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Feeling ferny

Future Ferns Development Programme 5, Fencibles 1
North Harbour Stadium Football Turf, Auckland, April 29 2018

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There was a big game on in Auckland today, some would say the biggest in years, and it produced an historic result. Team Wellington broke Auckland City’s seven year streak of winning the Oceania Champions League and now progress to the final where they will face Fiji’s finest with a place in the Club World Cup at stake.

I could have gone. I chose not to. I knew it would be well covered elsewhere, and to be honest it just felt a bit too much like hard work! Getting to Kiwitea Street, finding a park, squeezing in somewhere around the perimeter of the pitch to get photos that wouldn’t have been any better than the pros were getting and then trying to come up with an angle that nobody else was writing… Instead I had the option of coming to North Harbour Stadium, parking right next to the pitch and taking my pick of literally any vantage point I wanted!

And, of course, there was the not to be underestimated chance to see how the FFDP was getting on for the first time this year.

If you want to watch the best domestic footballers in New Zealand this winter, you really have to get out and watch the FFDP. Because unlike last year the games pretty much all clash with the NRFL, and some of the players are, perhaps sensibly, opting to play FFDP only and not loading in any club football at all.

This is in my mind great for the Ferns, but not so great for the NRFL – where it feels like there has been a noticeable drop in the intensity and quality of the competition.

This became even starker for me when I turned up today. After acclimatising to the new winter football season over the past few weeks, seeing these young Ferns in action reminded me with a jolt of some of the quality I have been missing.

Players like Jale, Skilton, Vosper, Anton, Mettam, Rolston and others are sorely missed week in week out in the Auckland club game as the likes of Robertson and the Morton sisters are no doubt missed further south too.

On the other hand, watching many of them play in uncompetitive NRFL games wasn’t always that great either. In this league, they get a tough contest every week and despite the scoreline this game was no exception.

The boys started strongly and controlled the opening stages with a few niggly errors costing the Ferns at various times. But once the ladies hit the lead in around about the 22nd minute mark they never looked back.

The first goal came after Michaela Robertson climbed high to head the ball out of the keeper’s grasp. A Fencies player attempted to clear but his punt found its way to Emma Rolston who drove home.

The second went in about seven minutes later when Rolston found the back of the auld onion bag from an acute angle deep on the left. After that it was Robertson who deservedly made it 3-0 six odd minutes before the half-time break.

The second half provided a very welcome sight indeed – that of Paige Satchell coming on off the bench. Out since this time last year with an ACL injury, it was absolutely wonderful to see her tearing off down the wing as if nothing has happened!

Five minute into the half it was Grace Jale’s turn to score from a tight angle, this time on the right, but the next goal after that, fifteen minutes later, was the one that ruined Vic Esson’s clean sheet. A free kick was curled around the wall and looked to have been parried away by the Cantabrian stopper but was adjudged to have crossed the line.

Ten minutes from time Satchell got herself on the scoresheet with a fairly straightforward stab past the keeper from out in front and that was the ballgame.

Yes, the blokes’ game across town sounds like it was very exciting. A two goal lead overturned late. A result decided on away goals. A dynasty broken. But that’s really not my scene.

50 people watching, tops. 5-1. The rest of the world’s attention elsewhere. Now that’s my scene! Back to Capital Premier next week…

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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