It’s ten minutes’ drive from where I grew up (Huntly), My uncle played for them when I was a child, and now a close family friend who I’ve known since the day he was born plays for them (I won’t embarrass him by naming him). They are from my beloved Waikato region, they have often been plucky underdogs, and they wear a striking emerald green uniform. All the boxes are ticked!
So if any team was going to break the curse of teams I have gone to see clinch a trophy or promotion managing to find a way to choke, I couldn’t be more delighted that it’s these guys. And did they what!
The ‘green machine’ have had a stunning second half of the season, charging into contention for the second promotion spot with impressive victories such as a 6-1 thumping of Takapuna, a 3-1 victory over highly fancied Eastern Suburbs, and a 6-0 demolition of North Force all at Centennial Park. North Shore United were the only club that could realistically take second place off them, but with this team in this form on this ground, this result was never really in any doubt. Ngara earned their promotion to next season’s Premier Division only two years since they gained promotion to Division 1.
They have achieved this mean feat with an impressive bunch of players, headlined by their impressive ex-Everton duo Steve Morrison and John Irving, along with Uruguayan ace Federico Marquez, whose hat trick today would have seen him draw level with Glenfield’s Michael Gwyther in the Division 1 Golden Boot, if Gwyther hadn’t scored in the 89th minute back up the road in Auckland.
There’s an old saying that when a team wins, the coach gets the credit, whereas when they lose he gets the blame. This may be the exception that proves the rule however. Joel Pinto may have won promotion in his first season at the helm, but most people close to the club seem to intimate, when the subject is broached, that this victory well and truly belonged to the players and Pinto is unlikely to get a shot at the top-flight, here at least.
Despite that slight cloud, it was still a wonderful victory for this great little club, based in rugby league country on the seat of Maori royalty. They will hit next season with confidence that they can foot it with the big boys, having restored Waikato football’s previous status with two clubs in the top flight. Meanwhile, down the road in Hamilton, Melville’s ‘pride of the Waikato’ moniker is well and truly up for grabs now! Their Chatham Cup semi-final appearance this season ensured they can keep their crown for the time being but the folks at Gower Park will be desperate to catch up fast so we can make it three clubs from Mooloo country footing it with the best. They are my undisputed team in Division 1 now. Here’s hoping they can do it!
After the game I spoke with Ngaruawahia President Maxine Duffull who was understandably proud as punch of her great little club.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.