I was all set to round off the NRFL season by heading off to Eastern Suburbs vs Western Springs yesterday, but I was unexpectedly prevented from doing so by a rare condition I suddenly found myself afflicted with – I couldn’t be bothered. The fact that it was wet and miserable wouldn’t usually stop me but on this occasion, the last Northern League game of the year to be played in daylight, the thought of yet another soaking at the end of a long damp winter was simply too much.
Besides, there’s no need to drown myself in mud when I can just write what I was going to write anyway from the comfort of my nice dry couch, chuck in a few pics from my back-catalouge, and everybody’s happy, right?
The only thing that made me slightly tempted to tough it out was my genuine curiosity about the men’s Premier Division relegation scrap that is still unresolved with just one mid-week fixture remaining.
Due to legal battles, cup runs, youth tournaments and who knows what else, the season has once again dragged out towards the end of September. The result of that is we have Hamilton Wanderers nervously awaiting their fate while Western Springs, who went through a 24 day period of not playing any games earlier in the year, try to get two wins from three remaining games against opposition with nothing left to play for in order to turn 2017’s Premier Division into an all Auckland affair.
Neil Emblen’s Springs had only won four games all season up until last weekend, so the chances of them increasing their win tally by 50% against three top teams would seem impossible in the regular cut and thrust of a normal competition. But last weekend they got a 4-0 win over third equal Three Kings and yesterday they got a 2-2 draw against third equal Eastern Suburbs. So on Wednesday night they will stay in the top flight if they can beat Chatham Cup winners and second place holders Birkenhead United – who lost 3-1 to a previously dismal, already relegated, Melville United side in Hamilton yesterday.
The other annoying thing that I can’t help but spy through my Hamiltonian eye patch is the fact that none of this would be in question if there weren’t three relegation berths this year instead of the usual two. A situation that came about because of the unfathomable decision to include Three Kings in this year’s competition despite the fact that they had nine games worth of points stripped from them for fielding an ineligible player last year. They subsequently finished the season in last place, seven points adrift of safety.
Now, my sympathy for Wanderers carries a rather large caveat – they wouldn’t be in this predicament if they hadn’t dropped some points they really shouldn’t have dropped earlier in the year. So they only have themselves to blame in that sense. There is also a feeling out there from some that since they got their National League license, their commitment to the NRFL has been questionable at best. But still, when I look at current events in the division I can only conclude that in my opinion the playing field isn’t level.
If Wanderers do end up going down they will have some significant justification for feeling aggrieved. And the top flight will be significantly poorer for being a JAFAs only fraternity.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.