Mainland Pride 3, New Zealand Development 1
English Park, Christchurch, December 7 2014
“PRIDEY PRIDEY PRIDEY PRIIIIIDEY” (to the tune of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’) rang out over Christchurch’s English Park today as Mainland Pride went back-to-back – winning our nation’s premier women’s football league for the second year in a row thanks to a resounding 3-1 victory over New Zealand Development. I was there, thanks to the very generous sponsorship of ASB Bank (AKA my overdraft), and having now been fortunate enough to cover every single round of this competition, I feel like I’m uniquely qualified to deliver the final verdict on ASB Women’s League 2014. So brace yourself because here it comes…
In my thoroughly well thought out and completely rationalised opinion (translation: take a pinch of salt, set it to one side then pour rest of container on everything that follows) this is the best damn football league in New Zealand. Why? Lots of reasons. This was an even competition that anyone except South or Central could have taken out on their day. It’s played at a good time of year. And it’s packed with international footballers such as Annalie Longo who has played multiple times for her top 20 FIFA ranked country.
If these were blokes you’d have to fly to Europe and pay a fortune to see them play. Here at most grounds you can slouch in with your jandals and a take-out latte and choose any spot you want within touching distance of the sideline.
Can you say all this about any other football league in New Zealand? No, you can not!
Anyhoo, enough of my preaching and on to today’s fixture… Having just waxed lyrical about how even the competition is (upgrade that container of salt to a trailer load), this particular game really wasn’t. Mainland were simply too good. Too big, too strong, too experienced and too determined. Development might have been capable of causing an upset if they’d brought their A game, but they didn’t. I said last week that the under 18’s might struggle with fatigue given they have only had two players on the bench the last couple of weeks. This may have proved true, and by contrast Mainland, fresh from their week off, looked raring to go straight from the opening whistle.
Having got the early goal in the first five minutes via a bullet from Lauren Dabner, the team in red never looked in any serious threat of surrendering their lead, especially after they added a second via Monique Barker thanks also to a bit of sloppy goalkeeping.
If anything the two goal cushion at half time flattered the visitors, who had been completely owned the entire first 45 minutes. Development were a bit better in the second stanza, and briefly brought the deficit back to one when Daisy Cleverley added her name to the score sheet. But once Barker got her second with half an hour to go to make it 3-1, the game died a natural death and Mainland were able to sleepwalk to victory.
Not the greatest of spectacles to end the year, but that shouldn’t detract from what a great league this truly is.
The ooooonly thing that just niggles away at you is it’s all over too soon. The teams only play each other once rather than home and away, and so just when you are starting to really get into it it’s done and dusted for another year. But hopefully this won’t be the case forever. In recent years they have taken this league from an age-group competition to a game the whole family can play, and from one broken up into Northern and Southern conferences to a truly national league. Surely the next step is to run it over the whole summer just like the ASB Premiership.
Wow, equality! Wouldn’t that be something? We’re not there yet. Maybe one day.
Categories: NZ Women'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.