Franklin United 0, Metro 2
Waiuku 3, Papatoetoe United 0
Massey Park, Waiuku, April 2 2016
After last week’s opening weekend tail chasing that kind of ruined the day for me, my sole objective yesterday was to simply choose a game, go to it, and enjoy it. In that at least I succeeded. As usual, I don’t make life easy for myself by choosing something far-flung, but the match-up(s) at Massey Park in Waiuku looked too tasty to miss.
In the red corner – a brand new team in the form of Franklin United. An amalgamation of Waiuku and Pukekohe AFC, they are taking up the former’s place in Division 1.
In the blue but usually red when they are playing at home corner – Metro. A club we all know and love spiced up with a loving spoonful of last season’s successful North Shore United side thrown into the pot.
And in the other blue corner, way over on the other side of the park, playing on the number 2 pitch, a fair chunk of last year’s Waiuku NRFL team going up against Papatoetoe United in the AFF Championship…
It’s no secret that this Franklin marriage isn’t totally rosy.
There are many rumours that a lot of good players have opted out of the project because it’s ‘not for them’, preferring instead to either kick around with their mates at a lower level or take their talents off to other clubs. There are complaints that what was supposed to be about youth pathways for Franklin based players has instead resulted in journeymen from outside the region being lured in with cash.
Circulating around the boundaries of the pitch yesterday, I certainly overheard a lot of what I would call subdued discontent. It wasn’t the happy raucous little band of supporters I am used to seeing at Massey Park. Whereas over on the number 2, when I snuck over there for a looksee during half time in the NRFL game, I noticed that that was where all the atmosphere had transplanted to. A lot of banter was certainly flying backwards and forwards both to and from the sidelines.
And when the game on the number two was finished and some of the players and supporters wandered over to give a few of their old mates a bit of stick, that seemed to be when the NRFL game sprung into life! Franklin had gone two goals down late in the first half and had been struggling for much penetration the whole game. In the last ten minutes or so, with good natured insults flying, they looked good enough for at least one goal. But the frustration was evident all along that things just weren’t clicking.
Despite all this however, tales of Franklin’s demise are greatly exaggerated! On the surface it is arguable that everything is going according to plan. The team is still gelling, players are still learning each other’s names, and they are improving with every game. They do look good enough to pick up a few wins and avoid the drop to division 2 – and that is, a senior club official told me, the main objective for the season. If they can consolidate their position in the league, the local youngsters that coach Tam Cramer is developing in the U19 side will come through and lead the push for future promotion (no pressure Tam).
Change is always hard. And any time there is a big change – particularly with a club like Waiuku that was everybody in the league’s second team – there will be a lot of discontent. But was Waiuku sustainable in its previous form? Was that team, that let’s face it was aging, capable of staying in the NRFL long term? Was there local Waiuku youth coming through to eventually replace the older warriors like ‘Sinky’ Sinclair?
Hopefully in a couple or three years’ time, when all the teething problems have been forgotten, people will be wondering how or why anyone was ever against this initiative.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.