I can’t believe it’s August already. Where does the winter disappear to? It seems like about fifteen minutes ago that I was attending my first NRFL game of the year, yet last weekend saw me photograph the first of the four trophy presentations that herald the end of the competitive season.
The league has been managed much more efficiently than last year, which is good for the clubs and players involved but bad for me. In 2015 I was looking forward to games to get along to and enjoy every weekend in September. For 2016 it will be all over by the end of August and I’m already in a state of angst about what games I’ll be able to watch in that limbo month between NRFL finishing and the National Women’s League getting underway.
Until then, it must be just about the time of year to start reminiscing about all the fun I had.
Here are my ten favourite photos that I have taken so far during NRFL 2016…
1 – The first game
Game one of NRFL 2016 was a bit of a shambles for me. I was on my way to Hamilton Wanderers but had to turn around at Meremere when the Easter traffic was such that it became clear I’d be lucky to make it in time for the after-match function. I did well, under the circumstances, to get back to Bay Olympic in time to only miss ten minutes of their match with Melville. What was even more miraculous was that I had calmed down enough from my road rage to snap this nice shot of a late aerial battle.
2 – Jack and the pyro
They are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am a sucker for flares at football! It’s the Italian in me. On the Northern League Forum it was alleged that my fondness for Birkenhead United is due to me being anybody’s for a replica shirt and a hotdog. The truth is I’m anybody’s for pyro. This photo was taken at Shepherd’s Park as the Birko and Central players walked out for Jack Hobson-McVeigh’s last game before he departed for a new life in Germany.
3 – Fav
Taken at Riverhills during Fencibles’ Division Two clash with Ngaruawahia, this is my favourite shot I’ve taken so far this year. There’s nothing else quite like a goalkeeper diving at the feet of an attacking player watched by a crowd on the balcony of a rustic grassroots New Zealand football club.
4 – Compulsory throw-in
There’s a running joke that Wellington photographer Michael Welsh and I have been sharing most of the year – that you haven’t really shot a game of football unless you’ve got a compulsory throw-in shot. Each weekend we each share our best throw-ins on Twitter and admire the terrible facials! Throw-ins are challenging to capture at the perfect moment when the ball is just leaving the fingertips… I think this one from Papatoetoe vs Forrest Hill Milford is my best effort of the year to date.
5 – Ouch
I’ve always thought long and hard before posting photos of people getting injured. They have to be strong enough images to warrant it and they have to be for the purpose of telling a story, not just for the sake of it or, worse, the sake of voyeurism. This shot of Hamilton Wanderers reserve keeper Georgia Candy getting her collarbone broken is a strong image and it told part of a story of a tough local derby with Claudelands Rovers.
6 – The striker of the future
Stand-out players – I’ve seen a few. One of them is undoubtedly Eastern Suburbs’ Jade Parris who will in all likelihood be a regular fixture in the Football Ferns one day. In the meantime, it’s great to admire her work while we can before she follows the trend of some of our best female players heading overseas to pastures greener.
7 – The next striker of the future
But no matter how fast they leave, the New Zealand women’s football factory keeps churning them out. Case in point – Papatoetoe’s fifteen year old sensation Britney Cunningham-Lee leading the chasing pack!
8 – It’s a keeper
Poor Jason Mann. I have a terrible habit of getting great photos of goalkeepers I like getting beaten!
9 – A plane! A plane!
Every time I go to Papatoetoe’s Murdoch Park I have the same aim in mind – to get a decent shot of a plane coming in to land at Auckland Airport. The ground is right in the flight path and is a pretty spectacular place to be when a big bird comes in. I have never managed to get a photo that does it justice though. Funnily enough, the best football/aviation shot I have managed to get is this one, when I had no aim in mind, not at Murdoch Park, but at Tauranga’s Links Avenue.
10 – The beginning of the end
All good things come to an end, and my fifth full season blogging about the NRFL is winding down. The proof of that is in this shot of the Three Kings United Women’s Premier team – the first to seal a title and lift a trophy in 2016. There are still three more photos like this to come, provided I have the wherewithal to be in the right place at the right time! But for now, it’s time to start facing the prospect that winter football is almost gone for another year.
Long live summer football!
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/