Western Springs 0, Birkenhead United 5
Seddon Fields, Auckland, February 7 2014
I am a little bit weird because winter is my favourite time of the year. You can keep your summer with its heat, sweat, skin cancer causing rays, flies buzzing around your head and mosquitos trying to eat you all the time. Spring is overrated with its hay fever induced bung eyes and sneezing. Autumn sucks with its leaves that might look colourful on deciduous trees but ain’t so pretty when they are rotting in your gutters and on your driveway. Maybe, just maybe, the thought has occurred to me that I’m growing into an old crackpot nine months of the year. But I more than make up for this with my rosy view of winter. Winter is wonderful.
Wooly jumpers. Cosy heaters and log burning fires pumping out the heat at night. Snuggling up in a warm bed with an electric blanket. The sound of rain on the roof. Crisp sunny mornings with the light bouncing around off the dew on the roofs of Auckalnd’s old wooden villas. The soft crunch of frosty grass under your feet. These are a few of my favourite things. Oh, and winter football is pretty cool too.
This is why I was in such a good mood yesterday. Winter came early! Birkenhead United travelled to Western Springs for a pre-season friendly at Seddon Fields and the weather duly obliged these two winter league clubs looking to simulate a real NRFL game. Mother Nature provided us with an impeccable evening of NRFL weather as the two sides duked it out in pouring rain. It was perfect practice, and not just for the players. I got to reacquaint myself with skills that fall fairly and squarely in the ‘use them or lose them’ category.
How to wipe the rain off your glasses quickly and efficiently without missing any of the action. Deciding when to take the tough decision to consign the glasses to official ‘more trouble than they are worth’ status, because you can see more without them. Deciding when to deploy the plastic bag over the camera, and when the rain is light enough to take it off. Testing your ball boy skills on a slippery surface – chasing, turning, kicking it back to the keeper for a goal kick with both left and right feet without looking like a dick. Failing miserably (almost had to call for the physio for a rolled ankle at one point). Not tweeting while goals are being scored (a big oops on this one too).
Of course there is also the sort of experimentation that you can only undertake in these pre-season situations to iron out the weaknesses in your game, like trialling different camera settings in low light because taking photos in conditions like this was one of my Achilles heels last year.
And then there was the ultimate test – resisting the urge to pack it all in because it’s too soaking wet, the camera is in danger of getting damaged and let’s face it, as much as I really do love winter, the novelty of getting soaked to the skin does wear off eventually.
I was determined not to do this last night though, especially given it was my long overdue first full game at Seddon Fields. The only other time I tried attending a game there it was being played in very similar conditions to this, and it was also my second game of the day, so I piked. This time I’m glad I stuck with it, leaving Ellerslie and North Force as my only two remaining sins of omission in the NRFL.
It was a nice game, what I could see of it through rain soaked glasses and, without them, the eyesight of Mr Magoo. I recognised a few of the Birko players so suspect it wasn’t far off the sort of side they will be putting out when the season arrives. It looked like a nice mix of talented youth and battle hardened experience and they were definitely a class above their very ambitious opposition so this suggests they could be strong in the Northern Premier League once again. Who knows though. Hard to read anything into pre-season friendlies, and how this result places Springs in their debut season in Division 1. I’ll let you know after I’ve been to a couple more of these. Weather permitting!
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.