Wellington Phoenix 4, Hamilton Wanderers 0
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, December 10 2016
It took ten years for me to witness a Waikato FC/WaiBOP United victory with my own eyes in the franchise based men’s national league. And for a good nine of those ten years of misery, the performances I saw were such that not only did I not get to see a win, but I never really even got to hope for one in my heart of hearts.
Yesterday marked the beginning of a new era. It was my first time watching the latest Waikato national league flag bearer playing in the brave new world we find ourselves in where clubs are in vogue at this level once again.
I was keen to get a couple of questions answered…
Question one: Could Wanderers could pull at my heart strings the way that all of their predecessors have?
Question two: Would this be the old style uncompetitive breed of Waikato football? Or would it be the more recent model that the federation controlled franchise had led me to expect, filling us fans with hope of semi-final football?
On question one, they have some things counting against them. It’s a bit weird. As a fan of Waikato football I have had to build loyalty to a lot of different national league entities through the years – namely Waikato United, Melville United, Waikato FC, WaiBOP United and now Hamilton Wanderers.
The latest incarnation is a club, but at the same time it’s operating like a franchise in some ways. I look at the team sheet and I see players from winter clubs that compete against Wanderers in the NRFL.
The ones that particularly make me raise my eyebrow a little are Aaron Scott and Marc Evans from the supposed mortal enemy – Melville United. It sure was weird seeing those two in Wanderers colours…
On the other side of the coin, there is that healthy dose of Birkenhead United amongst the ranks. If I have a favourite Auckland club it’s the gang from Shepherd’s Park and so this Wanderers/Birko combo is like a match made in heaven for me!
But then I turn my attention to question two… I didn’t expect this to be an easy win, but I did expect a win against one of the league’s weaker teams. Obviously I can’t answer question two based solely on one game. Especially when they have picked up three wins so far this season including what was by all accounts a quality performance against Canterbury United, and a comprehensive demolition of table topping title contenders Eastern Suburbs.
But this was the game I saw and unfortunately it was a little bit woeful. To make matters worse, while I haven’t seen it myself, apparently there were some comments in a Sky Sport post-match interview with one of the players where mention was made of a poor team culture inside the camp.
To say that this is a worry is an understatement.
Next week they play at home in the same stadium they played away in this week… (go figure that)
They are up against a strong Hawkes Bay United side and it will absolutely be a must win game if they want to stay in the hunt for a semi-final place. A strong performance is crucial and, word to the wise, they might want to think about doing a bit of hugging and kissing when they score too, just to show us all how much they love each other…
Because as far as question one is concerned, the fact that I was rather bitter and twisted about the result after the game, and the fact that I am now angsting about whatever comments were made on TV, means that I do care. And I do care a great deal!
Categories: NZ Men's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.