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Winter is coming

Hamilton Wanderers 3, Metro 3 (Wanderers won 5-4 on aggregate)
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, September 27 2015

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It’s hard organising your life around football sometimes. I mean, ok, there are worse problems in the world such as famine, war, oppression etc., but still, having to rearrange things around a game you REALLY want to go to is right up there with the worst of life’s ills.

Why oh why don’t people check with me before they schedule these things? How hard would it be?? “Hey Enzo, seeing as though you’re so important, we just wanted to make sure that before we organise the 30+ players, their support teams, coaches, managers, physios, match officials, club officials, volunteers, ball kids, council parks staff and everyone else who actually contributes something meaningful towards this fixture, we were just wondering, are you doing anything on the 27th at 1pm?” That’s all it would have taken!

Bah!

When I heard that this play-off was happening I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend any of it. The first leg clashed with the NZ Women’s Knockout and Chatham Cup finals, and the second leg clashed with something less important but more life or death in my household – our winter firewood collection, which I had only been putting off since, you know, the start of winter…

I briefly considered blowing off Cup Finals Day and covering the first leg of this instead of that but after the first leg results of both this and the men’s playoff, the way forward became clear. Blow off the second leg of the men’s playoff, move the firewood FORWARD (it’s not procrastination if you move it FORWARD) to Saturday, and get my arse down to the Tron for this special little event!

So here I was.

What made this game so desirable to attend was the prospect of either of these teams joining the NRFL Women’s Premier League and making the competition a better one. Sure, Metro have shirts that look disturbingly similar to Silvio Berlusconi FC (AC Milan), but despite that near fatal flaw they are still a very cool club. Besides, I have successfully convinced myself that their kits are in actual fact much more akin to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Few gave Wanderers a hope. The prevailing wisdom of these things always seems to be that the conference (be it men’s or women’s) is stronger than anything WaiBOP has to offer, but this appears to suit WaiBOP champions every time. They tend to take that underdog tag and wear it well.

And as it happened, this tie was very evenly matched from start to finish with Wanderers managing to hold on by their fingernails for most of it. Metro’s high water mark was to continuously claw things back to parity but each time they found their footing on the sandy bottom, the blue tide would wash over them once again. Ultimately it was the one goal Wanderers cushion from the first leg that survived the distance and saw them promoted.

This outcome may have pros and cons depending on your point of view.

I doubt there would be many people who wouldn’t tell you that Wanderers now need to strengthen their squad if they want to be competitive in their new surroundings. The club officials I chatted with after the match certainly seemed under no illusions that this is indeed the case and they sounded committed to working towards competitiveness at the new level.

In striving to achieve this, a second Women’s Premier team in Hamilton could yet be a mixed blessing for Waikato football. Competition for the top players could see a thinning of the talent pool that weakens the prospect of the feats of Claudelands Rovers in recent years being repeated.

This result is unquestionably good for the league as a whole for other reasons though. Two away trips out of town for the Auckland teams will be good experience for them, and a Hamilton derby will add an extra element of interest for the fans provided it’s not too one sided once things settle down.

And for the Wanderers organisation themselves, this is a great look as far as I’m concerned. The club joins a select group along with Eastern Suburbs, Glenfield, Western Springs and Forrest Hill Milford who now have both men’s and women’s first teams playing at the highest levels of club football in the top half of the North Island.

I’m delighted to add one more club to the list of those setting an example by taking the women’s game seriously.

Well done Wanderers! See you next winter.

Categories: NZ Northern Women's Premier

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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: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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