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Capital punishment

Auckland 1, Capital 3
William Green Domain, Auckland, October 30 2016

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There goes my pre-season prediction that Auckland would come third in the National Women’s League! With only three rounds played, that possibility already looks like it’s out the window. The ladies from the City of Sails couldn’t afford to lose today if they wanted to keep their genuine semi-final hopes alive, and now that they have lost I am struggling to think of a scenario where they could conceivably come back from the dead – barring some seriously big upsets in other results.

It’s a pity, because I still maintain that they are a very good side on paper and they weren’t a million miles away today despite what the score in bold above might suggest. I thought the first half was very even, it was just two moments of brilliance from Briar Palmer and Maggie Jenkins that made all the difference. Palmer’s 25th minute opener was a curling shot from the left that was almost brilliantly saved by Ashleigh Emerey – the Auckland keeper got her fingertips to it but, despite her valiant effort, it still snuck inside the far post. Jenkins’ was a superb volley just before half time.

All the impetus was on Auckland to chase the game in the second half. They hadn’t done a lot wrong in the first and had every opportunity to get themselves back into the game. Unfortunately though, they lacked the killer instinct in the final third that Capital had exemplified and when Michaela Robertson rounded the keeper and slotted to make the score 3-0 with about fifteen minutes left in the contest, it was effectively game, set, match and season from Auckland’s perspective. Hannah Kraakman pulled one back with five minutes plus stoppage time to go, but by then it was too little too late.

In other results, Northern crushed Southern United 8-0 in the deep south and WaiBOP overcame Central 4-1 in Palmerston North. It’s now up to WaiBOP to keep the race for third interesting! They need to beat Auckland in Cambridge next week. If they can do that, third may well come down to goal difference in the final wash so doing the business by more than two would be a useful target for the Mooloo women!

On that note, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at WaiBOP’s starting line-up vs Central when I saw it on Twitter today! I counted five players that I perceive as forwards so I’m assuming goal difference may already be on their minds… I also note that Auckland striker Jacquie Hand has now been called into the Under 20s as injury cover so that will make life significantly easier at the defensive end for WaiBOP next week as well.

Meanwhile next week, Northern will play Canterbury at North Harbour in the game that will most likely decide the venue for the final, and Capital will host Southern in Petone.

The other talking point from today, in my mind, was the interview in Auckland’s match-day programme with Papatoetoe striker Britney Cunningham Lee. In it, she says she had never heard of the National Women’s League until she was selected to play in it! For an ultra-talented young women who has been through FTCs and the like, is one of the top goalscorers in the NRFL and has been identified as a future age-group international prospect, to have never heard of what should be the pinnacle women’s football competition in this country is sobering to say the least.

What does that say about football in New Zealand?

Perhaps the time has now come to hand the National Women’s League over to the clubs and franchises of the Stirling Sports Premiership and ask them to run teams in it, as they already do for the men’s youth league, and take the responsibility away from the federations.

Something has to change to take this competition to the next level and our elite domestic football women deserve no less than that.

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Enzo Giordani

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/

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