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Guest Post – The Green Green Grass Of Home

It’s not often I get tanked. Selfie on the roadtrip from Hamilton to Palmerston North. Pitstop in Waiouru.

It’s not often I get tanked. Selfie on the roadtrip from Hamilton to Palmerston North. Pitstop in Waiouru.

By Grant Stantiall

It’s been 11 years since I last wrote any sort of football related article [apart from this! – Enzo ;-)]  – and that was for the now defunct  New Zealand football fanzine Sitter! of which I was associated , under the rather quaint title “Deputy Editor and all-round good guy”. These days you can simply delete the last five words of that phrase. Now, “old curmugeonly mofo” is more apt.

Oh yes, I’ve scrawled the odd book or music review for Waikato FC and WaiBOP United match magazines and penned a few lines for a  recent book on Justin Fashanu.  But these days my prime involvement with football has been the taking of match photographs of Northern League men’s and women’s games, the odd international (nothing beats Westpac Stadium, November 2009), the New Zealand Ethnic Football Festival held annually in Hamilton and currently, exploring and reaquainting myself with the Chatham Cup. That glorious old sexy trophy. Yep it would look fab on my mantelpiece. If I had a mantelpiece. Hint: New Zealand Football. You should sell replica’s.

So, inspired by Enzo Giordani’s In-The-Back-Of-The-Net blog, Yellow Fever match tweeters and a few associates on Twitter, I attended the Taupo AFC v Manukau City Round 1 Chatham Cup match at Crown Park and the Cup spark was reignited. Great game, possible upset on the cards, visitors won yet football was the winner on the day. And I met some new and some old fellow football fanatics.  You can view some match shots here:


Prior to Round 2 of the Cup, I was on a Dale Carnegie course and one of my fellow course members happened to be a first team player for Cambridge FC, Jordan Silvester. We got talking as you do and I promised to come out and take some photos of his team. Then, when the Chatham Cup draw pitched the WaiBOP Premiership side away to New Zealand football heavyweights Central United from the Northern Region Premier League, it was a done deal.

So I headed to Auckland and shot the Central v Cambridge cup clash. And bugger me, Cambridge scored first through a wonder goal by Glen Carmichael. A strange yet brilliant moment as young Cambridge club photographer Louis Roberts looked at me and I looked at him – both just wondering if our eyes were deceiving us. It was a grand battle, with Central coming out victors but the Cup brought out the best in Cambridge and losing 4-2 away to a team three divisions higher than themselves was a worthy achievement. Central of course, put up a lovely message on their electronic scoreboard after the game and again football the winner on the day. Match shots for your viewing pleasure can be found here:


Now we get to the green grass. Round 3 of the Chatham Cup.

Down in the Central Region giant-killers Island Bay United had tucked away two big clubs from Wellington in Stop Out and Wellington United and had now drawn the biggest club in the Manawatu – Palmerston North Marist.  I was keen to go. My roots begin in Marton, but Palmerston North was where I played a majority of my football in the late seventies and up to the mid-eighties.

I got a glint in my eye, recalling the glory days of Manawatu United circa that 1978/79/80/81 period when dad took me along as a kid to see them play teams such as Stop Out, Wellington Diamond United, Trans Tours United and all those big strange long-winded sponsored national league sides of the day.

Well I embellish, as it really wasn’t so much glory trophy-winning days, but the days when 2500 to 3000 fans would come along to Memorial Park and pack the place out. Those were the best days of my early footballing years and I truly felt like I was part of something special when I went along to watch Willy Straw, George Dunning, Reg Robinson, Jack Winters and co play magical football in the green kit.

These days it’s not the same. Manawatu has become a footballing backwater after being dumped from the ASB Premiership. I’m still pissed about that decision and I’ll write something about that another time.

Yes, it was time to return home and photograph my original football love albeit now playing as Palmerston North Marist. I got hold of Chairman Jason Flynn who I knew from the time when he was involved with Youngheart Manawatu and I was setting up Waikato FC in readiness to compete in the 2004 NZFC.

Jason said it was fine to go pitch-side and shoot the game so things were set in motion.

I booked the Friday night at the Hilton in Taupo under the guise of a 28th Wedding Anniversary present to the missus and off we went.  On the drive down that night I came clean with Cath about the football game the following day in Palmerston North. She rolled her eyes and before she said I’d better do some greasing up, I advised that I’d drop her off at the Plaza before the game and she could go wild on my credit card. Sweet, crisis averted.

Saturday morning and rather than spend $50 on breakfast at the Hilton we cruised off down State Highway 1 aiming for Brown Sugar Cafe in Taihape. Nature took its course which meant an emergency stop-off at the Army Museum in Waiouru, where we also fuelled up on a big breakfast. I also managed to add to my military book collection by picking up a copy of former 75 Squadron Skyhawk pilot and current Hamilton resident Ian “Iggy” Woods book “Iggy’s Air Force Tales”. Iggy used to play in the same RNZAF Base Ohakea Band that I played in – hence the added interest.

Anyway, we jogged on, turning off at Vinegar Hill and sweeping through the villages of Rewa, Waituna West and Cheltenham before stopping off at my sisters place in Feilding to learn the fantastic news that she is now officially in a relationship. Quick cuppa tea – Harrods tea – all the way from England too, then we shot off to Palmerston North. The clock was ticking and I needed to dump the old girl on the corner of Main Street before squealing off towards mecca. Er, Memorial Park.

I made the obligatory u-turn into the carpark at the side of Main Street East with 15 minutes to go until kickoff;  yes I had arrived.  I initially thought maybe the game was being played elsewhere due to the distinct lack of cars. I was the second car in the quite considerably long carpark. Fearing a late ground transfer I grabbed my monopod and camera bag and jogged down the cul-de-sac to the ground entrance, zipped along the back of the toilets and there before me was the lush green grass of Memorial Park. And football goals with nets and two teams warming up. Thank christ!

Upon assembling my camera and remembering to change the settings from night gig shooting, to daylight football, I tapped into Twitter to announce my arrival. And I immediately had @marist_pn and @IslandBayUnited to tweet to. Thanks guys, was good to have company to spread the word as the game progressed.

The match got underway and the first thing I noticed was the lack of those 70’s/80’s crowds but yunno, that wasn’t going to spoil my day.  There was a good wee crew up from Island Bay and the locals that did turn up were keen for their team to get a win, after some poor league form. Nice bit of banter echoed around the amphitheatre regarding “rangas” which being the non-pc type, made me laugh. Nothing too innocuous, mind.

Initially Marist looked to be in control but unexpectedly Island Bay United scored after 7 minutes. Man, another upset is on the cards. I click away at the celebrations after missing the goal due to tweeting. Now photo-tweeting is a real art and I’ve yet to master it at all. I can’t multi-task so why I would expect to be able do this I have no idea.

It takes some time for Marist to settle after conceding that early goal but settle they do and they end up scoring a couple of fine goals to lead 2-1 going into the break. Update the score via Twitter and secretly feel pumped that my team have their nose in front. @IslandBayUnited know I’m biased towards Marist and to my credit I manage to hold it together on Twitter, and try, yes try to be relatively complimentary towards the visitors.

I really don’t use Twitter effectively. I forget hashtags, forget twitter handles – in general, I just don’t conform to the rules of Twitter. I kinda do whatever I like and this is often a reason I get tagged with the “loose cannon, he’s got baggage label”. But hell, I really don’t care anymore. Following me is like following a trainwreck. If you laugh my job is done. If you don’t well, I’m likely to say fuck you and carry on doing my own thing. One day I may even figure out what that is myself.

Halftime is done. I’ve pick up my gear and go wandering around the outside of the pitch, happily snapping away, chimping, deleting, snapping, tweeting all as the Cup game goes on in front of me.

The game is still a close battle. Island Bay United won’t give up easily. Even when the score blows out to 4-1 after two more blazing Marist goals, the Wellingtonians are still hammering away at the Marist end.

There are only two players I know on the pitch. One is a player I spotted early on and tweeted after around 15 minutes, that he was the best player on the pitch – Jono Steele – the other has the best hairstyle in New Zealand football, Nate Cooksley. Both have effective games, Cooksley getting the Marist equaliser whilst Steele would be a player I would have in my team any day.

My new favourite player. Jono Steele in the green and white of Palmerston North Marist.

My new favourite player. Jono Steele in the green and white of Palmerston North Marist.

The guy looks fit, is comfortable on the ball, distributes, gets down the line, looks eager to be involved. I then find out he is very good at Futsal too. Maybe I do know something about football after all.

Island Bay pull a goal back late in the game. 4-2 to Marist and there is still some life in this Chatham Cup match. The Sharks have a very good spell and it takes a couple of good saves to keep them from adding more goals to their tally. One drive from the edge of the box is tipped away.  And down the other end Henry Van Dyk in the Island Bay goal makes one of the most outrageous saves I have ever seen, anywhere. A Marist free kick on the edge of the box has goal written all over it but Van Dyk in some sort of Billy The Fish fashion, manages to not only dive and tip the ball onto the post but also heads the rebound clear. Younger readers will need to google Billy The Fish.


Island Bay United keeper Henry Van Dyk with his incredible save/clearance.

It was a worldy save. If only it had been recorded and broadcast on One News Sport.

With only minutes remaining and Marist looking to see the game out, their No 12 Aaron Richardson goes into a 50/50 challenge with Van Dyk and upon the follow through is flashed a straight red card. To his credit Van Dyk doesn’t make a meal of it and the players shake hands before Richardson walks off to the changing sheds.

Marist’s Aaron Richardson is sent off for this 50/50 challenge.

Marist’s Aaron Richardson is sent off for this 50/50 challenge.

From my angle Aaron has his foot firmly planted into the ball but from the other side I have no doubt the referee saw it differently and so reluctantly I’d have to side with the ref on this one. I was slightly annoyed with the card and with 2 minutes to go did a dumb thing and showed the Marist player in the sheds the photo, then the Marist bench.

This of course just incensed the Marist bench and subjected the ref to some words he probably could have done without. My bad. And upon entering the referee’s room at the conclusion of the match to get photos of the team sheets, I did get hauled over the coals, in a very diplomatic way I might add, by the referee and I did apologise to him for my poor error of judgement.

So, I learned to wait until after the game before pulling a stunt like that next time:-p

Final score of 4-2 to Marist in this Chatham Cup 3rd round tie, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable game. Both sides played to a good standard and even the red card was not a dampener on the day. I only hope Richardson gets a one game ban. Anything more would be bloody disappointing.

The entire roadtrip was 798 kilometres. Quite possibly the longest trip to see a 3rd round Chatham Cup tie that weekend, but I stand to be corrected. The adventure continues as I’m going back to Memorial Park to see the 4th round clash between Palmerston North Marist and North Wellington in a couple of weeks time.

Hopefully I can convince Chairman Jason Flynn to sort me out with a size L Marist shirt. Yeah the grass is looking green in the Manawatu right now. Could this be the rise of football in my home region? I certainly hope so. A Chatham Cup win by a Manawatu side…why not!

Match photos of the Marist v Island Bay United cup clash can be viewed here.

[Grant Stantiall is a football fanatic, cum-tragic. His English club is Norwich City – which explains the tragic bit. With his playing days long since gone, he assisted Bruce Holloway with the New Zealand football fanzine SITTER! from around 1999 to 2005. He was joint Club Person of the Year with Joe Fraser for Waikato United in 1995, jointly won the NZ Football Publication of The Year with Michael Stephen for Stand Up If You Love The Kingz in 2000 as well as being Football Kingz Supporter of The Year in 2000.

He was programme editor for the 1986 (or was it 1988?) RNZAF Inter-base Football Tournament, edited programmes for Waikato United, Melville United, has been on the committee of Waikato United, Melville United and formed Waikato FC as an entity to compete in the 2004 NZFC.

He was a director of Waikato FC during its inaugural season where the club finished a respectable 3rd. He attended the 1999 and 2003 Confederations Cups in Mexico and France as a FIFA accredited photographer, has shot various Chatham Cup finals, the 2009 All Whites v Bahrain WC qualifier in Wellington, the 1999 FIFA U17’s Mens World Cup and 2008 FIFA U17 Womens World Cup, Oceania Nations Cup matches, done photographic work for Oceania Football Confederation, CMG Sport, Photosport and Phototek.

He can usually be spotted shooting Northern League men’s and women’s games during winter and ASB Premiership matches during the summer. His football photography has been published in the Waikato Times, Christchurch Press, Western Leader, Hamilton Press and many other media publications as well as club match programmes.]

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.

4 replies

  1. It is still a very dangerous tackle to attempt.
    “Replica’s”??? Grocer’s apostrophe.

  2. Ha. Reminds me, as someone who often proof-read Grant’s stuff back in the day, the very best thing he ever wrote was a piece where he impersonated his wife and submitted an article to Sitter: “Cathy’s PMT (Pre Match Tension) Hints.

    With a delicate blend of neurosis, angst, pseudo-feminism and general minutae, he captured what was in those days considered to be the female psyche so well that nobody ever suspected it was actually Grant.

    You should consider being female more often, Grant. 🙂

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