The football season properly kicked off at the weekend, well all the lower league teams started playing as well as the senior ones. There was quite a choice of games, from the Oceania Champions League quarter final between Team Wellington and Papua New Guinea's Lae City Dwellers (TW won 11-0), Wharfies first home central league game in 20 years against Olympic (Olympic won 3-2), the Hutt derby between Lower Hutt and Stop Out (2-1 Stop Out), a chance to see the other Central League newcomers, Havelock North Wanderers taking on Wellington United (6-0 United) or the Northern Hills derby between North Wellington, with several new signings, and Tawa (0-0). So which one did I choose............well I went to the Smallest Beer Festival in Paekakariki instead (and a great one it was at that!)
That left me Sunday to take in a game, and with all the leagues starting I opted for the Women's premier game of Waterside Karori v Petone or the #Karpet game as it was dubbed on twitter.
Women's football in Wellington has gone through some upheaval in the off season. Wellington United being the only club in the W-League that have stuck with their incumbent coach, Guillermo Schiltenwolf, Upper Hutt City's Wendi Henderson has retired and goalkeeper Cushla Litchwark has taken over in a player-coach role, Palmerston North Marist's Simon Lees has decided to play himself and has been replaced by last seasons Victoria University coach, Justin Palmer. Paul Ifill has taken over the reins at Wairarapa United and just three weeks out from the start of the season, Stop Out decided to withdraw from W-League.
Last season's premier champions were Wellington United reserves, so they couldn't go up. Runners up Waterside Karori were asked, considered it and said no thanks, third place Victoria University were asked, considered it and said no thanks, fourth place BNU were asked considered it and said no thanks, fifth place Petone were asked, considered it and said..........that's right - no thanks! Eventually Western Suburbs put their hands up so we have a six team W-League again and then Upper Hutt City Reserves withdrew from the premier division!
|Waterside Karori's Melissa Murrihy-Kaliuati|
Capital football were probably tired of trying to get teams into higher divisions so opted to make the Premier Division an eight team league this year! The bonus is the top two will be promoted to the W-League at the end of the season.
Although given the reluctance by clubs to step up, maybe they should look at a 12 team league, with two to three clubs from the Central Region, play one round then split into a top six and bottom six. You'll still get the big scores but you get those in the current set up anyway but it will make things a bit more interesting and hopefully attract more players back into the game.
The other W-League coaching change from last season was Seatoun coach Gary Jenkins departing for Petone and while it's not unusual in Women's football for a whole team to follow the coach, this hasn't happened and Petone have pretty much the same team as they did last season.
|Waterside Karori's Katie Barrott wins the ball from her Capital Football team mate, Petone's Libby Boobyer The JourneyFan|
Waterside Karori, who are still coached by Bill Robertson, are looking for a specialist keeper, outfield player, Emma Luxton, taking the gloves in the meantime. She didn't have a lot to worry about in this game. Their big off season signing has been last season's W-League winner and National League player, Katie Barrott. Wharfies have moved her into a central midfield role, away from the left back position she was accustomed to at Upper Hutt City. This meant she came up against her Capital Football National League team mate, Libby Boobyer, the effect was that they basically cancelled each other out.
It was Courtney Stone of Waterside Karori who got the only goal of the game in the first three minutes, after that it was largely a midfield battle although Waterside were unlucky not to go 2-0 up in the second half when they hit the post. Petone looked like they might have nicked a goal for a draw but to do that you really need to get some shots on goal and they didn't really have any.
It was a bit of a lackluster game, both teams still needing to work on their fitness and not quite out of pre-season mode. Waterside should be one of the teams to watch for the title this season, while if Petone can find someone that will shoot at goal should be in and around that area as well.