PACIFIC FLAVOUR TO NEW ZEALAND FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
The second edition of the New Zealand Football Championship kicks off today and anticipation is high amongst New Zealand’s football community for improvement on the inaugural competition.
As well as a host of New Zealand senior and age group internationals, this year’s championship will feature several faces from around the Pacific. Papua New Guinea’s Reginald Davani is back with defending champions Auckland City FC and looking to make an impact after a strong domestic season.
And, joining Davani at New Zealand national league level for the first time is Solomon Islands representative George Suri, who will ply his trade with Auckland’s Waitakere United. Three of Suri’s teammates be based in Palmerston North and play their football with Youngheart Manawatu. Commins Menapi will again link up with coach Colin Tuaa, and brings with him the exciting talents of Aleck Maemae and Nelson Sale.
Once again, the Auckland-based teams are expected to feature at the business end of the season but astute signings and careful planning suggests the challenges to that supremacy will come from more teams and in a more serious fashion than the inaugural season.
Auckland City looks strong in all areas once again from former All White keeper Ross Nicholson to fellow former internationals Jonathan Perry, Paul Urlovic and Riki van Steeden. Add to that the addition of joint leading scorer Keryn Jordan to his equal in the scoring ranks last year Grant Young. Coach Alan Jones’ biggest quandary each week may be who to leave on the bench. The champions are otherwise largely settled and looking to repeat last season’s success.
Waitakere United has made no secret of the ambition in the club, this year the focus is a top two finish and a place in the Oceania Club Championships qualifiers in 2006. Whilst losing key players, these appear more than compensated for with the signing of fourth all time leading NSL goal scorer Pablo Cardozo, younger brother and Australian age group international Richie Cardozo and Kris Bright. Former Papua New Guinea Technical Director Steve Cain takes the helm this season and the West Auckland-based squad should challenge for the title come March next year.
Last season’s surprise package Waikato FC will again look to succeed on the back of a great team effort built largely on young talent. Coaches Declan Edge and James Pamment have bolstered their strike force, and despite the withdrawal of several of their more experienced players from last season the Hamilton franchise will be led again All White Che Bunce and will look to their young players punching above their weight if they are to contend again.
Hawkes Bay United (formerly Napier City) is a squad with plenty of improvement in them. A late charge towards the playoffs masked an overall disappointing first up campaign for one of the traditional powerhouses of the New Zealand game. Their success may rely heavily on the ability of the imports to get the best out of the local talent such as Leon Birnie. Rookie coach Perry Cotton does have several imports to call on this season with former Scottish international keeper Jonathan Gould, Lee Mudd (Northern Ireland U20) and Graham Fyffe (Scottish midfielder/striker).
Palmerston North-based YoungHeart Manawatu is, on paper, the team with most to prove. They will rely largely on local talent. Add to that the key signing of Ian Sandbrook and Ian Robinson – rated by many one of the best midfielders in the country and the influence of Solomon Island representatives including proven goal scorer Commins Menapi and Colin Tuaa’s side could yet surprise. Michael Utting and Campbell Banks could also be key signings.
Team Wellington were the underachievers last year, in particular their slow start to the season. Their signings all come with the potential to influence performance with Jamie Duncan (Canterbury), Peter Halstead (YoungHeart Manawatu) and Matt Adams (Napier City) welcomed by the Team Wellington supporters.
Canterbury United has picked up All White striker Brent Fisher and former All White keeper James Bannatyne as well as returning inspirational defender Ben Sigmund. With Andrew Barron and former All White Glen Collins in midfield, there is a basis for a competitive unit under Danny Halligan. Those gains must however overcome the loss of Ben Hall (Waitakere United), Jamie Duncan (Team Wellington) and Blair Scadden amongst others.
Down in the deep south Otago United has grabbed the pre-season headlines with the signing of former FA Cup winner and two times World Cup Finals player Terry Phelan. The 38-year-old will more than likely concentrate his energies on coaching but is available as a player also. Just as important to the southerners is the re signing of keeper Lutz Pfannenstiel, this time for the entire campaign.
For all the information be sure to visit the official website of the New Zealand Football Championship at, www.nzfc.co.nz
New Zealand Football Championship
1. Ross Nicholson; 2. Nick Hyde; 3. Ricky Broderson; 4. Paul Seaman; 5. Jonathon Perry; 6. Liam Mulrooney; 7. James Pritchett; 8. Jonathon Smith; 9. Paul Urlovic; 10. Grant Young; 11. Neil Sykes; 12. Richard Gillespie; 14. Keryn Jordan; 15. Luiz Del Monte; 16. Sam Wilkinson; 17. Paul Vodanovich; 18. Matt Cunneen; 19. Reginald Davani; 20. Greg Uhlmann; 21. Riki Van Steeden; 22. Joel Mathews; 23. Chad Coombes; 24. Jacob Spoonley
Coach – Allan Jones
1. Simon Eaddy; 2. George Suri; 3. Marcel Isakowitz; 4. Hone Fowler; 5. Sean Douglas; 6. Chris Jackson; 7. Marcus Phillips; 8. Jake Butler; 9. Pablo Cardozo; 10. Richie Cardozo; 11. Craig Wylie; 12. Michael Mayne; 13. Nathan Christie; 14. Jason Rowley; 15. Prince Quansah; 16. Ben Hall; 17. Shannon Cole; 18. Jeff Sole; 19. Kris Bright; 20. Sam Jasper; 21. Daniel Ellensohn; 22. John Fletcher; 23. Chris Limmer
Coach – Steve Cain
1. Mark Fulcher; 3. Cameron Jones; 4. Shane Hooks; 6. James Leong; 7. Mike de Vetter; 8. Stuart Hogg; 9. Nathan Robertson; 10. Colin Gardyne; 11. Henry Hahn; 12. Stewart Watene; 14. Stu Wilson; 15. Rodrigo Narcoleta; 16. Brent Mayhew; 17. Adam Crump; 18. Aaron Scott; 19. Grant Cooper; 20. Danny Donegan; 21. Eddie Trubshoe; 23. LJ Pijnenberg; 24. David Samson; 27. Jakub Sinkora; 28. Matt Williams; 29. Che Bunce
Coach – Declan Edge
Hawkes Bay United
1. Jonathon Gould; 2. Jamie Farrington; 3. Richard Coomber; 4. Wayne Atkins; 5. Ben Murphy; 6. Nick Lucas; 7. Sam Jenkins; 8. Dion Adams; 9. Chris Greatholder; 10. Lee Mudd; 11. Jason Hayne; 12. Leon Birnie; 16. Graeme Fyfe; 17. David Gearey; 18. Warren Gilbertson; 19. Perry Cotton; 20. Willie Stanger; 21. Andrew Huxford; 23. Dean Johnston; 24. Mitchell O’Brien; 25. Scott Dunn; Peter Howe
Coach – Perry Cotton
1. Dylan Hall; 2. Steven Gulley; 3. Jamie Duncan; 4. Andy Hedge; 5. Mike McKinley; 6. Michael Smith; 7. David Johnston; 8. Adam Birch; 9. Peter Halstead; 11. Geoff Brown; 12. Brian Little; 13. Karl Whalen; 14. Jared Curtis; 15. Graeme Little; 16. Tristan McCormick; 17. Wiremu Patrick; 18. Michael Eagar; 19. Sam Peters; 20. Matt Adams; 21. Dan Keat; 22. Sacha Nathu; 23. Nick Tarrant; Mike Wilson
Coach – Mick Waitt
1. James Bannatyne; 2. Daniel Terris; 3. Ben Sigmund; 4. Michael Lilley; 5. Christopher McIntosh; 6. Chris Morris; 7. Deane Hutchinson; 8. Glen Collins; 9. Brent Fisher; 10. Brian Watret; 11. Daniel Moir; 12. Andrew Pitman; 13. Nic Tither; 14. Justin Lucas; 15. James Reichweinn; 16. Jamie Smith; 17. Michael White; 18. Ashley Short; 19. Stuart Kelly; 20. Matthew Boyd; 21. Andrew Barron; 22. Simon Roberts; 23. Danny Halligan
ach – Danny Halligan
1. Lutz Pfannenstiel; 2. Rupesh Puna; 3. Terry Boylan; 4. Terry Phelan; 6. Tim Horner; 7. Blair Scoullar; 8. Russell Lawson; 9. Craig Dale; 10. Ryley Webster; 11. Andy Coburn; 14. Adam Letts; 15. Michael Eisenhut; 16. Ian Mandry; 17. Croyden Wheeler; 20. Mark Beldham; 22. Gareth Hore; 23. Michael Cunningham; 24. Robbie Deeley; John Chisholm; Franseco Caruso; Phil Elder; Will Morunga; Alistair Rickby; Bradley Scott
Coach – Terry Phelan