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Northern exposure

Northern Wairoa 2, University of Auckland 6
Memorial Park, Dargaville, April 25 2016

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ANZAC Day is right up there with my favourite days of the year. Not because of dawn services, poppies, wreaths, trumpets playing the Last Post and all the various other acts of remembrance of wars fought through the ages. I love it because it is traditionally the day of the Chatham Cup preliminary round – the best day of the footballing calendar!

I hardly need to tell you what’s great about the Chatham Cup preliminary round, but I will anyway. It’s the romance of well in excess of a hundred teams throughout the country starting their journey today that, for one club, will culminate in lifting one of the oldest trophies in New Zealand sport. Anyone can enter and anyone can win on any given day, no matter how many rungs down the ladder they might ordinarily play.

In the Northern region alone there were so many interesting looking encounters to partake in featuring teams I have never heard of. Central Brown taking on Auckland Volcanoes, Kamo vs Zamantix, Internationale vs Tokoroa, Waikato College vs Auckland Wanderers and Bohemian Celtic vs Warkworth to name but a few tasty looking obscure encounters. But the one that caught my eye the most was Dargaville’s Northern Wairoa – entering the Cup for the first time in their 60+ year history – taking on the might of my alma mater, the University of Auckland.

I have only been to Dargaville once in my life before today. I was on my way to a union stop work meeting in Rawene and I stopped at the Dargaville Warehouse to buy a car charger for my dead cell phone battery… But today seemed like as good a day as any for a proper visit! And when I got there I found a brilliant football experience on the banks of the Wairoa River!

Northern Wairoa FC’s home ground, Memorial Park, is a beautiful little spot with a cute little club house and an even cuter coffee stand next door! I arrived exactly half an hour before the game was due to kick off and was immediately greeted by broad smiles and hearty handshakes all round! Admittedly that was when they thought I was the reporter from the local newspaper… Their smiles dimmed somewhat when I broke the news that I was in actual fact a blogger from Auckland but they were still warm enough after that… 😉

There was a handy little crowd in attendance that I would estimate at a good fifty odd including one former Northern Wairoa stalwart who was watching the game from Melbourne! Not wanting to miss the biggest day in his favourite club’s history, Evan Montgomery was on a video call with his mum holding the cellphone up for him to see the entire game.

What he witnessed was a spirited performance from his team. They started full of energy and hustle to counter the somewhat more silky skills of their big city opposition. And they looked quite dangerous! At one point in the opening twenty minutes they strung a series of corners together and got close to taking the lead on more than a few occasions. But it all came unstuck in a disastrous twenty one minute period where they conceded five goals in minutes 23 (Bruno Lane), 29 (Kaeto Paetz), 33 (Aalok Paudel), 43 (Paetz again) and 44 (Paudel again). University of Auckland had the benefit of the wind and a couple of those goals were screamers but still, Northern Wairoa were better than that and they were rightly gutted with their lapses in concentration.

The team talk from the coach at half time was simple – get organised, remember what we practiced, and stick to the game plan – defend in numbers and hit them on the counter. And it worked! They conceded another sloppy goal (hat trick completed by Paetz) in the 51st minute but then the locals came storming back with two goals of their own taken by Lapinmal Morris in the 58th and Will Green in the 70th minutes that were both met with deafening roars from the home supporters!

University of Auckland had a number of chances to extend their lead late in the match but they weren’t able to take them – which was good. It was great for the home side to win the second half 2-1 and retain something to brag to their grandkids about when they explain to them how once upon a time they played their part in the rich history of the Chatham Cup – and that’s what the preliminary round is all about!

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

1 reply

  1. Thanks to social media I was able to follow this match, plus the other Chatham Cup matches, from here in Thailand. Now with you having attended the game and your photos it was nearly as good as being there. Keep up the good work. I love the blog.

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