A bit of shocking news that isn’t so shocking really came through yesterday. It appears that star midfielder Maxim Manko has left WaiBOP United over the Christmas break, and played off the bench for Waitakere United in their friendly against the Phoenix A last night. My initial reaction to this is unprintable. The sanitised version is that I find it extremely disappointing and unhelpful to the reputation of the ASB Premiership as a two-horse gravy train. Of course all is fair in love and war, but is it really a war and if it is, why pick on some kid nipping at your ankles when the conquistadors are on their way?
If you were calling Waitak’s plays, wouldn’t you want some semblance of competition from the likes of WaiBOP for the good of the league and for the overall benefit of your club? Don’t they want as many competitive fixtures as they can get in the lead-up to their all-important clashes with Auckland City, their O-League fixtures, or the Club World Cup if they ever manage to get back there? If you are going to go recruiting mid-season, there are plenty of other perfectly good places to find talent without nobbling a lower-mid-table team in a competition that is lop-sided enough as it is.
I have posed the question on this blog before, of what the purpose of the ASB Premiership is. Is it (a); a rort to try and produce two good teams capable of going to the Club World Cup to bring home as much prize-money as possible? Is it (b); a development league designed to give New Zealand football talent a stepping stone to higher levels? Is it (c); a vehicle to profile New Zealand football to the public? Or (d); all of those things? Well, if this sort of thing is allowed to keep happening then the only possible answer is (a), and the only players who will want to play for anyone apart from the top two are those who simply want to keep fit over the summer and really don’t give a proverbial about anything else.
This move by Waitakere smacks to me of animal species that become extinct because they overhunt and wipe out their own food source. What if their greed becomes their own undoing? At some point the other franchises are going to ask themselves why they bother. Why do they struggle along in a multitude of ways to pay for travel, set up venues, employ coaches and generally slog their guts out for no reward? Why keep playing along when you are so blatantly set up to fail? At some point they might just pack it all in and let Waitakere and Auckland City play each other 14 times and be done with it. This already nearly happened at least once a few years ago when several franchises almost threw in the towel all at once and drastic changes had to be made to keep the competition viable.
I don’t necessarily mind the franchises signing whoever they can at the start of each season, but why can’t there be a rule that says once the squads are finalised before the opening game, you can’t poach each other’s players? If clubs can’t be trusted to act in their own best interests and for the overall good of the game, then this is the sort of measure, amongst others, that needs to be taken in order to make this competition both interesting and fit for purpose again.
It’s nice to see the sentiments of WaiBOP coach Peter Smith in the article linked above, to not enforce the stand-down period and make Maxim sit out a few games before he’s eligible to play for Waitakere. At least someone is thinking of the bigger picture. If it was me, I’d treat them the same way they have treated us. With the gloves off and no quarter given.
Categories: NZ Men's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.