I’ve been waiting a whole year to use that title!!
It’s two years on from the first time I toured Auckland’s football fields to rate their readiness for season 2013, and about 20 months since the mid-winter follow-up the same year. I wanted ‘State of the Nation’ to be an annual feature, but prior to the 2014 season I was warned that many pitches were getting re-laid, and thus the project would have been a waste of time. But given all that money was spent last year – several million dollars for each new sand carpet – I thought now might be a good time to see if ratepayers have got a good return on their investment!
As in the past, below I have worked roughly North to South and grouped clubs into sub-regions so we can look for trends. Each ‘number 1’ pitch has been given a rating out of 10 and I have provided a few brief notes on what I saw. The number in brackets is the 2013 summer rating the pitch got so you can see the change from the same time that year. Western Springs and Ellerslie are not included due to the fact they have artificial turf and that’s cheating.
There’s also an all new criterion for judging pitches. I had a trusty assistant doing the rounds with me, which I estimate saved me a good half a day, and she was the sole judge of the ultimate honour that only the finest pitches can hope to obtain – the status of ‘good enough for my mum to want a kip on it’. Only two earned this prestigious award. Take a bow Fencibles and Papatoetoe AFC.
Each pitch has a wide angle photograph, and an additional close-up of an area I deemed ‘typical’. Click on the thumbnails to view large images.
North Auckland – average 8.13(5.33)/10
Hibiscus Coast – Stanmore Bay Park: 8.5(3)/10 Looking a far cry from when I saw it last! A Little undulating but otherwise beautiful.
East Coast Bays – Bay City Park: 8(4)/10 Almost pristine. Flat and green. Just a couple of very small thin patches and a couple of potentially problematic holes.
Albany – Rosedale Park: 8(6)/10 Having work done on it – looks like a new sand carpet. Will be great when finished.
Forrest Hill Milford – Becroft Park: 7(8)/10 Looks good from afar but a few sandy patches and uneven grass cover let it down. Number two looks very good – may start the season on that.
Takapuna – Taharoto Park: 9.5(9)/10 A real North Shore carpet. Difficult to fault. There were a couple of weeds and a small dent next to the centre circle that were the only things standing between this and a perfect score!
Glenfield – McFetridge Park: 7.5(4)/10 Quite weedy – coarse grass but thick even coverage. Slightly undulating.
North Shore – Allen Hill Stadium: 8.5(9)/10 Slightly undulating. It has that big hump in the middle that Allen Hill is famous for but I think it’s pretty harmless. Very good even grass cover. Looks great.
Birkenhead – Shepherd’s Park: 8(1)/10 Similar to Glenfield except the grass is finer and there are fewer weeds.
West Auckland – average 5(6.13)/10
Norwest – Huapai Domain: 5(-)/10 Rock hard. Even grass cover but it’s a very undulating surface and there are a few weeds.
Waitakere City – Fred Taylor Park: 4(8)/10 Has suffered from a fungal problem and will be out of action for the first couple of weeks of the season while remedial work is undertaken. The number 2 (second pair of thumbnails below) will be used in the meantime – suffering a bit from summer use but not too bad, a bit weedy but flat and green, more of a 6.5.
Te Atatu – Te Atatu Peninsula Park: 4(-)/10 Lumpy, bumpy, rock hard, very patchy with lots of bare areas. A little hard to picture it as a football pitch at present.
Oratia – Parrs Park: 6(6.5)/10 Flat and quite a nice surface when in good nick but unfortunately it’s quite pock marked at present. Soft sandy base.
Bay Olympic – Olympic Park: 6(5)/10 Patchy grass, some weeds, large bald areas but a nice flat surface. Not the worst, but looking a bit unloved.
Lynn Avon – Ken Maunder Park: 5(5)/10 Very thin grass cover. Not too weedy but very lumpy. Maintenance not apparent.
East Auckland – average 6.25(7.5)/10
Eastern Suburbs – Madills Farm: 6.5(7)/10 Suffering a bit from heavy summer use. Looks damaged by stalls, perhaps from ‘Round the Bays’ which was only a couple of weeks ago. A few bare patches but grass cover otherwise even. Should bounce back in time.
Fencibles – Riverhills Park: 6(8)/10 Thick, springy grass – a bit like shag pile! Lots of kikuyu weed. Also lost points due to deep sprinkler holes.
Central Auckland – average 5.38(6.25)/10
Mount Albert Ponsonby – Anderson Park: 5(8)/10 Pretty average. Lots of kikuyu, patchy, very coarse, bare areas, lumpy.
Metro – Phyllis Street: 4.5(8)/10 Still set up for softball, needs some TLC and a good mow. Lots of kikuyu.
Central United – Kiwitea Street: 8(6)/10 Quite mottled and scarred from heavy use as you would expect but well-groomed under the circumstances and still a nice surface.
Three Kings – Keith Hay Park: 4(3)/10 Rough as guts. Patchy, tyre tracks, lumpy, weeds galore, uneven grass cover. Not Premier Division standard.
South Auckland – Average 6.13(4.29)/10
Onehunga Sports – Waikaraka Park: 7(7)/10 Light pockmarking, a few weeds, the odd bare patch but all relatively minor. Generally flat and smooth.
Onehunga Mangere – Mangere Domain: 6(5)/10 Kikuyu and clover prevalent on a sandy base. Not well manicured but tough, durable and effective. Odd bare patch, but hey, stop moaning and check out the view!
Mangere – Centre Park: 5(6)/10 Very weedy and patchy. Big dead patch in front of the Southern goal. Grass mottled and uneven. Flat, but in need of some TLC.
Manukau City – Walter Massey Park: 6.5(0)/10 Improved out of sight! Looks amazing from a distance but up close it’s very scarred and the grass looks quite thin. Looks like it will cut up pretty quick. Was very moist – not sure if a drainage issue or if it had just been watered. Beautiful surface – for now.
Papatoetoe – Murdoch Park: 7.5(8)/10 A bit lumpy but beautifully lush. Firm base but soft, spongy grass. Odd weed but no scarring. Almost North Shoresque!
Manurewa – Memorial Park: 3.5(1)/10 Dry, rock hard, lots of paspalum, rugged, uneven, precious few redeeming features. More like a dry, patchy suburban lawn than a football pitch.
Papakura – McLennan Park: 9(-)/10 Easily the best of the South! A little bit of paspalum and some minor undulations but a near perfect playing surface. Superb.
Waiuku – Massey Park: 4.5(3)/10 Mottled, bumpy and patchy. A well maintained paddock.
Some additional thoughts.
It’s useful to look at the quality of the pitches in the various divisions. In summer 2013 the premier league, surprisingly, had the lowest average rating at 4.38/10. Division 1 was the best with 7.11 while division 2 managed 5.44. Come the middle of winter it was more as you would expect. The premier league jumped from last to first with an average of 6, division 1 was next with 5.83 and division 2 brought up the rear with 5.2.
In 2015 the premier division and division 2 both scored an average of 6.5 while division 1 got 5.5 and women’s premier 5.94. The overall average was 6.21 up from 5.48.
Regionally is where, for me, it gets really interesting. We have been a ‘Super City’ now for almost five years and one would expect there to be more parity in the resources spent on sports fields whether they are in the North, South, East or West of the Auckland Region. Instead there still appears to be some real disparity.
North averages a whopping 8.13, while East comes in second with 6.25, South is next with 6.13, then it’s Central with 5.38 and West bringing up the rear with a lacklustre average of 5.0.
The great news is there is a massive improver in the mix – South Auckland who have deservedly climbed up from the shameful situation where they were neglected to the point they could only manage 4.29 in 2013. This was led by pristine looking surfaces at Papatoetoe and Papakura, but there is still a long way to go with Manurewa still looking terrible. Manukau City is by far the biggest individual improver but while it looks great now, I still worry that it’s a fragile looking thing and the true test will be how it looks mid-winter.
Most of the spending seems to have taken place on the already affluent North Shore where tens of millions have been spent on shiny new surfaces, many just down the road from each other. One wonders how this can be justified. Does the Shore simply have local boards that prioritise sports fields over spending in other areas or is there a more systemic problem than that? I would be interested in comment from anyone in the know.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this non-ratepayer I bumped into at Stanmore Bay Park while doing my rounds. Residents this cute could go some way to explaining why they do so well up North!
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.