Champions

Melville are northern league division one champions for 2018.

An honour that has seemed inevitable for well over two months was finally consumated at Michaels Ave – perhaps Melville’s least favourite ground on account of the relatively unfamiliar turf surface – with a 1-0 win over Ellerslie.

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Photo above courtesy of Enzo Giordani, In The Back Of The Net

There were raucous celebrations on the pitch at the final whistle, with Melville presented with the oversize Thomson Shield, one of New Zealand’s oldest sporting trophies, dating back to 1892.

The trophy was pre-engraved with Melville’s name.

It was almost 25 years to the day since Melville United’s parent club, Melville AFC, won the shield.

Melville skipper Aaron Scott – who was absent when Melville won the northern premier league in 2009 – reflected on how while he has been part of a number of promotion-winning teams, this was his first league championship as a player.

“After the final whistle I had a quick tear with Jonesy,” Scott said. “I’ve been here 16 years and the one year I didn’t play we won the (premier) league – and people told me I was the reason.

“So, yeah, I’ve got some good mates. But an awful lot of hard work has gone in this year from the coaching staff (Sam Wilkinson and Michael Mayne) – two people that I look up to – and first of all, that needs to be acknowledged. They have been at the heart of everything we have achieved this year.

“At the same time there are a lot of boys I’ve been involved with for the past five years, first at school, and then to have them come through and play with them and now win something is quite special.

“There are quite a few boys here that I hope go on to compete at a higher level, but they also have to celebrate this title because this is something that doesn’t happen every day. I hope the young boys realise that.”

Co-coach Sam Wilkinson was proud of his players, but noted while it had been a tense game, there was not quite the same raw emotion as after the Forrest Hill game because getting promotion through that win had been the first big hurdle.

“It’s nice,” Wilkinson said. “It validates a lot of the hard work we’ve done.

“But I’m already thinking about next season and what we have got to do better.

This season has been tough. We’ve won it early, but there’s been games like today where it’s just been a grind and we’ve had to dig in.

“But our plan for the club goes a lot further beyond the northern league first division. This just inspires me to go and do everything better next season.”

It was far from a vintage performance, and despite the return of Melville’s leading goalscorers Jama Boss and Josh Davies, it took a 59th minute own goal to separate the teams.

Substitute Wade Molony made a stirring run down the left, cut inside and his low centre caught the foot of Ellerslie captain Josh Torrens and completely wrong-footed his goalkeeper despite being a good 12 metres out.

It was tough on Ellerlsie, but was lapped up by Melville, who had struggled to create many clearcut chances. Best of the rest was when sub Levi Clark had a shot headed off the line after a great run from Lamb.

While a lot of his team mates struggled, midfielder Logan Wiznewski had a superb match, displaying precise distribution and fine anticipation.

Jordan Lamb was Melville’s most effective strike weapon, with some blistering runs, while Scott was as composed as ever at the back.
Mark Jones returned only half fit, and played in centre midfield until a few minutes before the end.

Melville Reserves won 4-1.

Melville are away to Tauranga City on Saturday, their first match as champions.

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