New northern league era beckons
A new northern league era begins for Melville United on Saturday when they host the Waitemata Sharks at Gower Park at 2.45pm. The Reserves kick-off at 1pm.
It not only will be the first competitive match in charge for new coaches Sam Wilkinson and Michael Mayne, but will also be the first time the two clubs have played against each other at northern league level, an astonishing statistic considering Waitemata made their northern league debut in 1965 (initially as Western United and then Henderson) and Melville (as Melville AFC until 1996) did so in 1982.
Even then this fixture took some arranging, with Waitemata gaining promotion to division one – and Melville arriving at the same destination via relegation.
Melville have recruited heavily, with the class of 2017 including Patrick Hinchcliffe, 19, who has arrived from Ruthin Town in the Welsh Alliance League. and Perry Katesmark, 21, a former Luton Town youth player.
Eric “Jones”, 31, is a Scouser who has been in New Zealand for about seven years, with Auckland and Christchurch clubs, while George Curry was previously with Waitemata, and Waitakere United for two summers, and is an exceptional signing.
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Robbie Greenhalgh has been signed from Cambridge, and Steven Holloway has been lured home to the club where he played his junior and youth football, and then began his northern league career 16 years ago, after six seasons away.
Max Tommy, Liam Hayes and Bailey Webster have shipped in from Wanderers (though Hayes and Webster played at Gower at youth level) and Lachie McIsaac has returned from his spiritual home of Birkenhead. Hayes in particular has looked good in pre-season.
Aaron Scott and Stafford Dowling have returned from Wanderers Sports Club’s summer national league campaign, as has Welshman Marc Evans (who withdrew earlier in the summer).
The occasion will be extra special for co-coach Mayne, who has himself returned to Melville from Waitemata.
“In my time there we went from a very social-orientated club battling away in the Conference League to gaining back-to-back promotions and now playing in the second tier winter league competition,” Mayne has written in the match programme. “This was no easy task and it took the whole club, from committee to the players to dream this up and execute it like we did.
“So while I am now on the other side, I am very proud as a coach to see Waitemata at Gower competing in the Division 1 competition.”
This year Waitemata are coached by the experienced Bob Sova. They last week made the final of the Northern Federation pre-season tournament, but were beaten 4-1 by Hibiscus Coast.
Melville begin the northern league on the back of an unbeaten pre-season campaign. They started with a scratchy 2-2 draw with Claudelands Rovers, hammered Fencibles 8-0, beat reigning premier league champs Central United 3-1, and then Glenfield Rovers 3-0.
Because of renovation work, the Melville-Waitemata match will have to be played on Gower Park No 2.
Waitemata squad: Cameron Brown, Hamish MacKay, Matt Overington, Andy Smith, Ezra Jefferson-Cope, Jack Sedon, Rannesh Krishnan, Tyson Brandt, Shane Tanner, Daniel Gates, Ryan Rust, Pete Benjatikul, Ryan Jellick, Joe Edwards, Tom van Leeuwen, Hussein Al-Badri, Prince Quansah, Matt Guy.
Melville squad: Max Tommy, Liam Fellowes, Eric “Jones”, Liam Hayes, Aaron Scott, Bailey Webster, George Curry, Perry Katesmark, Steven Holloway, Marc Evans, Stafford Dowling, Patrick Hinchcliffe, Jono Viviani, Robbie Greenhalgh, Flynn O’Brien, Dan Finlay, Liam Steffert, Lachie McIsaac, Luke Searle, Jacob Robb, Logan Wisnewski, Keegan Hansen, Salah Bahiss.