And just like that, it was over. My fourth season blogging about NRFL games has been and gone in the blink of an eye. There are still a few rescheduled fixtures to be played but given my focus will be on Cup finals and play-offs for the rest of September, as far as the NRFL proper is concerned, my 2015 is done.
I attended 21 NRFL games this year – well up on the 16 I got to in 2014. Amongst those were seven men’s Premier games, six Women’s Prem fixtures, five Division 1 and three Division 2 matches. A mammoth effort really. Especially when you add to that the fact that I’ve also covered five Women’s Knockout Cup matches, five Chatham Cup matches, a Conference game, and ten Under 20 World Cup games over the same period. PLUS there were even two NRFL games I went to but didn’t write about! One could say I’ve been quite busy. Others might prefer to describe it as deranged…
But all good things must come to an end, as the cliché goes, so now it’s time to look back over the past NRFL season and reminisce. The way I like to do this is by choosing one photo I took at each game and coupling it up with a memory or two from the day.
So without any further ado ladies and gentlemen, here follows NRFL 2015: The season that was.
First up this year was a small break from tradition. Instead of walking to my local club for opening day, I was forced to sit it out as my Camera was off at Sony getting the sensor cleaned. But Day 2 was well worth the wait. I borrowed a friend’s Canon 5D Mark II and made the short drive out to my brand new local Women’s Premier club – Norwest United – who were taking on Claudelands at Huapai Domain. It wasn’t a closely fought match by any stretch but it was still well worth the trip, even if it was just to get this glorious ‘rain shot’ of Tayla Christensen scoring Rovers’ sixth of eleven!
Next up, my trusty Sony Alpha 77 back in my warm grasp, it was off to another local game, where it was Melville’s turn to be cursed by my inability to witness a Waikato team win at Fred Taylor Park – albeit on the number two ground this time. Totally true to form, Waitakere City grabbed all three points with a winner deep in injury time. This shot of Richard Wilcox being tripped by Melville’s Joshua Nooijen would have been vastly more poetic with the roles reversed!
It was yet another tough old year for the Green Machine. Ngaruawahia struggled in Division 1 with a new and inexperienced side fresh from the club’s relegation from the Premier Division in 2014. This game against Takapuna was, as it turned out, a six pointer against fellow strugglers. They went down 4-0. This shot of Tom Damon flying over the tackle of Ngaruawahia player/coach Magi Mas Manresa looks a damn sight more spectacular than the match as a whole, which was pretty dire truth be told.
Getting a perfect shot of a player taking a corner is much more difficult than it looks, believe it or not. There are too many things for the camera to focus on. The player, the assistant ref, the flag, the ball, and whatever is in the background. What tends to happen is you get a really sharp shot of one of those things (the player if you’re lucky) but everything else looks terrible. This shot of Kate Loye taking a corner for Claudelands vs Western Springs at Seddon Fields is a rare example of everything coming together for once! Just don’t ask me how the game itself went.
This photo is a prime candidate for a caption contest if ever there was one. AFC Fury’s Luis Cabrera throwing in during their unlucky 2-1 loss to Manukau City, under the watchful eye of the doyen of Bay of Plenty Football that is Dave Cook and the Godfather of New Zealand coaching that is Kevin Fallon.
Here’s a sight I had never seen before – a sunny, bright and colourful Michaels Avenue! Ellerslie’s home ground had been cold, wet and miserable every other occasion I had been but they really turned it on for me this time! The home side came from behind to win a thrilling game vs Tauranga City United 3-2.
Another shot of a goalkeeper to the rescue – this time it’s Three Kings United’s Football Fern Rebecca Rolls. From memory, Three Kings were either top of the table or pretty close to it going into this match against the eventual champions. Claudelands were coming off some mixed fortunes and, with the benefit of hindsight, this game was a turning point. Three Kings faded from here during a period when their opponents on this day were going from strength to strength.
Two things to say about this one. The first is that despite my comments above about everything in a photo needing to be in focus for it to be any good, well, sometimes that’s not true as I think this shot demonstrates. The second thing is I SAW A WAIKATO TEAM WIN AT FRED TAYLOR PARK!!! That was quite good.
A good celebration shot is one of the holy grails of football photography. The key to a good one is adequately conveying to the viewer a real sense of the emotion of the situation. This one from the Glenfield vs Birkenhead ‘Derby of Death’ is not bad. There are some happy campers there, a disconsolate opponent, but what I really like about it is it also illustrates the isolation that’s part of life as a goalkeeper.
One of the other holy grails of football photography, I think, is a good throw-in shot. The key here is getting that shutter to click at just the right moment. This one of Maddie Snell throwing in for Norwest against Eastern Suburbs at Madills Farm is a real favourite of mine from the year – mostly for the timing but also the trail of water coming off the ball.
Every football ground in the NRFL has something special about it. For Murdoch Park in Papatoetoe, where I saw their Division 2 side play Lynn Avon, it’s the proximity to Auckland International Airport and the big birds flying low over any given game you watch there.
Sort that one out, ref! This game between Central and Eastern Suburbs was another turning point in the season. Going in, the lily whites held joint top spot with Glenfield Rovers but had Central and Hamilton Wanderers nipping at their heels only one point behind. Their 1-0 victory in this game was a big step in their ultimately successful title chase…
Another throw-in shot and, once again, this is amongst my all-time favourites. Emily Oosterhof in the first of two straight derbies between Glenfield Rovers and Forrest Hill Milford – the only thing that annoys me slightly is that ugly downpipe… If I was better at PhotoShop…
One of the real joys of grassroots football is the relaxed family atmosphere. At half time in any match, including this Forrest Hill Milford Division 1 clash with Metro at Becroft Park, any number of kids will make a bee line for one of the goals and start taking pot shots. You don’t see that at the San Siro! The smiles on their faces are always a great reminder of what the game is all about.
My last glimpse of the Women’s Premier champions this season was their 2-1 loss to a Glenfield Rovers side who came from behind to snatch victory. But it’s fitting that my best photo from that game was this shot – of capocannoniere Helen Collins scoring the Claudelands’ goal with the player I was most impressed with over the course of the season, Paige Satchell, in the background.
What can you say about Melville’s 2015 great escape? It’s a pity that it came at the expense of another good club’s misfortune but, as I have said before, Melville has too cool a set-up to be languishing in the lower divisions. They sure did do everything the hard way though! This game was a case in point. 2-0 down to Glenfield Rovers by half time, it took them over an hour to get back into the match and until the very death to secure their equaliser.
My very next game after the news of Melville’s saving grace, the Three Kings points deduction, was at the home of their cross town rivals. Wanderers faced – guess who – Three Kings in what was an easy 4-0 win for the home side. Ultimately their title push ended with second place but they have been steadily building and hopefully 2016 will be their year. I for one would love to see this guy, coach Mark Cossey, and the players, get that well-earned success.
Football dreams are made of this! David Mulligan curling a 90th minute free kick around the North Shore United wall to earn Forrest Hill Milford the Division 1 title and promotion to the top flight. What could possibly constitute a better moment than that?
Happiness is a big mofo shield! Papakura City celebrating their clinching of the Division 2 title and promotion to Division 1. Look at coach Jason Heather. All that hard work, the stress, evening training sessions, late nights, lack of weekends, hardly any family time, the criticism, the flack – it was all worth it.
My penultimate game was a trip to one of my favourite places, Massey Park, to see two of my favourite teams in Waiuku and Ngaruawahia. It was one of those games where you wish both sides could win, but of course that’s not possible. It was Waiuku that prevailed with a hatty to Derek Sinclair – the man making the tackle in this shot. He wasn’t impressed with his yellow card but you can’t fault the look on the ref’s face here!! A portrait of eagle eyed concentration.
Just like it was last season, my last game was at Gower Park. But whereas in 2014 it was the scene of a Melville victory that clinched promotion, this time it was that of a local derby that didn’t go their way. Their former player, Jama Boss, is pictured here celebrating putting them to bed and leaving their survival still slightly up in the air pending appeal by Three Kings…
Those were our people this year and that’s the NRFL for 2015!
Roll on summer football…
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.