Pukekohe 1, Waiuku 2
Bledisloe Park, Pukekohe, August 18 2018
There have been a few pointed comments on social media about my recent penchant to increasingly shun NRFL football in favour of obscure games that tend more towards bedrock than grassroots. Sometimes it moves beyond social media. At yesterday’s game, as the two teams were setting up for a corner, one of the Pukekohe defenders yelled out “ENZO! This is too low for you, mate!”
It’s true that I have been going to a bit more football at this sort of level this year. Why? Well, partly circumstances (like being on holiday in Northland and not having much option), partly because people I like have asked me to cover their games and I enjoy making people I like happy, and partly because when you have seen every NRFL club play each other in every possible combination more than once, a bit of variety is quite alluring.
But this game was about more than that. This was about redemption and one great little club’s journey back from the abyss!
Most people reading this will know the story, but just in case you don’t I will give you a one paragraph recap. Waiuku were in the NRFL. They battled their way up to Division One and they did it in such a way, with a bit of quirky country flair, that they were most people’s second team. Then they amalgamated with Pukekohe to form Franklin United. Then they decided ‘hang on, we don’t like this’ and split with Franklin United. Franklin kept the NRFL place. Waiuku had to start again with almost nothing from Federation football.
And now they are on the rise again! And as if this particular mix didn’t have enough spice as things stood, sprinkle in the fact that they were set to win promotion to the Conference in the local derby at Bledisloe Park, home of Franklin United.
Even that doesn’t completely explain why I went yesterday though. The other reason is that over the past few weeks coach Mark O’Donnell has been sending me increasingly excited sounding full match reports over Facebook Messenger as promotion neared! Despite what you might think, I am a fundamentally lazy person and this seemed like quite a good way to get someone else to do the writing for me this week…
Except, I had so much fun at the game, now I want to tell the story! If Mark sends me another match report I will publish it mid-week though.
The only thing that caused me to think twice was a look at the competition standings. Waiuku were second on 40 points but with two games in hand over Ellerslie, who have already finished their season. Pukekohe were dead last on one point. I feared a cricket score, but I needn’t have. Derbies are derbies at every level and this one was no different with the home side giving every bit as good as they got and probably winding up somewhat unlucky not to put the Waiuku trophy celebrations on ice for another week.
Despite Waiuku threatening in the early stages it was Pukekohe’s Daniel Colville who found the back of the net first, stunning the visiting supporters around about 25 minutes into the contest.
But ten minutes later the somewhat inevitable occurred. We were treated to a goal by the man, the myth, the legend. 39 year old Waiuku talisman Derek #ScoresWhenHeWants Sinclair (that’s his actual middle name) bludgeoned his side level almost simultaneously with threatening to bop a Pukekohe player. The split second shift in focus was truly impressive. Who said men can’t multitask?
The comeback was completed just a couple of minutes into the second half, when Robbie Caine grabbed the lead for the boys in blue. It was a lead they never relinquished save for a couple of hairy moments.
One was a goal that was sensationally disallowed by the offside flag of the Waiuku player running the touch! “I’m not biased at all!” he said in a thick Irish drawl as he ran past me later in the match. Make of that what you will!
There was also a huge save from Waiuku keeper Phil Van Den Broek late in the game 1v1 with an advancing attacker that prevented a certain goal.
At the end of the match, as the celebrations kicked off, Mark O’Donnell told me “I’ve coached at every level and this is the most fun I’ve ever had.” I can see why.
I’m looking forward to next year when I can watch them play at a higher level without feeling guilt or fielding criticism!
Up the Ku.
Categories: Other NZ Federation Leagues
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.