Semifinals celebration

Melville face Bay Olympic in a Chatham Cup semifinal in Auckland on Saturday August 24 (2pm, Olympic Park). As part of the build-up to the big day we publish below an article written by former club chairman Bruce Holloway for the “Melville Magic” match programme last time Melville contested a Chatham Cup semifinal, versus Waitakere City in August 2013.

SEE ALSO: Semifinals Time

Our Chatham Cup semifinals

By Bruce Holloway

Today (2013) is the first semifinal contested anywhere in the Waikato in 43 years. Waikato teams have made the semifinals a further five times since Hamilton Technical Old Boys became the first provincial club to win the Chatham Cup in 1962. But no club has managed to secure a home semifinal tie since Hamilton AFC lost 2-1 to Blockhouse Bay at Muir Park in 1970.

Here is a potted chronology of our semifinals….

1962: Technical Old Boys scored a crushing 4-0 win over New Plymouth club Moturoa in a match played before about 2000 fans at Seddon Park to become Waikato’s first cup finalists. Indeed, it meant Technical became the first North Island club outside of Auckland or Wellington to so much as qualify for the final. The goals came from John Dekkers, Peter Feenstra, Klaus Poelman and 18-year-old Trevor Jones, but the star for Technical was captain and centre half Arthur Leong.

Technical Old Boys, 1962 Chatham Cup winners

Leong, 31 at the time, was born in Canton, China, but came to New Zealand as a 4-year-old, and at the time was also the club’s president. He was the first player of Asian ethnicity to play for New Zealand, and made 15 appearances between 1959-1964. Brothers Klaus (right wing) and Fritz Poelman (left back) were also former New Zealand internationals, having emigrated from Holland, but aged 38 and 37 respectively, they were coming to the end of brilliant careers. Technical proceeded to beat Otago’s Northern – who had won the cup the year before – 4-1 in the final.

At the time Technical had no facilities to speak of. They would train under street lights near the Founders Theatre (which was built that same year) and use the Riverina Hotel for the aftermatches. Even their claret and light blue shirts were homemade. Technical amalgamated with Wanderers in 1964 to form Hamilton AFC – though a disaffected group later broke away to re-form the Wanderers club.

1970: Hamilton AFC had been disappointed at not being selected for the inaugural national league, but had a strong Chatham Cup run. They’d beaten Wellington national league club Hungaria 1-0 in the quarterfinals. But Hamilton couldn’t repeat that upset in the semis, and lost 2-1 at Muir Park against a Blockhouse Bay team which proceeded to win both the Cup and the inaugural national league.

The semi drew one of the biggest crowds ever seen at Muir Park. Big Bill Hume was in his third season as player-coach back at Hamilton, after years in Australia – where he achieved the rare feat of playing for Australia after having also represented New Zealand.

Bill Hume, Hamilton AFC player-coach 1970

His team almost forced extra time late in the second half, but John Morris – later to be chairman on the NZFA – was great in the Bay goal. Hamilton featured the likes of Don Bain, Dave Wallace, Billy and Ken Ironside, the unflappable Arthur Parker, and the high-octane Roy Little in midfield.

But it was 17-year-old John Ravenscroft who made his name for Hamilton in this match in taking it to his experienced Bay opponents, many with international caps. Hamilton later contested the national league from 1977-78 and 1980-82, and amalgamated with Waikato United in 1992.

1988: Hamilton AFC and Claudelands Rovers came together to form a Waikato team to take up an extraordinary vacancy in the national league – and amazingly the embryonic club won the Chatham Cup in its first year of existence. Roger Wilkinson had a solid team, anchored by tough 29-year-old Geordie Dave Merritt. Darren Melville, Lance Bauerfiend, Marcus Gerbich, Gary Dillistone and Chris Roberts came across town from Waikato FC (a private entity which had “leased” Claudelands Rovers northern premier league berth in 1987). Paul Gemmell, previously with Hamilton AFC, returned from a couple of highly successful seasons with Manurewa. Mark Cossey was back, Liverpool product Brian Hayes transferred from Ngaruawahia, and Tony McIsaac from Cambridge. Graham Jones (now a Melville Old Boy) came north from Nelson United, Lawrence Fitzpatrick, Brian Chisholm and Greg Larsen stepped up from youth ranks, and added to the mix were imports Steve Tate and Darren Powell.

Waikato went six weeks without a win at the start of the national league, but steadily found form in the Cup, though their away semi against DB Spats Wellington was a tough one, with a team plagued by injuries, patchy form – and no history. Waikato were also without captain Darren Melville, Dillistone was badly winged in goal, and Roberts was seemingly under a permanent injury cloud. Waikato were also expecting to be without Fitzpatrick, in Fiji with the Junior All Whites. But on the plus side Merritt won an appeal against a send-off two weeks earlier which removed a semifinal suspension.

Wellington were no mugs, with Steve O’Donaghue, Anthony Buick-Constable, and the powerful Phil Barton up front, but Waikato won a dour, gritty contest courtesy of a penalty shootout after 120 minutes without a goal. In the shootout Merritt stepped up first and put Waikato ahead. Then Dillistone saved Tony Buick-Constable’s kick to give Waikato a margin. However Hayes then put his shot over the bar, leaving Wellington to draw level. But John Denham shot wide to leave it at 1-0.

Next up was young Fitzpatrick, and the fact he was even there was a story in itself. Fitzpatrick had spent the previous two weeks with the Junior All Whites in Fiji, and was expected to miss the match. But he caught a plane at 4am from Suva, then grabbed a last minute seat from Auckland, arrived at Newtown Park 15 minutes before kick-off, and came on as second half sub. Fitzpatrick scored and Dean Behrens missed for Wellington. That left it for Cossey to nervelessly tuck away the decisive penalty, after which he disappeared beneath an orgy of bodies (including the team management).

Waikato United (Taffy Roberts & Gary Dillistone) claim the Chatham Cup at Muir Park in 1988

Winning the semi was such a big deal the Waikato Times published a celebration photo of the team returning to Hamilton Airport.

1992: Waikato United had arguably their strongest team ever, with Darren Fellowes and Cossey a formidable striking partnership, and led the national league for many weeks, though ultimately finished runners-up to Waitakere City. After beating Cup aristocrats Christchurch United 3-1 at home in the quarterfinals, they were drawn away to Central League division one champions Tawa.

Redwood Park, perched on a hilltop plateau, was possibly the most windswept, exposed pitch in New Zealand and Tawa were tough opponents. Not until extra time did Waikato assert themselves. Jones worked the ball down the left flank and somehow got it across for Fellowes to slide it into the path of Paul Thompson who found the top corner from just inside the area (and celebrated with a somersault in the mud).

Waikato United, 1992 Chatham Cup finalists.

Fellowes then added a solo special beating three players and dinking a soft lofted shot in off the crossbar. Waikato returned to Wellington for the final, but lost 3-1 to Miramar Rangers, after enjoying the early lead. Waikato amalgamated with Melville to form Melville United in 1996.

1998: Ngaruawahia United beat the likes of Eastern Suburbs, Bay Olympic and, er, Wanderers, to earn an away semifinal against Dunedin Technical. A funding drive kicked off by the Waikato Times raised over $10,000 to make the trip possible, though there was no fairytale ending, with Narra losing 2-0. Jeff Coulshed’s Ngaruawahia benefited from picking up many members of Melville’s 1997-98 summer national league squad, including Brian Hayes, Matt Williams, Aaron Kingi and Marcus Traill. Also on board were Wayne Bates – a green-haired teenaged at the time – and a dreadlocked Nicolai Helwig, both later to wind up at Melville.

2003: Absolutely nobody saw Melville’s 2003 cup run coming. An unheralded Melville team charged all the way to the final, dismissing five national league clubs, on the back of an otherwise patchy northern premier league season. Even though I had a son playing for Melville, I’d regularly savaged them as a jobbing sports reporter.

In early season newspaper reports I variously described Melville as “dysfunctional”, and having a “general ugliness” (after a 0-3 loss to Waitakere City). Even in victory I described Melville as “a ragged, bumbling, sloppy outfit who generally could not trap a ball, pass, or, most of all, think”.

Coach Paul Nixon appeared to agree, in a column reviewing his team after just one win in six matches: “We just need the X factor to start winning. Unfortunately I don’t know what the X factor is”.

Then from ugly duckling there was a Clark Kent-Superman transformation. The mid-season arrival of Jeremy Field helped. It allowed 17-year-old Steven Holloway to move into the forward line, and he proceeded to pot 10 goals in the cup run, while Stu Watene looked far more at ease on the flank than up front, and Grant Cooper reverted from midfield to left back.

The second-round match, against 2002 Cup finalists Tauranga City United, was the watershed. Melville won with a golden goal penalty in extra time, starting the transformation. Melville then twice came from behind to beat three-times cup winners Waitakere City in a third-round thriller, hammered Western Springs 8-0 and served up an astonishing 5-0 humbling of six-times cup winners North Shore, to earn an away semifinal against Central United.

Kiwitea St was awash with colour and noise as Melville rolled cup favourites Central 1-0 to continue a fairy tale in which they cut a swathe through the cream of New Zealand football. Melville did not display the flair of the victories over North Shore or Waitakere, but showed a steely determination in defence and a passion the home team could not match.

Melville United 2003, Chatham Cup finalists.

They were also buoyed by a remarkable travelling “Red Army” which transformed Central’s ground into an Auckland version of Gower Park, and were rewarded by a classic goal in the 58th minute. Centre back Cole Tinkler picked up the ball deep in defence, set off on a jinking run only a 17-year-old would dare attempt, danced through three tackles, then clipped an inch-perfect ball behind the Central defence. Stu Watene sprinted on to it and steered it just inside the post, to spark huge celebrations.

“Are you North Shore in disguise, ” Melville fans gleefully chanted. In previous ties Melville attackers had been the heroes. This time it was the defenders. Skipper Gavin Douglas towered above them all and Grant Cooper, the only Melville player aged over 25, was typically staunch. At the final whistle hundreds of Melville fans invaded the pitch to share a special moment with the players. “We are Melville. Mighty, mighty Melville,” they cheered.

2013: A story waiting to be written.

Postscript: It was the end of a mini-era at Gower Park as Melville’s 13 match unbeaten run, and unbeaten season record at home went west in a 4-1 loss to Waitakere City in 2013.

A 25th minute goal to dangerman Roy Krishna and a penalty for handball right on half time always left Melville chasing the game. Garmon Hafal gave Melville hope when he scored from a slick move seven minutes into the second half, but an equalising goal would not come, despite a solid 15-minute spell. Substitute Meneua Fakasega killed any thought of a fightback in the 79th minute before Krishna wrapped up the win two minutes later with a really classy second goal.

Melville celebrate Garmon Hafal’s semifinal goal against Waitakere City

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