Wellington Phoenix 1, Central Coast Mariners 1
Eden Park, Auckland, December 13 2014
Sorry about the weather, folks. That was my fault. Every time I get photographer credentials for a big game, this is what happens. But despite that it was fantastic to be down on the pitch for the Wellington Phoenix’s fourth sojourn into JAFA country. This was by far the biggest game I have shot from up close. While you could argue that the Football Ferns vs Brazil was bigger, and it certainly was in terms of FIFA rankings, this was much bigger in terms of the size of the stadium and the crowd which is a sad reality but a reality none the less.
I had a blast, but it’s unfortunately not all about me and thus it remains my sad duty to report on two things that were a tad disappointing about the game. The low crowd turnout and the result.
Just a smidgeon over 11,000 spectators turned up for this A-League fixture to witness New Zealand’s only professional football club dominate but fail to put away one of their many Australian opponents. This attendance figure is the poorest crowd the Phoenix have ever pulled in Auckland. Previous crowd numbers have been 18,056 in 2014, 11,566 in 2013 and 20,078 in 2011. Before the game, Phoenix management had been indicating that they were watching this very carefully. The high cost of hiring Eden Park means the break even number is quite high and a low crowd for this fixture could have made the bean counters reassess whether future games will be brought north.
I’m usually amongst the first to put the boot into Aucklanders’ ability to get their buts along to support professional football in our city, but on this occasion I have to stick up for my fickle regional compatriots. Yesterday had something in common with the other 11,000ish attendance in 2013 – crappy weather. If management wants to guarantee good crowds for the Nix in Auckland, might I humbly suggest that Spring is always going to be a bit of a gamble being from my perspective the wettest season of the year. Schedule the Auckland game for January/February and I reckon you can’t go wrong, apart from not giving me photographer credentials… We’ll never know for sure but if it had been a nice day yesterday, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the crowd would have been well above 15,000.
I’d also be interested to know how Yellow Fever found being shifted to the terraces behind the goal. It seemed to isolate them a bit and make them look smaller as opposed to previous seasons when they have been in the middle of the ASB stand which blurred their edges making them look larger and more imposing. It also improved the football atmosphere in the main stand where most of the impressionable newbies were snuggled…
As for the result, well unlike most matches I attend you can read all about it at almost every New Zealand media outlet and you probably already have if you didn’t see the game with your own eyes. The theme of the afternoon was missed opportunities. The home side played some rather pretty football but were sadly lacking in the final flourish. The ‘Marinaters’ took the lead completely against the run of play in the first half, then it took until the 76th minute for Roy Krishna to FINALLY find the back of the net and level the scores after numerous gilt edged opportunities leading up to the equaliser. The Phoenix could have and should have won by 5 or 6 minimum.
But at least they managed to get the equaliser. This was important for future Auckland fixtures. It gave the crowd something to roar about and stopped some of those fickle non-football types from going home too disappointed.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.