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Closing Time

Claudelands Rovers 0, Forrest Hill Milford 11
Galloway Park, Hamilton, September 2 2018

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It all happens so fast! It only feels like a couple of weeks since the Northern League season got underway, and now, just like that, it’s all over. Where did that time disappear to?

The very last game on the 2018 NRFL league calendar, if you don’t count the promotion playoff next week (and with Tauranga City trailing Onehunga Sports 8-0 after the first leg I tend not to), was in Hamilton yesterday.

And to borrow a line from a cheesy old pop song“every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Because for the club that Onehunga Sports will undoubtedly replace, Claudelands Rovers, yesterday also marked the sad end of a long and distinguished run at the pinnacle of women’s club football in New Zealand.

It was my first visit to Galloway Park this year, and stepping over the low wooden fence at the eastern end was a strange feeling, knowing I might never be back to watch women’s football there again. There are so many great memories here, and a few not so great ones, after 24 years in the competition – the last seven or so of which I have been a keen observer of. They won the league twice during that time and lifted the Kate Sheppard Cup as well. Their contribution to Waikato women’s football should never be forgotten.

Thinking about all the wonderful players I have seen play in red on this patch of mud, Helen Arjomandi (nee Collins) tops the list of course – probably the best striker I have ever seen in the Northern League. Other football ferns have included Sarah McLauchlin, Olivia Chance, Kate Loye and Paige Satchell while players like Kate Carlton and Issy Coombes have also stood out. There are others of course, too many for a comprehensive list here.

Claudelands’ opponents today were a club they have scrapped it out with a few times as fellow title contenders not so long ago! But now they are at opposite ends of their fortunes.

For FHM, this game was partly about preparation for next week’s Kate Sheppard Cup final and for both sides it was also partly about simply putting out a team in light of a lot of regular starters being away on secondary school team commitments.

This opened up opportunities of other players of course, and on a personal note it was a real thrill to be present at the maiden Northern League appearance of FHM’s Helena Wiseman, who became the first ever ITBOTN writer to play in the NRFL when she was substituted on for Sam Tawharau straight after the break!

By that time, the result of the match was in no doubt. Goals for Hannah Reddy and Jess McKimm along with a first half hat-trick for Jane Barnett had sent the visitors into the sheds with a 5-0 lead.

And resting three top players in Tawharau, Barnett and Malia Steinmetz for the second half did nothing to stem the tide. McKimm’s second and doubles for Kenya Brooke and Lily Jervis along with a Stacey Martin penalty completed the carnage.

Helena stung the keeper’s gloves a couple of times and even tucked one away only for the offside flag to deny a goal on debut and bring about a wry smile.

With that, FMH march on to next weekend unscathed by injuries and happy in the knowledge that they are certainly well served on the depth front – their chances of lifting the Kate Sheppard Cup for the second time in their club’s history remain strong. Claudelands meanwhile can start planning their comeback. I’m certainly hoping for every success in both of these respective endeavours.

Categories: NZ Northern Women's Premier

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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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