By Ezra Whall
2016: Donald Trump, celebrity deaths, and the New Zealand AFF/NFF Conference.
One of these things has me proud to say I lived through (fingers crossed) the year. Due to the facts that I’m not a racist bigot, Life on mars is one of my favourite songs, and this is a footballing blog website, you might have guessed which one I’m most proud of.
The conference has gained a reputation in the past for being a league of two halves. The top half who train twice a week, have their own coach, and whose reserves actually show up to training, and the bottom half who’re either filled with former NRFL clubs who’ve lost all of their superstars, or clubs quite content on training once a month and ‘seeing what happens’ on a Saturday afternoon.
The year of the monkey however, is not an ordinary year as you, by now, may have gathered. For those of you that haven’t been following the conference league this year, so far there’s been as much drama as an episode of Game of Thrones, with about the same amount of boobs (in the less exciting sense of the word).
Every good drama has a beginning middle and end so I thought it fitting to break it up as such.
Having seen Waitemata sail through the league unbeaten last season, no one knew what was going to happen this year. Alot of people envisioned last years runner up Ranui-Swanson to challenge for promotion, while others favoured the young Bucklands Beach AFC squad, who were only entering their second season of being in the conference, while more conservative pundits backed the newly demoted, NRFL veterans Lynn Avon to go straight back up.
The first few weeks however proved just how close the call was gonna be this season. Waiheke United looked good, and surprised everone with their south American flair, a Barcelonaesque style of play, and a mob of passionate fans.
The Lynn Avon outfit seemed to struggle against mid stream teams, looking tired and lacking creativity until a few weeks in however, when they aquired the services of former Auckland City FC Nigerian, Sunni Issa, who managed to help them take down the top of the table Bucklands Beach, much to everyone’s surprise.
In other areas of the table, Ranui-Swanson found themselves struggling to live up to expectations, being swept aside by Waiheke, South Auckland and Unimount.
The rangers’ of the league South Auckland and Glen Eden strung together a few good results and found themselves working their way up the table and looking a real threat to the top-tier teams.
Now here we are in the middle. The middle of the season, the middle of the year, and the middle of nowhere as to knowing who’s going to win the league.
Bucklands Beach would be pleased with their results so far, sitting atop with only the one surprise loss to Lynn Avon and a draw with the rough and tumble, Bohemian Celtics, but will be nervous of Glen Eden, who’re just one point behind them.
The second half of the season should bring more thrills as the second placed Glen Eden Rangers have to play both Bucklands Beach and Waiheke twice and we always see players leaving and arriving at new clubs around this time.
It really is (almost) anyone’s league at this point with only six points seperating the top spot from the sixth. Who’s gonna slip up and who’s gonna keep their form? find out on the next episode of the AFF/NFF Conference.
[Ezra Whall plays for Glen Eden United in the AFF/NFF Conference]
Categories: NZ AFF/NFF Men's Conference
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.