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All roads lead to Vegas

Rotorua United 2, Central United 0
Neil Hunt Park, Rotorua, June 5 2016

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So far 2016 has been a winter of football road-trips! I’ve been to Hamilton (twice), Taupo, Dargaville, Whangarei and Kaeo. Throw in yesterday’s excursion to watch Rotorua United host Central in the New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup, and over the past six weeks I have travelled 2,655km for football matches outside Auckland. That means I have driven around 25km further than the distance from my house to downtown Melbourne! And that’s not counting all the short trips to games played inside the Auckland city limits.

When I look at it like that, I can’t help but wonder if my obsession might be bordering on unhealthy. But that would be to look at things simply in economic terms. Thank goodness I’m not running a corporation here or I’d shut down my own division. When I think about all the fun I’ve had these past weeks, though, I wouldn’t trade all those miles on my car odometer for anything.

The first Hamilton Women’s Premier derby since long before I started blogging, Northern Wairoa’s first ever Chatham Cup game, spending time with Grant, Cathy, Michael, Melissa and Dave in Taupo watching Fallon vs Herbert, watching two WaiBOP Premiership teams go head to head in the Women’s Knockout Cup, and I’ll never forget Stefano’s Kaeo Inter just this past Saturday. What price can you put on memories like those?

And then there was another great one yesterday – a huge performance by Central United, an AFF/NFF Championship team that plays a tier lower than their opponents in this tie. Rotorua United are currently third in the WaiBOP Premiership and, just three points off the lead, they are fighting hard for a playoff berth against the Conference winners for a place in next season’s NRFL.

The team in blue always looked a cut above in terms of quality in this game, and when they went ahead in the eleventh minute via their star player, New Caledonian international Kim Maguire, it looked like heralding the start of a very long afternoon for the Aucklanders. But Central, who demolished Bay Olympic 9-0 in round one, were far from ready to roll over. They absorbed a ton of pressure over the course of the remainder of the first half, feeding off scraps and managing to look quite dangerous themselves on the counter attack. With 1-0 as the half time score, the game was still anyone’s.

It only took eight minutes of the second half for Rotorua to double their lead, this time via Robyn Fisher who managed to score an impressive goal from an acute angle on the right. But again Central refused to lie down. They kept battling hard and the longer the game wore on the more dangerous they looked to the point where I thought a goal was the least they deserved. It wasn’t to be though and Rotorua closed out the game as one of two Northern clubs from outside the NRFL to make it into the last 16! The other side in that category appears to be Metro, who avenged their 2015 playoff loss by upsetting Hamilton Wanderers 4-3 after extra time.

And if my calculations are correct, that also leaves Rotorua United as the last WaiBOP representative in either the Women’s Knockout Cup or the Chatham Cup for 2016. Claudelands Women may be the other but I’m told they are unlikely to make it into the third round draw as they are alleged to have fielded a suspended player in their upset victory over Three Kings yesterday.

So my fingers and toes are now crossed for a Rotorua v Metro tie in the next round, and another road trip to Rotovegas  for me. Because why stop at Melbourne when you can keep driving to Perth?

Categories: NZ Women's KO 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.

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