What constitutes a “local derby”? – Programme editorial 16.7.2016

When is a football match a “derby” – and when isn’t it?

It’s a good question to pose on a day when we host cross-Kaimai rivals Tauranga City United (and also happily saves us navel-gazing too much about our dire position on the table).

When we played Tauranga at Mt Maunganui on Anzac Day a number of people, particularly those of Tauranga persuasion, were describing it as a “local derby”.

From Tauranga’s perspective it was certainly a showdown with one of their closest premier league rivals. However few among Melville’s ranks contracted derby fever in talking about Tauranga.

From Melville’s perspective a derby traditionally means a shitfight with Wanderers – while ever so occasionally the likes of Steve Williams can also get excited about a showdown with Ngaruawahia.

“Derby” is football-speak for loads of kicking, passion, and not much actual football.

But is it possible for a match to be a derby to one team and not to another?

For a match to be considered a genuine derby, I always look for a majority of the following characteristics:

# It is a game with longstanding tradition between near neighbours or local rivals.

# There has been significant cross-pollination of playing or coaching personnel in recent times.

# A degree of enmity between the camps exists (where not being seen to lose it is just as important as winning).

# Where bragging rights are considered to be on the line in overlapping social circles.

# Where there is noticeable pre-match banter among players and/or supporters

# Where respect is always in danger of being trumped by dislike.

# Where there is a history of controversy between the clubs/teams.

In 2004 when Declan Edge was coaching Tauranga, having just walked out on Melville, the league matches between the clubs had distinct derby characteristics. A number of Hamilton-based players had left Melville to play for Tauranga, there was sideline sniping, pointed programme comments, and glee at snaring an away draw and home win.

But these days it’s hard to get too worked up about Tauranga. Coaches Duncan Lowry and Andy Birchenough are well respected within the football fraternity, Tauranga haven’t been nicking our players, and the only cross-pollination I can think of these days is Scott Reid having trained with them pre-season.

So for me today’s game doesn’t quite pass muster on the Derby-ometer.

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When Melville beat Tauranga back in April the lads were unable to celebrate with a drink at the bar because Tauranga had lost its clubrooms liquor licence. Should Tauranga win today, to make them feel at home, Big Phil might consider closing the bar for 30 minutes from 5pm. On second thoughts, that’s the sort of thing you’d only do if it was a genuine derby.
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Melville haven’t had much to enthuse about lately in terms of results, but independent observers at East Coast Bays last week said Melville were well worthy of a point (before losing 1-2). Marc Evans’ goal can be viewed on-line via the Melville website.
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Roy Pilott, formerly of Taranaki Daily News & Waikato Times fame, has revived his football column. Check it out at www.roypilottpr.com. (Go to the blog page.)

— Bruce Holloway

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