Papakura City 1, Manurewa AFC 1
McLennan Park, Auckland, February 27 2014
Usually it’s quite hard to gauge how good a side is from their pre-season form but, if it’s ever possible to draw conclusions, perhaps you can on a night like last night when Papakura City played Manurewa with oh so much up for grabs.
For starters there was the Manu Hudson Memorial Trophy, played for annually between these two old local rivals.
Manu Hudson was just 21 years old when he was tragically killed in a car accident in 1986, having fallen asleep at the wheel of his car on his way home from a friend’s engagement party. He was of course much loved by his friends and the players who knew him. I talked to a few of them yesterday. They all told me he had a great career ahead of him, with some going so far as to say he had the potential to go all the way to the All Whites and beyond – he was that good. He played all his junior football and some senior football at Papakura until, in order to further his career, he transferred to Manurewa who at the time were playing in the old National League. He spent three years at Rewa before his untimely death.
According to the inscription on the trophy, it was donated by the Manurewa players of 1986 who played with Manu, and was first played for in 1993, quickly becoming an annual pre-season fixture that clearly means a great deal to both these great South Auckland institutions.
But if a trophy and twelve months’ worth of bragging rights aren’t enough to make the 2014 incarnation of ‘The Manu Hudson’ a fixture that both sides want to win at all costs – wait! There’s more!
Papakura returns to the Northern League in 2014 after a season long absence and two failed promotion play-off campaigns, the result of the second of which was overturned on appeal to allow them to take their place back with the big kids once again. Last night was an opportunity to show the rest of the football community that this is where they belong. Manurewa too had an important point to prove. On the opposite trajectory to Kura at the end of last season (relegated from the Northern Premier League), they begin 2014 in Division 1 looking to see if they can bounce straight back up and would have wanted to show that they were a cut above here.
But wait! There’s still more!
It was also an important night for Papakura City FC to show off their fancy and pristine new flat as a pancake sand based pitch, and their snazzy brand spanking and shiny new floodlights that presided majestically over proceedings in the long summer dusk. This was the first proper game making use of these excellent facilities that the club are justifiably proud to show off, and which should assist them in their quest to consolidate their return to the Northern League. All told, a party that Rewa would have been reasonably keen to spoil.
So, are we are all in agreement that this is a pre-season match you CAN read something into? If so, what might we have gleaned? Well, what I learned is that maybe there is not a great deal between newly promoted to Division 2 and newly relegated to Division 1, because on the whole I thought it was a fairly even game.
The first half was relatively circumspect as Manurewa got the greater share of possession, leaving their hosts to feed off scraps and try to catch their more illustrious opponents out on the counter. It was no great shock therefore when Marvin Eakins scored the opening goal with around half an hour gone, slotting a penalty low and to the right after Manurewa’s Kieran Rooney Nevey was brought down by Kura’s Jacob Lynch right on the edge of the penalty area. It was Manurewa’s game to lose at that point, Kura requiring a victory to prize the trophy away from their opponents’ grasp. With the half time score at 0-1, the home side needed to find some serious improvement if they were going to come out in the second half and find at least two goals.
They weren’t a million miles away as it happened. In just the second minute of the second stanza Kura threw the match wide open with a lovely goal by Charlie Heather, struck beautifully it careered into the top right hand corner leaving the keeper with a snowball’s chance in hell of stopping it. From that point on either side could have easily come away with the win as both attacked freely and created plenty of opportunities to score goals. This made for a pretty enthralling spectacle but unfortunately for Papakura, they couldn’t get the breakthrough they required.
All in all it was a great night, played in front of a healthy crowd and there was a great spirit on display by players and spectators alike, as you would expect from such an occasion. I’m looking forward to the 2015 game already!
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/