“Oh, no… Surely not! Not this again!!! Nobody read it the first time. Nobody read it the second time. So what makes him think that anyone will stoop so low, will have so little to do in the middle of the festive season, be utterly sad enough to read yet another ‘year in review’ load of old toss now?”
– Everyone who subscribes to this blog at this instant crying in unison.
I hear you. Believe me, I hear you. But every other media outlet in New Zealand, if not the world, is right now using tripe like this to fill the void of silence that comes with everyone who usually makes the news sunning themselves on a Coromandel beach (provided they can find a spot). Meanwhile, back here in the delightful ghost town that is Auckland between Christmas and New Year, journalists still have to justify their existence. So why should I be any different?
When in Rome, do as the Romans do (when they are not passing the ball to Totti).
So here we go, off on a pointless year in review post, as we reminisce about the good old days before blogs had ‘monthly archive’ widgets (down near the bottom of the page on the right) that did all this while sparing you the agony of the running commentary.
The first month of the year was January, as it usually is, and we quickly got into the swing of things with one of the blog’s biggest achievements in its short history. Cameron Slater won ‘Best Blog’ at the Canon Media Awards because in the words of the judges “he broke stories”. Well, I managed to break my first story in January simply by being in the right place at the right time to hear Brian Turner make some fairly controversial remarks about New Zealand Football. This was picked up by the New Zealand Herald who ran some of my quotes. I look forward to my deserved recognition by the Canon judges in due course.
The other fun thing about January was I started trying my hand as a Photoshop cartoonist. It didn’t last too long as it started to become a bit of a chore as my ambition grew beyond my abilities, but before I gave up on it there were one or two I was reasonably pleased with.
February was when the ‘I Love This Club’ series made its debut. This was quite a successful wee venture that asked prominent people from clubs all over New Zealand to tell us what made their organisations special. The first was one of the best with club secretary and women’s first team player Ella Reilly telling us about a special little place by the name of Waiheke United.
March was the month that the NRFL kicked off another season, but before it did and by way of preview I conducted one of my favourite ever long-form interviews. It was a real pleasure to meet Claudelands Rovers and Football Ferns goal machine Helen Collins, and it’s no exaggeration to say that some of the insights I gained from talking to her helped to make me a better football writer. Particularly when it comes to the women’s game.
April had two real highlights for me. The first was one that may surprise regular readers of this blog. Forrest Hill Milford’s 5-0 demolition of Claudelands in the opening round of the Northern Women’s Premier League was obviously disappointing from my point of view as a Claudelands fan, but the footballing display put on by Briar Palmer and Emma Rolston in particular that day was a sight to behold and will not be forgotten by me in a hurry. If you want to know what I mean, it is best summarised by the tenth and eleventh photos in that post.
My second April highlight was attending a North Shore United game at Allen Hill with my brother, who I credit with getting me into football by taking me to games such as this one, and his Niece and Nephew Haru and Michi – Internationals of the future!
Two Cup games dominated May. On the men’s side of things, I went to an unlikely Chatham Cup thriller as lowly Bucklands Beach pushed Division 1 side Mount Albert Ponsonby almost all the way before succumbing in extra time. On the Women’s Knockout side, in a feat of unrivalled proportions, Claudelands Rovers almost made me the Pope!
The undisputed highlight of June was undoubtedly my trip to Anderson Park for Mount Albert Ponsonby’s Chatham Cup match-up with North Shore, which was an almost exact re-enactment of the first game of football I ever attended right down to meeting the lady who made me my toasted sandwich in 1992.
July saw me make my annual (even though I missed a year in 2013) pilgrimage to Wellington to watch a bit of club football down in our nation’s fine capital. This enabled me to enjoy my first ever trip to picturesque, friendly and downright lovely David Farrington Park where Miramar Rangers put Palmerston North Marist to the sword. Then the next day I also got to enjoy the even more picturesque, and just as friendly and lovely, Seatoun Park, where the home side did likewise to Upper Hutt – even if the final score didn’t quite reflect their dominance…
Incidentally, that Wellington Sunday holds the all-time record for the most page views in one day on the blog – 3,024.
It was another trip out of Auckland that provided my favourite August day, but unlike the other excursions that usually see a plane or a car as the primary modes of transport, this one saw me test out my sea legs with a ferry ride out to Waiheke Island! And what an amazing day it was too where a lovely bunch of ladies managed to crown their season by winning the Auckland Football Federation Division Two title for the first time in the club’s history. It was a real privilege to be there to help document that occasion.
In September the blog finally ceased being all about me, as I got a fantastic co-blogger in Niall Anderson! I can’t rave about Niall enough and how lucky we are to have him. I for one am enjoying it while it lasts before he gets snapped up by a proper media outlet who can and will offer him old fashioned luxuries I can’t provide such as an income and stuff…
Niall’s weekly ‘Phoenix Prognosis’ column really got into the swing of things in October, with this particular quote regarding Nathan Burns from way back in Week 2 standing out… “At this rate, there might be a recall to the Socceroos on the cards.” Nostradamus.
Also in October, the ASB Women’s League kicked off and my focus turned almost exclusively to that. But not before turning my hand back to a little Photoshoppy goodness by way of seeing the funny side of the laughable refereeing display that assisted Juventus to an undeserved win over Roma. Same old Juve, always cheating, and never having the class to be embarrassed about it.
November’s pièce de résistance was a nostalgic look back at the history of Newmarket Park, the former home of New Zealand Football in the 60s and 70s, through the eyes of some of the great New Zealand football personalities who remember the place, and through the lens of photographer Dave Barker. It was such a privilege for all those special people to allow me to be the conduit for bringing all those memories and photographs to the internet for the very first time. I owe them a big debt of gratitude and look forward to joining them for the picnic at Newmarket Park being organised for March.
Which brings us to December! Two things stand out – firstly my trip to Christchurch for the ASB Women’s League final, where Mainland went back-to-back courtesy of an easy enough victory over New Zealand Development at English Park. And secondly, my Eden Park photographer credentials saw me snap some great shots of the Phoenix drawing 1-1 with the Central Coast Mariners and my WaiBOP ASB Premiership jinx came to a thoroughly welcome end the same day.
And with that, that was in-the-back-of-the.net’s 2014. Gap = filled. Mission = accomplished. See you in 2015!
Categories: Other Football Topics
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.