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From Gumboots to Glitz.

Life has a habit of speeding past, much more quickly than we think. So, after many years shooing each of our five kids off to school, this is the year when the youngest, Jason, my 17 old stepson will finish high school education,  thus bringing down the curtain on my direct involvement as a school parent.

I didn’t realise it properly till we arrived at Hamilton Boys High yesterday that this was his LAST school game. Ever! And for Trina and I, the last school game we’d attend as parents.

A higher than usual turnout from families showed that we were not the only ones who realised the poignancy of the occasion.

I’ve written before about my love of grass-roots football and this is pretty grass-roots stuff. Jason’s team of Year 13 boys consisted mainly of those who had not quite made the first eleven, but a talented bunch nonetheless who would walk into the top team at most smaller schools.

There are no flash sponsored tracksuits. Half the team have had no numbers on their shirts and the rest seem to have the same number. 5. Sideline there are no seats for the coach and subs. The pitch quality at Boys High is decidedly average (picture 2000 students traipsing over the fields each school day) so you often need gumboots as a spectator and there’s no coffee cart, as one might see at a posh private school.

Ah but the Boys High football culture is strong: last year’s first eleven had won the national champs, on the staff is ex Allwhite Aaron Scott and the school regularly turns out players who go on to feature at a high level.

And for this last game it was sunny, and we had Boo, our pooch, on the lead to add to the atmosphere. Now you couldn’t get away with that at Anfield. Actually looking round, there were quite a few dogs in attendance. (I figured if the game went badly I could holler “Release the hounds!” and spark a pitch invasion).

Coached by the likeable and respected director of football at Boys High, Stu Hakeney, our lads had wrapped their league a week or two ago and were merely completing the fixtures. This game was one was against younger talent, the development side, featuring future first eleven stars. Hakeney was away overseas and his assistant Blair Pennell, an ex-first eleven star himself, was in charge.

I was suffering a wrecked back ( I’d injured it during the week) and it kept me from fulfilling my usual refereeing duties. George, the goalie’s dad, stepped in and saved the day leaving me free to shoot a few iPhone videos of the action

Both teams were sporting the same HBHS footie shirts so in true grass-roots fashion the ‘away’ team had to turn theirs inside out. Imagine Barcelona having to do that !

After conceding a goal early on, our lads equalised before half time then went on to win 3-1 although the three goals a little scrappy and the players in truth not looking quite as sharp as usual. Jason had the honour of scoring the last (ever!) goal, a penalty. So a win, not really an El Classico match but three points are three points eh? Match highlights can be seen here.

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The winning Hamilton Boys High team.

The post-match revelry was boisterous, a fake blow-up trophy was blown up, the boys posed for a victory shot doing the “Championies” song and Blair gave a stirring speech thanking the team for a tremendous year. It was nice too, for Trina and I to receive a card each from the lads thanking us for managerial stuff, transport and reffing. As good as a medal that is!

The parents with whom we’ve shared filial touchline duties with over the last few years awkwardly wished each other well, with a quick chat about the various universities our sons are off to next year, then we departed, hereby ending another chapter of life.

But the day was not yet over. Trina and I jumped into the car to trundle up to the big smoke for me to attend the annual New Zealand Football and Football Media awards. So it was a transition from gumboots to glitz and (yahoo!) the kind people at the Waipuna had even upgraded us to their Presidential Suite. I squeezed into my increasingly over-tight suit (it must be shrinking) and headed to the event at the Remuera club.

Along with Steve Built, I was there to represent Hamilton Wanderers as we had made the final three in the, Ta dah, Programme of the Year. Ok, not the top award of the night, but as I said to Steve, club programmes are things that endure. They are the memory and detail of the history of a club, long after players and supporters forget it all.

Top tip: Not every club has a Bruce Holloway (Melville’s trivia guru) to curate its history. So don’t trash those programmes after a quick read.

Ok, we didn’t win the award but it was good to make the final three and we still enjoyed a great night with Enzo and few other fellow Back of the Net writers, John, Ella and Helena. The crowd were missing the Allblack and Warriors games on the telly, but in case anyone wanted to know, raucous cheers from a neighbouring bar kindly let us know how the test was going.

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The winning BOTN team

The other prizes were doled out. (Ex-Wanderers player) Chris Wood deservedly picking up the Football
Media and NZ Player of the year awards and it was nice to see Hiroshi Miyazawa (Onehunga Sports) get the coach of the year award. Steve and I had spoken to Hiroshi at the start of the evening and his gracious demeanour is in stark contrast to a few other coaches I’ve met. Just saying.

And it can’t go unnoticed there was the added excitement of this blog, headed by the indefatigable Enzo, winning the Football Website of the year and fellow writer John Palethorpe hoisting the Community-Internet Writer prize. Enzo generously insisted that we should share his glory. Yeah! Two thumbs-up emojis!

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It was a posh event….

The room was packed with kiwi football glitterati, and as the night wore on some addressed the room, telling of famous matches and their favourite football occasions. Brilliant. And as president Deryck Shaw said in his address, each of us have our own unique favourite football moments.

So true I thought, and it’s not always the winning goal in a World Cup final.

Sometimes it’s just standing, coffee in hand, on a sunny sideline holding a dog leash, chatting to parents and seeing your kid ping a nice shot into the back of the net.

Rod de Lisle

Categories: NZ School Football Other Football Topics

Rod de Lisle

Waikato based follower of Leicester, Hamilton Wanderers, Allwhites and Phoenix, roughly in that order. Underdogs all. I pen stuff that I feel I'd like to read myself but there's no accounting for taste, eh? Some of my opinions occasionally may be factually correct, sorry about that.

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