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The way the cookie crumbles

Manukau City 2, AFC Fury 1
Walter Massey Park, Auckland, April 13 2015

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Exactly eighteen months and one week – that’s how long it’s been since the last time I saw AFC Fury in the flesh. It seems like a lifetime ago! On October 5 2013 they blitzed Papakura City 4-2 on the day, and 5-2 on aggregate, to win the inter-federation play-off and gain promotion from the Waikato Bay of Plenty Federation Premiership to the Northern Regional Football League.

So much has happened since.

After that game, Papakura lodged a protest and following debate, investigation, findings and appeals, the result was overturned and it was Kura who won promotion at Fury’s expense.

Fury spent another long season battling it out as big fish in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty ponds, until the end of season 2014, when the landscape dramatically changed. The NRFL was expanded, which meant three places opened up in Division 2, which opened up the chance for the champions of WaiBOP to be automatically promoted without the inconvenience of a play-off with the best Auckland has to offer. Fury sealed their advancement with several games to spare. Nothing could stop them this time and here they are.

The man at the centre of all this, as always, is the legendary Dave Cook. A football entrepreneur who started Fury from scratch, he has stopped at nothing to get them where they are today and clearly hasn’t finished yet.

Self-described as the team’s ‘stand-in coach’, Mr Cook had no shortage of support on either side of him in the Fury technical area yesterday. On his right was Bill de Graaf – former All White player of some note. On his left, outside the technical area but still offering pearls of wisdom at various stages, was Kevin Fallon – the man who coached New Zealand to the 1982 FIFA World Cup. In addition to these guys, Hamilton Wanderers coach Mark Cossey is rumoured to be taking training sessions and given all this it wouldn’t surprise me if Sir Alex Fergusson is just a phone call away!

When you mention Fury to people in the football community, it’s not uncommon for them to give you a long list of all the improbable coups they have pulled off in the transfer market and all the mysterious new ways Mr Cook has found to assemble the Harlem Globetrotters of North Island football. It’s therefore always interesting to get along to a Fury game and see to what extent the stories match the reality…

Of course, it was also nice to see my very good friends Manukau City in action again, and discover what has changed so dramatically for them to the point where at this early stage in the season they seem on course for promotion – themselves in their first season back in NRFL!

As it turned out though, the game seemed to leave more questions than it answered. I doubt either side would be especially happy with how they performed.

Fury dominated the match for the most part. They had all the ball and most of the chances but as we know with this game we love, it’s all about getting the ball in the net and the winner on the day is usually the team that takes the chances they are presented with. On this occasion, Fury’s gilt edged opportunities numbered well in the double digits while Manukau’s could be counted on one hand. While both sides displayed a fair amount of Latin flair from their South American imports and others, there were also quite a few Latin (and Anglo Saxon) tempers on display and a fair amount of multicultural inaccuracy.

After a frustrating first half, all three goals came in the second. Fury seized the advantage first via the penalty spot not long after the break. Juan Pablo Rosende’s initial effort was saved by Manukau keeper Faizal Hanif but for some reason the ref ordered it retaken and Rosende made no mistake with his second attempt.

Even then, Manukau showed little sign of getting themselves back into the game until that’s exactly what they did latish in the piece. A goalmouth scramble resulted in an easy tap-in for Simon Stafford-Bush. Then, just a few short minutes later, when a Manukau attacker spotted Fury keeper Patrick George off his line, the attempted chip was parried back into the path of Federico Cranca who calmly walked it around the keeper and sent it home.

I’ve seen Cranca in action a few times and one thing I’ll say about him is the dude sure knows how to celebrate a goal! He sprinted off the pitch and into the arms of an unsuspecting supporter who was standing behind the goal. My big regret of the day is I wasn’t close enough to get a decent photo of it (or a hug of my own)!

With that, Manukau City go top of Division 2.

On the respective performances of the two sides yesterday, I’m not sure anyone else in the league should be quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing either of them. But I would caution that by saying the potential is definitely there for both to play much, much better…

Either way there’s no doubt in my mind that the NRFL is a better football league for the presence of both of these interesting clubs gracing it with their presence.

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2

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Enzo Giordani

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/

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