Western Springs 3, Hibiscus Coast 0
Seddon Fields, Auckland, September 2 2017
It’s over! The NRFL season is done and dusted, save for one Women’s Premier game. And it’s only the 3nd of September – that must be some sort of Northern League record for ruthless efficiency. Over the last couple of years we have seen catch-up games scheduled well past cup finals day. And to think we used to moan about that!
Now we are facing a much worse fate – a looooooong, hard, agonising, soul destroying eternity of almost a month between then and the start of the summer season with little to sustain our undying thirst for football apart from promotion playoffs and maybe the odd national league pre-season friendly. Oh the agony!
The last real milestone on the sadly unavoidable road to this fateful void happened yesterday – when Western Springs finished off their season by clinching the last piece of winter league silverware that was left unclaimed – the Thomson Shield, first presented in 1892 and now awarded to the winner of the NRFL men’s first division 125 years later.
Western Springs were relegated from the men’s premier division at the end of 2016, and at that very moment they were presumptive favourites to win promotion straight back up a year later. Coached by former English Premier League player and All Whites Assistant Coach Neil Emblen, they have always been a side packed with young talent.
This was possibly their undoing last year when New Zealand age group international commitments saw them play a less than ideal chunk of the season with a reduced squad. But this year those lessons appeared to be learned as the squad had a slightly more balanced look to it in terms of youth and experience.
Despite that, they weren’t the promotion shoe-ins everyone (myself included) expected them to be. They faced unexpectedly tough opposition from Kevin Fallon’s Manukau City, Sam Wilkinson and Michael Mayne’s Melville United, and Tom Speers’ North Shore United – they all made this such an exciting battle right to the end that all four of them would have gone up if I’d had my way.
To my eternal shame, this was the first time I’ve actually seen a men’s NRFL game at Seddon Fields. They usually play night games here, and you know my stance on those! So today was a nice opportunity to both capture a league winning moment and check this place out on a Saturday.
There’s no doubt that it’s a super venue. And just when I thought that last week’s agapanthus fire at Kiwitea Street was a rusted on certainty for funniest moment of the year, Seddon Fields managed to top it!
I have a great pair of Lotto football turf boots that I purchased and keep in the boot of my car especially for this venue – because I know that this is the one place where you absolutely will get kicked off the artificial pitch if you aren’t wearing them.
When I saw Phototek photographer, and one of the nicest guys in the game I might add, Shane Wenzlick rock up in his running shoes I warned him what would happen. He said “touch wood, I’ve never been kicked off before!” I smiled and said “good luck with that”.
I don’t usually post incriminating photos on this blog but this scene is too good not to…
I call that ‘The Walk of Shane’.
The game was settled by goals to Adam Dickinson, George Debenham and Oscar Brown in the 34th, 76th and 88th minutes respectively.
And it didn’t rain properly until after the trophy presentation, which was nice.
But my winter season had already been made! I’m quite easily pleased, really.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.