Forrest Hill Milford 2, Eastern Suburbs 2
Becroft Park, Auckland, August 18 2017
It’s been four days since this game happened, and I’m still not exactly sure I believe what I saw! Going in, there was nothing to suggest that it would be anything other than a coronation for Eastern Suburbs. They only needed a win against lowly Forrest Hill Milford to be crowned champions when the full time whistle blew. But the Lilywhites blew it instead!
At half time, with Suburbs leading 2-0, I wondered aloud to Eastern Suburbs Chairman Chris Ruffell whether or not there might be some Three Kings players in attendance to see what might happen given the crown would be theirs if Suburbs couldn’t finish the job. I hope Chris won’t mind me repeating the essence of his reply, which was along the lines of “if there were they will have gone home by now”.
I didn’t raise an eyebrow, because I knew he was probably right. Suburbs were cruising in the first half. Rebekah Van Dort got them on the board early when she nodded a corner home in just the fifth minute, Aimee Phillips doubled their advantage ten minutes later, and in the half hour that followed it was largely one way traffic despite the score not blowing out any further.
At half time I changed lenses from zoom to wide angle. I was having zero luck getting action shots under the floodlights, so I started setting up my flash and having a practice with it in preparation for the trophy presentation that I was 100% certain would be coming in three quarters of an hour’s time. In this, I greatly appreciated the help of Football Ferns goalkeeper Anna Leat and Bruce for modelling in one of the three semi decent photos I took all night!
But as the second half got underway it seemed that something had changed. All of a sudden things were much more even. I told Phototek’s Shane Wenzlick and AFF’s Gordon Watson that I thought if FHM somehow managed a goal it would only wake Suburbs up from their slumber, and the presumptive champions would sail away into the wild blue yonder.
My theory was put to the test in the 54th minute when a Talisha Green thunderbolt hit the back of the net to halve the deficit. And my theory was well and truly debunked nine minutes after that when Milly McWhirter hit one beautifully to level the scores!
At this point I thought it might be a good time to change back to the 55-200mm lens and get my ass down to the end Suburbs were attacking on the off chance that I might capture a stunning league winning moment.
When I got there I was surprised to see that the young assistant referee was in tears after getting a call wrong. But in one of the most touching scenes I’ve seen this year, she got a big hug from Suburbs player Tayla O’Brien who assured her “you’re doing great!” That’s one of the reasons I love women’s football. You would never ever get a moment like that in the men’s game!
I wish now that I had snapped a photo, but it didn’t seem appropriate at the time.
Suburbs threw everything at trying to get that winner. Corner after corner and attack after attack was batted away by Emily Couchman and the Swans defence, but it just wasn’t happening for the visitors.
When the final whistle blew, the general mood of the spectators present was one of near universal disbelief at what we had just witnessed. For the Suburbs players it was one of utter devastation.
The good news for them, however, is they have a New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup home semi-final on Sunday, in which I have absolutely no doubt that they will be unstoppably determined to make amends. I would feel sorry for Upper Hutt, given what they are about to face, but then again I’ve been wrong at absolutely every turn of this story so they will probably win in a canter!
Categories: NZ Northern Women'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.