NATIONAL LEAGUE A- Z : The Newbies Part 3 - Tasman United

Founded  2015
Colours    Blue & White
Ground    Trafalgar Park

How do you write a history on a club that has only just been formed and hasn't actually played a game yet?

Well you don't. Instead lets look back at a brief history of football in the Tasman region, which may help see why they are where they are today.

Nelson is the sunshine capital of NZ and it is also the location of where the first game of rugby was played in New Zealand. Ironically the ground where this historic game was played is used as a football pitch these days. Despite these historic rugby links, football has always been well supported in the Nelson region, probably due to the large number of British, Italian & (to a lesser extent) German's that have settled in the area.

Before the Central League was formed in 1968, Nelson teams never really made any great waves in NZ football. In 1968 two leading Nelson clubs Thistle (formed 1924) & Rangers (formed in 1950 as Settlers before changing their name to Rangers in 1959) merged to form Nelson United and two years later in 1970 won Central League Division 2. 
Over the next 5 seasons they seemed to be destined to be the bridesmaid with four 2nd place finishes in Division 1. 

Nelson United 1977 Chatham Cup Winners
With the arrival of Kevin Fallon in 1976 Nelson United finally won the Central League and with it automatic promotion to the National League. Their 1st spell in the National League (1977-80) saw them finishing in the lower half of the table, but they stunned everyone in 1977 when they defeated Mt Wellington to win the Chatham Cup. They reached the final again in 1978, but despite the final being held Nelson they went down 1-0 to John Ashead coached, Northern League champions Manurewa.

After relegation in 1980 they won the Central League in 1982 and were back in National League, again they struggled to get out of the lower reaches of the table their best finish being 6th in 1985. During this time despite their league position the NZ Soccer Annual would regularly refer to them as an entertaining team to watch.

In 1988 they finished 2nd bottom, but it wasn't their performance that saw them relegated (as there was no relegation from the National League this season) it was the fact their ground wasn't up to the standard required by the NZFA. Two seasons later ground criteria wasn't considered and Nelson were back in the National League for it's last 2 seasons.

During the 70's & 80's years, other Nelson clubs Nelson Suburbs, Nelson City & Nelson Metropolitan all played in the lower reaches of the central league.

In the SuperClub years Nelson United made it in to the national round in 1995, but cost caught up with them and the club struggled financially, selling their Guppy Park club rooms to survive.

When the summer league was introduced in 1996, an entity called Soccer Nelson was formed to run the National League team and thus protect clubs from any financial liability. While this was a vehicle to run the team, the NZFA required a club to register so it was Nelson Suburbs who took the place in the summer league.

Nelson Suburbs had been formed in 1962 by the merger of Hospital (1924) & Waimea College Old Boys (1961) and had spent 8 years (1978-85) playing in the Central League lower divisions. They were now the number 1 team in Nelson, and like previous number one teams they settled into a mid-table position. 

At the end of the 1997 season, Suburbs were asked to re-apply for their league position as they had failed to meet the requirement of fielding a winter side in the premier competition. Suburbs hadn't done so as they wanted to save money so as to be able to compete in the summer league. SNZ didn't award a place to Nelson, using an outstanding debt of $11 250 as a reason. Suburbs were not happy with this and given that they were only 2 years into a 3 year licence awarded by SNZ, they felt they had no option but to take SNZ to court, which they did and won thus making the 1998 Summer League an 11 team league.

Another re-structure the next season saw Suburbs finish 2nd in the South Island League. This was the last time National League soccer was seen in Nelson. With the new federations introduced and Nelson was affiliated to Canterbury Region. So after years off traveling across the Cook Straight to play Central League teams, they now headed south to compete in the Mainland Premier League (MPL).

Nelson Suburbs have been one of the more successful teams in the MPL. Winning it 3 times and being runners up 4 times, in fact in the last 12 seasons there are only 3 in which they have finished outside the top 3.

In a somewhat surreal spell in Nelson football, Richmond Athletic (who changed their name to Richmond City) played in the MPL in 2007-08. Richmond Athletic have been around since 1948 and seemed happy to play in the local Nelson leagues and provide football for the juniors in their area (Jeremy Brockie played his junior football here)

Then along came big talking, big spending, bodyguard protected, Phillip Whitely, who spoke of Richmond becoming a top club in NZ and promising mega bucks for players that would sign for Richmond. Despite this Richmond's performances weren't great, and it all ended in 2008 when Whitely, who had claimed to have invented a revolutionary new data compression technology was convicted of a $5.3 million fraud.

In 2010-11 two new clubs were born in Nelson. FC Nelson was a merger of Nelson United, Nelson City, Nelson Metropolitan & Tahuna Juniors, while the Nelson Falcons was an independent entity set up to make a bid for a National League Franchise.

The Falcon's failed in their National League bid but were awarded a National Youth League place with the idea that this would give them the experience to run a full National League Franchise in the future. 

On the field they were a success, going unbeaten at home in their 1st season, losing in the Final to Auckland in their 2nd season and winning the competition on a dramatic last day in their 3rd season (there was no final this year). While this season saw them finish 7th an extremely tight league meant that they were only 5 points behind champions, Team Wellington.

When NZF announced that they were accepting bids for 2 extra places in the ASB Premiership for the next season, Nelson Bays Football led the charge in getting all clubs in Nelson & Marlborough round the table and Tasman United were born. As well as fielding the required Senior & Youth National League teams, they will be fielding a women's team in the Mainland competition.

Notable players and managers


Jeremy Brockie
Several All White's have come from Nelson or started their playing careers in the city, including 82 All Whites 
Peter Simonsen
Richard Wilson
Kenny Cresswell

Other All White's include 
Jeremy Brockie
Ricki van Steeden
Paul Brydon 
Rhodes Scholar Ceri Evans & Allan Smith (1954)

1982 All White and ex manager Ricki Herbert played a season at Nelson United on loan from Mt Wellington

Atkin Kaua
Current NZ Schools champions, Nelson College, regularly have international students from the Solomon Islands and they are a strong presence in Nelson football, with players such as Batrum Suri, Comms Menapi, Henry Fa'arado & Atkin Kaua going on to play national league football with other clubs

Kevin Fallon was only at Nelson United for 2 seasons but he won promotion to the National League and the Chatham Cup. Other manager's that seem to have always been around the Nelson scene include brothers Paul & John Brydon, John Slotemaker & Steve Biggs

Syd Guppy

Administrator Syd Guppy was a NZFA councillor for 9 years from 1959-67 and then President for 2 years 1968-69, overseeing the set up of the regional and National Leagues, he was made a Life member of the NZFA in 1971. FC Nelson's home ground Guppy Park is named after him.