Another Plate Day for Melville Old Boys
In the best traditions of an underpaid immigrant dishwasher from a greasy spoon cafe, mighty Melville Old Boys have racked up back to back plates.
The Old Boys, hailing from Waikato C Division, beat Waikato B Division champions Huntly Thistle 3-0 in the Waikato knockout plate final at Cambridge to reclaim the trophy they won in 2015.
As far as trophies go, the battered and beaten plate is more a provincial embarrassment than a provincial icon.
It’s the sort of thing your Grandma would have given to the rag and bone man, and indeed, this one may very well have been donated to WaiBop by Albert Steptoe.
So rough is it that Darby McDonald would have no compunction using it as a drip tray under the oil sump of Steve Williams’ Range Rover Sport in his Research Motors workshop.
Even the Salvation Army would likely bin it, and being officially awarded it once again by WaiBop CEO Mark Christie felt a bit like a Kris (Pom) Allen joke. Funny once, but not funny twice.
And yet, put aside the discoloured surface, deformed alloy, dull edges, unbalanced weight, ineptly soldered joins – and the plate does have a certain charm.
So there was an emotional reunion later on Saturday afternoon as Melville Old Boys drank some of New Zealand finest craft brews off it at The Ruakura Club.
“It makes a very nice beer match with Garage Project’s Hapi Daze,” said Old Boys coach Stu Timings. “It’s not the sort of plate you have to show a lot of respect to, so it’s become a very friendly, very familiar plate for us.
“It will be great to have a nice conversation piece to serve the aftermatch pizza on at Gower Park again next season.”
Timings had been too emotionally overwrought to speak at the formal aftermatch – brilliantly organised by the Cambridge club – so manager Kris Allen seduced the audience with his Sheffield-Posh tones.
“It was a hard fought game and may have ended differently if they had taken some early chances, but then we scored a couple of crackers,” he said.
Allen named bruising stopper Darrien Jamieson, a first-teamer 30 years ago, as his player of the day.
“He was colossal,” he said, surely not just a reference to Darrien’s size.
Robbie Orchard, often mistaken for Karl Pilkington, bore fruit up front for the Old Boys and scored from the penalty spot, Julian Ford added a second, and midfield veteran Gavin Douglas banged in a delightful third before the break.
The winning margin would have been greater but for two super second half penalty saves by Huntly’s Adam O’Rourke, a former Melville youth product in 2002.
Douglas stepped up to take a penalty, and possibly snatch the 2016 Golden Boot – but O’Rourke brilliantly batted his shot away.
Fun fact: Douglas has never scored from the penalty spot for Melville first team either.
A further penalty was awarded five minutes later and Timings smashed goalward the sort of shot where keepers would usually request a blindfold. But O’Rourke tipped it over the top to earn a handshake from Timings.
“We just Old Boys-ed them,” said Melville club captain Phil Wheatley, who earlier in the day had “done a Captain Oates” and withdrawn from the matchday squad in order to take a long walk.
“The Old Boys are the most successful team in the history of Melville. We know how to win and never saw ourselves as underdogs.
“I’m not saying we are trophy whores, but we really do enjoy our conquests.
“This was more enjoyable because unlike last year we weren’t playing another Melville team in the final.”
Lance Bauerfiend, a 1988 Chatham Cup winner with Waikato United, was delighted after missing last year’s plate final through injury.
“Say what you like about it being for fun, but the Old Boys have old heads and are still playing to win,” he said. “I was able to score in the 1988 Chatham Cup final – but couldn’t in the 2016 Waikato plate final, so you could argue the standard is tougher.”
Bauerfiend, perhaps conscious that the WaiBop federation ran an operating loss of $200,000 last year, offered to chip in $50 towards a new plate trophy if others would follow suit.
Douglas, who captained Melville in the 2003 Chatham Cup final, said it was just nice to be on a winning side in a knockout final.
“It’s hard to make comparisons because I don’t actually remember anything about the 2003 cup final – just being in the showers afterward,” he said.
“So I was more just re-channelling 2009,” (when Melville won the northern premier league grand final.)
Credit is due to Huntly, who were proud enough of their season to be the only team singing in the changing room afterwards.
And also to Cambridge, for a well-organised finals matchday.