With just under three weeks until the Stirling Sports Premiership kicks off, today saw representatives of the new ten team league converge on Auckland to film their Sky Sports promo video and meet the media as part of New Zealand Football’s official launch.
It’s a busy week for NZF, with Anthony Hudson’s All Whites squad due to be announced soonish. A perfect time to get some extra media buzz around the beautiful game. The new sponsor of the league, Stirling Sports, hosted nine out of ten of the players and NZF for the official media launch.
New Team Wellington signing Joel Stevens says he doesn’t feel the defending champions are under any extra pressure as they attempt to retain their first ever title.
“No, no extra pressure on us, the teams looking pretty good this year and we’re excited for the start of the season. It’s pretty exciting times with Jose (Figeuira) appointed as head coach and the new signing of Cam Howeison and some of last season’s players”
He was also effusive in his praise of new head coach Jose Figueira and indicated there’d be a distinct style of football at Dave Farrington Park this season;
“Jose wants to play in a distinctive style… and we’re going to stick to it and players that dont stick to it aren’t going to play and he’s told us that. Which is a good thing because it means everyones fighting for spots. We’ve got so many players who can play there and do a job.”
For Auckland City’s Clayton Lewis, a beaten finalist in last years competition, the new season means a chance to take the title back to Kiwitea Street.
“We want the the Premiership, 100%. Having that setback of not winning the title was quite a downer to us but we picked it up and wanted to be confident in the O League and we ended up getting that result back against Team Wellington”
He also hoped his form for the Junior All Whites and Auckland City would lead to selection in one of Anthony Hudson’s All Whites squads, either for the upcoming friendlies in the US or the World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia.
“Yeah for sure, going to be a massive trip (to the U.S), really looking forward to it. Hope it goes in my favour and I do get selected but if not I’m going to keep pushing and hopefully get selected for the New Caledonia game in November”
The advantage of a new season is that it’s a clean slate, a fresh start. After a disastrous start to 2015/16, Waitekere United replaced their coach mid-season and finished 6th. The West Auckland side’s long serving captain, Jake Butler, said they were seeking to avoid a repeat
“We’ve already seen signs of improvement, with a couple of new signings joining the squad, everything’s a lot more professional this year – I think it was a bit of a lightbulb moment for everyone last year and they’re doing everything in your power to make it a better season, and hopefully we can kick on”
For Eastern Suburbs’ goalkeeper Zac Speedy, who joined the club from WaiBOP, his new team gives him the chance to play alongside former team-mates;
“I’ve played with a couple of these boys before, Luke Adams who’s coming in I used to go to Auckland Grammar with and a couple of the other – so looking forward to working with the defence and keeping clean sheets”
With an extra team in Auckland, there’ll be a whole host of derbies taking place, but Speedy says Suburbs are focused on their performance across the whole season;
“We don’t really put too much focus on that and we just want to win every game and treat it as a cup final. It’s a short season so we’ve really got to do our best in every game. Obviously we want to come out on top of the Auckland games and all the derbies, but every game’s important.”
Waitakere’s Jake Butler agreed, saying he hoped for a close competition between the three Super City sides;
“Yeah it’s going to be interesting, the player pool gets spread around a bit more and I know Eastern Suburbs are signing good players as well, Auckland are – y’know – Auckland, and they’ll be tough no matter what”
The Stirling Sports Premiership kicks off on October 16th, with the first live Sky Sports game seeing Auckland City take on Team Wellington at Kiwitea Street on Sunday October 23rd.
Postscript: The missing player was Tasman’s Paul Ifill, who had unavoidable work commitments.
Categories: All Whites
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.