Eastern Suburbs 2, Napier City Rovers 1 AET
Trusts Stadium, Auckland, September 20 2015
With a game like this, my ability to add much to the fabric of football culture is limited. If you care enough about the Chatham Cup to read my musings, you either played in it, you were there, you watched it on the internet or you have already read about it in the mainstream media. So I’ll try not to waste any of your time. All I’ll do is give you a few quick thoughts about it from my unique perspective standing behind the goal line taking photos.
The first thing I feel the need to get off my chest is this – Trusts Stadium – not ideal. There, I said it. The pathological dislike of running tracks is strong in me and when you’ve only got a modest crowd, separating them so far from the action is the stuff brick bats are made of. Obviously North Harbour wasn’t available. Obviously Park Island was deemed not an option for reasons of cost. But still…
On to the bouquets and the first one goes to the football gods – thank you oh twisted ones for providing us with this perfect draw. As the champions of the Northern League and the champions of the Central League clashed, we got a rare opportunity to relive the old Superclub days and compare strengths and styles as both teams chased historic doubles.
Opinion appears to be somewhat divided on whether or not this was a recipe for a great contest. One person who shall remain nameless described it as “AFL with a round ball”, while others seemed to find the whole thing quite exciting. I was in the glass half full camp. Let’s face it, nobody turned up expecting to see Johan Cruyff so what’s to complain about? It was simply what a game like this should be – full of suspense. Like a good cinematic thriller it twisted and turned, just when you thought the villain was dead he sprung back to life, and nobody knew how it would end until right before the credits rolled. What more can you ask of a final?
Napier have some justification for feeling aggrieved. The awarding of the Jack Batty Trophy for Man of the Match to Miles John, the first player from a losing side to win that award since 1996, was perhaps something of an indication from the boffins that they felt like the best team didn’t win the grand prize. But that’s football, right?
The crowd wasn’t great in terms of sheer volume although the fans who did turn out were full of passion and enthusiasm. It was interesting to consider how many Auckland friends on Twitter appeared to be watching the internet stream. Would they have been there if it was not available in the comfort of their own homes? Is this the trade-off that the ASB Premiership has now made with Sky picking it up? There is a risk of a chicken and egg scenario where it’s better on TV if people are there making noise, but people don’t go because it’s on TV. I’m not saying don’t put it on TV but, just as a word of caution, the powers that be need to make the games attractive to attend at the same time.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the fruits of one of the greatest benefits of photographer accreditation – the privilege of overhearing some funny stuff from the players from time to time. It’s probably violating some kind of sacred oath to divulge things you hear but I’ll plead ignorance on this occasion because I have to repeat this great comeback from Rhys Ruka when a teammate, setting up for the umpteenth corner in a row, yelled “GET THE BALL… IN THE BOX!!!!” Ruka’s calm response was to inquire: “How many have I got in there? Have you scored any?” Ruka had a real fair dinkum fan club up on the bank, blasting music and chanting his name every time he took a corner at that end. He gave them a subtle little wave that few would have noticed as he was placing the ball to take that one. Their cheers were the only riposte he heard.
It was a good day.
Categories: NZ Chatham Cup
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.