Ellerslie 0, Melville 1
Michaels Avenue, Auckland, August 11 2018
It’s that time of year again, the time when football clubs start winning things. And if you’re going to win something, you can do a hell of a lot worse than the Thomson Shield let me tell you.
Dating back to 1892 when it was the Thomson Challenge Shield, it’s one of the oldest trophies knocking around New Zealand sport, and in a perfect metaphor for football as a whole in this country, we don’t really know how lucky we are. This thing should be revered a bit more than I feel like it is.
I have seen it presented a number of times now, and each time I marvel at the kiwi casualness of it all. When the result looks like it’s beyond doubt and the NRFL Division One champions look set to be crowned, someone from AFF, who has no doubt drawn the office short straw, gets dispatched to go fetch it from the boot of the car.
One year just prior to the presentation it was lying on its back with all the winners’ medals strewn across it. As the players stepped forward I winced at the sound of metal scraping across the silver and lumber as each medal was picked up to be placed around its respective neck! I can’t imagine the Ranfurly Shield has to put up with that kind of thing!
Some of the scars of a rough life are showing too. I wonder if many AFF affiliated players would mind a few cents each added to their subs one year for a one-off spruce up?
On Saturday it was Melville’s turn to victoriously lift this incredible piece of football history, even if it was a week later than they probably should have.
After storming out to an almost unassailable league lead early in the season, they never looked like there was any realistic chance of them relinquishing it, until like a cricketer in the nervous 90s they lost to Waiheke at Gower last week and stuttered over the line this week thanks to a 75th minute own goal.
Credit to Ellerslie, though. They took their responsibility to the rest of the league seriously and gave their guests a real run for their money. They have been in good form for a while now and could easily have been in promotion contention had they been playing like this all season.
Before the game, Chairman Tim said (in a nice way) that I was only there for Melville, which wasn’t completely true but I would be lying if I said that I am not delighted to see the ‘pride of the Waikato’ back in the top tier.
They are a great club with a great home ground in a great city and they should be at the very pinnacle of the game.
As captain Aaron Scott said in his brief victory speech, a massive dollop of the credit for this title win must go to coaching duo Michael Mayne and Sam Wilkinson. It took them a season to hit their straps but, even though I doubt they would admit it, missing out on promotion last year may have been the best thing that could have happened to them. The extra year in Division one might just have made Melville better and stronger.
Which is just as well, because there is one thing that makes the Thomson Shield stand out amongst all the other trophies of its calibre. As magnificent as it undoubtedly is, once you have won it you hope never to be in a position to win it again!
UPDATE: In an added layer to the reverence with which the Thomson Shield is viewed, I have been reliably informed that towards the end of the game on Saturday an AFF official could be seen DIYing the new holders’ little name plate onto the hallowed timber with a standard hammer and nails! Classic.
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.