WaiBOP 3, Southern 6
McLennan Park, Auckland, October 7 2018
“It’s just been years and years of them thinking they aren’t good enough, because there’s always been the talent down there. Players like Chelsea Whittaker, Shontelle Smith and Kelsey Kennard, they’ve been there for years and years – nothing’s changed. I think it’s them finally taking a stand and saying we are good enough and we have the experience to go toe to toe with the best players in New Zealand. I think it was just that extra shove of you CAN do this and you ARE good enough!” – Mikaela Hunt
Ever since Southern’s sudden elevation from perennial competition easy beats to serious contenders for the National Women’s League trophy, I was intrigued to know if there was a single magic ingredient that held the key to their success. Then Helena interviewed their 2018 captain, Mikaela Hunt, for The Return Fixture a fortnight ago. And the absolute takeaway I got from it was the impression that the silver bullet is simply this – belief.
Everything changes when you start believing that you can do it.
It’s a thing that applies to many different facets of life. It’s pretty close to impossible to achieve anything if you don’t believe, in your heart of hearts, that you can do it. And I think it’s also an important message for any football team that finds itself struggling.
So if my beloved WaiBOP were looking for inspiration as to how they might turn their season around and propel themselves off the joint foot of the National Women’s League table, yesterday’s opponents might well have been a good place to start.
And on the surface, it looks as though they definitely drew some encouragement from somewhere because it was a creditable performance against a strong side despite a few lapses ultimately costing them dearly.
I was particularly impressed with the way they came back from a goal down to level things up just before the break. It must have absolutely knocked the proverbial out of them to then concede only seconds later and to then have to trudge off the pitch for their half time team talk with the one goal disadvantage they had only just managed to overcome.
Southern will have known that feeling well, with the sting of Auckland’s 94th minute winner in Dunedin last week probably still rather fresh in the minds of Sunday’s visitors. Probably not so keen to leave any possibility of that happening again, they shifted into another gear in the second half starting with two unanswered goals before the hour mark.
After that though, WaiBOP started to answer, when Ella Golding pulled one back to make the score 4-2 and give the sense that a comeback might just be on the cards. Southern extended again, but then WaiBOP came back yet again to make it 5-3 before Ruby Anderson netted her second to move the result beyond doubt.
Despite the loss, which on paper is quite heavy, WaiBOP should take even more belief from this – hell, they scored enough goals to win. And several of the goals they conceded could have been avoided with a bit more application – a problem that is eminently fixable. They have the talent, there is no question of that. People quickly forget that this squad is not too dissimilar from the one that made the semi-finals just two short years ago.
While my pre-season prediction of second is now off the table I will admit, I am convinced they will start clocking up wins soon. And, perhaps from that, they can build a platform for next year. Thank goodness for the double round!
Categories: NZ Women's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.