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Changes afoot

Waiheke Ultras

I have recently caught wind of a few potential changes that are strongly rumoured to be under consideration for the NRFL following a review of the competition.

My understanding is that we are still a ways off any final decisions being made, with any changes that are eventually agreed upon announced in early 2018 and taking effect in 2019.

The biggest and potentially the most controversial change that more than one credible source has told me is on the cards is the scrapping of men’s division two. Two of the three Northern League Federations are said to be on board with this move while AFF are apparently not as keen at present.

Other changes could see the reserves leagues scrapped in preference for a mirrored under 21 league for the premier division(s?) only, and for the women’s premier division to be cut from ten teams down to eight.

From my point of view as a mere mad football lover as opposed to a player, coach or administrator is that it looks like a bit of a mixed bag.

I don’t like the idea of scrapping division 2 because some of my favourite football moments of the past few years have come from there. Manukau City’s cup run in 2012, Claudelands Rovers’ promotion playoff miracle in 2013, duck curry at Mangere United, any game on Mangere Mountain, and anyone who would be happier without Waiheke United in their lives is dead inside!

I do, however, fully acknowledge that “Enzo likes duck curry and flares” is possibly not, in itself, a good enough basis to continue a whole football division. Still though…

The rumoured proposals around reserves sound sensible, but my give-a-stuff factor on that only extends as far as whether or not it will make life easier for non-Auckland teams in order to retain the geographic diversity of the league. I’m sure that other stakeholders will have different views on that aspect largely depending on where in the region they are situated.

Auckland clubs tend to love their reserves like Family First loves not paying tax and will be just as disappointed if the fun stops. Whereas WaiBOP clubs (especially the lower division ones) generally think of reserves more in the way Gareth Morgan sees potential voters – as an unavoidable encumbrance.

The package as a whole would seem to create more of a pointy pyramid where clubs of various sizes and strengths will find their level. Clubs currently stuck in division 2 will be in conference or federation leagues pottering away against similar opposition. Clubs that are slightly bigger and stronger will be in division 1 unencumbered by reserves, and then the more elite level will be for bigger clubs with the resources to have strong youth teams.

Duck curry alla Centre Park

In terms of cutting the number of teams in women’s premier, I guess that’s probably for the best. It will concentrate the talent a bit more, making more of the games interesting. Over the last few years there has always been an easybeat or two that makes for lopsided football. The downside is either fewer games or more games against the same opposition – which could get boring for players and spectators.

It’s interesting that Wellington have scrapped promotion and relegation in their re-badged ‘W-League’. This might be worth considering up this way, for a time at least, to provide a bit of stability so we end up with eight strong teams instead of seven strong ones while other weaker ones yo-yo back and forth without really making the step up.

But enough of my waffle! It would be interesting to see what other people’s opinions of these potential changes are. What say you?

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1 NZ Northern Men's Division 2 NZ Northern Men's Premier NZ Northern Women's Premier

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

12 replies

  1. As a current division 2 player, I cannot get behind these proposed changes. Division 2 has always shown itself as a competitive league and a viable destination for quality players. As you rightly point out, division 2 is steeped in compelling stories and characters, and I believe it would be a shame for all involved, clubs, players and supporters to see the demise of it.

  2. couple of things
    I am not sure all out of Auckland teams dislike reserves as much as you suggest – Melville and Wanderers as examples have always had strong reserves teams and seem to develop quite a fair bit of players through their teams.

    Also not sure how you decided clubs are, how did you put it:

    Clubs that are slightly bigger and stronger will be in division 1 unencumbered by reserves

    Ah yes – I think there are plenty of clubs who use Reserves in a positive way for their club. I’m more than happy to write a whole piece of the benefit of mirrored reserves, but people seem to think since the word “Reserves” applies that somehow it’s second rate? So just a simple change to Development League would appease those people?

  3. As often seems the case in NZ football, it feels to me like the drivers are backwards here.

    It seems to me, from the outside looking in, that the scraping of Div 2 &/or the Reserves league is an attempt to ease cost pressures. (I could well be wrong here though)

    It also seems to me that we should be building structures and competitions designed to make the game grow, and give talent the best possible pathways to flourish.

    Reacting to cost constraints, rather than proactively finding ways to make the cluba able to afford to compete at their appropriate level in a competition structure we are convinced is the best model and we are committed to seems to be all arse-about face to me.

  4. As an AFF/NFF women’s conference player, I think going down to 8 teams for the Prems makes sense, considering that most of the 9 current Conference teams are desperately scrabbling for players to fill a 1st team + reserves side.

  5. most teams is a bit of a stretch isn’t it?
    Ellerslie – fine
    Papakura – fine
    Fencibles – fine
    Hibiscus Coast/Central – not sure but seem to be ok

    So that leaves Onehunga Sports who have reserves for the first time so numbers must be improving
    Pukekohe first time in the league so numbers were always going to be an issue
    Metro seem to be ok now with an influx of Papatoetoe players
    Lynn Avon seem to be an issue

    1. Mergers now we’re talking that could sort a few things out for some struggling clubs or areas lacking depth ,I think there’s a story here Enzo might suit JR from a History of clubs point of view who merged and where are they now as entities in current football successful or not ?
      Some just quickly TKU massive Prem club in Men’s and Women’s and youth numbers with Fulltime Club staff has to have been a huge change from Mt Roskill and Eden days ?
      Bay Olympic Prem Men’s no Womens sides to speak of (why? )but big Junior numbers also from Old National League side Blockhouse Bay and Green Bay Titirangi seems Knowlzey and Club out in local Community doing the Grassroots well !
      Sure there are others that are “bigger and better ” and better as in well run.

  6. The whole structure seems crazy to me. Can’t understand the obsession with keeping the same clubs and not allowing the formation of new clubs. If a group of players want to play together they have to become the 3rd or 4th team of one of the existing clubs and play down the divisions with no route to playing at the top level unless they go into that clubs first team. As an example if you are Centrals 3rd team then you can’t play in NRFL or conference so you need to play in the championship and can’t go higher that that as far as i know. If that group of players were allowed to be their own club they could strive to improve and gain promotion instead of being stuck in the championship. The likes of central, three kings etc having 10-15 mens teams and some divisions having multiple teams from the same club is ridiculous. In other countries there is a pathway for a new club to be formed and work their way right to the top but here any new team is just told to be an existing clubs 4th team.

    1. To my knowledge, there are barriers to getting a new club together but they’re not insuperable ones. The big sticking point is you need to have your own ground. For example, Bohemian Celtic were told they could set up as an independent club in NFF territory where there were more grounds, but not in AFF territory.

  7. Aren’t we shifting the National League to a winter competition? So doesn’t that mean there will still be the same number of teams, players and divisions as there is now? In fact weren’t they heading towards each National League franchise having to have a Youth, Futsal and Women’s team all playing on the same weekend?
    Won’t these players from these Division 2 teams simply shift up a division and fill in the player gaps?

    1. I don’t think we are shifting the National League to winter. It was in the last NZF report. There will be some alignment and overlap but it’s staying as primarily a summer comp.

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