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The semis or the schnitzel?

WaiBOP 3, Central 0
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, November 19 2017

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There were more glamourous fixtures on offer to casual spectators in the upper North Island last weekend, that I can’t deny. The ISPS Handa Premiership, the National Youth League and there was even a more illustrious battle between Northern and Capital in the National Women’s League. I’m not a casual spectator though.

It’s late November. The cherry blossoms at John Kerkhof have disappeared without a trace, and so too most of the spectators that turned up in earlier rounds – back when there were play-off hopes to cling to. The drum that was beating on the side-line two and four weeks ago has fallen silent. All that’s left now is summer hay fever, the Cambridge faithful and my sense of loyalty!

You’re not a real fan if you only turn up for the good times. You have to be there for the bad too, and wear it like a badge of honour. I was there when Waikato FC were getting beaten 5-0 with comforting regularity in 2012, I was there when Latina were in Eccellenza in 2007, I was there (in spirit) when Roma lost 7-1 to Manchester United in 2007, and I was there yesterday when WaiBOP probably did enough to avoid the wooden spoon in a tough to watch at times yet effective 3-0 win over Central Football.


I thought things were a bit quieter than usual when I rocked up about half an hour ahead of the 1pm scheduled kick-off time. Players were milling about in tracksuits while cones were out on the pitch with nobody jinking and jiving around them let alone doing those weird jumpy manoeuvres where players shoulder barge each other (what is that anyway?)

Thankfully this wasn’t a case of what you would normally expect in this situation – Enzo didn’t check the draw properly. It was instead a case of Central getting ‘Jetstarred’ at Wellington Airport and arriving late. So I got a bonus 90 odd minute catch-up with WaiBOP friends before things got underway at 2.

Judging simply by the photographic opportunities I was getting at the far end, a fairly large chunk of the opening proceedings were taking place either in the middle of the pitch or in front of the John Kerkhof clubrooms, which was the end Central were attacking. But as things wore on WaiBOP were creating a few chances and inching towards a breakthrough. It eventually came when Kim Maguire shook off her marker and struck just as the first half was wrapping up.

The second half was trucking along much like the first too until the moment of the match arrived – a brilliant long range thunderbolt from Maguire that bulged the auld onion bag. Ella Golding chipped in with a goal of her own around twenty minutes later and that wrapped up both Central’s day and WaiBOP’s season.

It was by no means the best I’ve seen WaiBOP play this season but hey – they got the win. Give me three points over champagne football any day!

They have the bye next week so can only wait with trepidation to see if Central can avoid that dreaded wooden spoon by beating Canterbury. Hard to imagine, but stranger things have happened. Speaking of which – top of the table Southern… I’m going to say that again… TOP OF THE TABLE SOUTHERN – travel to Wellington to face Capital on Sunday. A win for the visitors will see them HOST THE FINAL!! It can only be a sign. Stock up on canned goods people – the apocalypse is coming.

Meanwhile, I’ll be at the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ at Keith Hay Park. Winner makes the playoffs, loser will be twiddling their thumbs for the next fortnight.

Which might be what I’ll be doing too if one of the JAFA teams doesn’t end up hosting something! A Christchurch pre-final and Dunedin final is a very real scenario going into the last round. Having blown my travel budget on the All Whites last week, if that eventuates I’ll most likely be gracing ISPS Handa Premiership grounds (and trying unsuccessfully to win coffee machines) much earlier than I would have liked!

With this game not exactly what you’d call a classic, the highlight of my trip turned out to be dinner at the Rangiriri Tavern! I haven’t eaten there since I was about ten, and it hasn’t changed much in the 32 years since. I think we sat at the same table yesterday! The only thing missing was the schnitzel I had last time, which I was kind of looking forward to…

I sense a new tradition! Perhaps next summer I could stop in Rangiriri again after WaiBOP’s last home game. Maybe I’ll be excited about an upcoming semi-finals appearance by my home province? Maybe schnitzel will be back on the menu?

It’s interesting to ponder which one seems more likely.

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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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.

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