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Coaches draw plenty of positives

Wairarapa no longer has the giddy heights of Central League Football; however, two clubs have just completed outstanding seasons, both winning promotion from their Capital Leagues. CHRIS COGDALE reviews the efforts of Douglas Villa and Greytown.

Douglas Villa

Tumu Douglas Villa won promotion to Capital Division One after finishing runners-up in their second year in Division Two.

Under the astute coaching of the experienced Mark Taylor, Villa finished on 42 points [a total usually good enough to win a league], with 13 wins, three draws, and two losses – the first a 2–0 home defeat to an average Horowhenua Coastal team and the second a narrow 3–2 loss to runaway champions Wellington Marist.

Winning promotion was always the goal for Taylor, who was in his first year in charge of the team that finished mid-table in 2022.

“I thought, right, we’ll just step things up a wee bit, let’s get a structure and a way we want to play and get some discipline sorted out so that we’re not losing players through suspensions and doing dumb things in key moments and that we’re on top of things and we’ve got a real good work ethic and a group of players that like playing together and that was really important to do that,” Taylor said.

“I’m really pleased with the players – on match days, they’ve been magnificent. There are games where we’ve been behind, and we’ve shown character and come back to win and sometimes win easily, and there are other games where we’ve just been dominant from the start to finish, and it’s just a matter of when. and when you’re in those situations, it’s really enjoyable to be part of.

“We knew that some of the teams we were playing were the club’s third teams, and we’re a first team, so we had to make sure that we’re not losing to teams that we should be beating, and we’ve managed to set that as a real standard and stuck with it.”

Captain Chris Cox, who was in his second season with the team, showed his experience from playing at Central League level and formed a strong centre back combination with Shea Fowler, and remarkably for defenders, neither received a yellow card throughout the season.

Josh McMenamin topped the team scoring, with 23 goals, and was second in the division’s golden boot, while Tremaine Rimene-Albrett was third on 15 goals.

Taylor also praised assistant coach Riki Riddell, saying he was fantastic with the players and at trainings.

“He was exceptional, so it wasn’t just about me; it was Riki as well. He’s the club captain, and he does the committee. He helps out with juniors, his wife is the junior coordinator, and he’s there for all the training sessions. I couldn’t get on Tuesdays until a little bit later, but he would be there doing the warm-ups and doing some of the ball activation exercises and things like that, and he was a vital part of the coaching group.”

Stu McLean also assisted in coaching goalkeeping, a problem area for the team early in the season when first-choice Ben Burnley was out with a broken hand.

Overall, though, Taylor said the players finished with an appreciation of the need to keep possession and play quicker, and that should hold the team in good stead in their step up to Division One, the third highest level available, and he’s already started planning for next season.

“We start looking around for players. We haven’t got a lot of depth in the club underneath the first team,” Taylor explained.

“We’ve got lots of guys playing local league football, but we need to have that next step, so there’s a real drive to look at young players who want to become part of it, and what we really push for is to get a real good level of respect and decency about the club so that people coming in know that we’re a football club and we’ve got a real focus on making sure we’re going to be the best that we can.

“We got good feedback from the community about what we’ve been doing. We wanted to improve the respectability of the team, and we achieved that.” Taylor concluded that Douglas Villa have a few aspects to look at, including youth and making a women’s team a priority following the success of the Women’s World Cup.

Greytown

A mid-season slump of three consecutive losses hurt Greyfriars Motel Greytown’s Capital Division Three championship prospects, but the team fought back to finish second behind Upper City United and win promotion.

Greytown finished with a record of 14 wins, one draw, and three losses, and on 43 points, three shy of Upper Hutt.

Greytown started with a hiss and roar, scoring 18 goals in two home games before meeting Upper Hutt on their artificial pitch and drawing 3–3, a result that coach Phil Keinzley believes ultimately cost them the title.

“The Upper Hutt game was our first on an artificial away, and when I reflect on the season, if we’d won that game, we would have won the league. We were pretty complacent, and the speed of the artificial, we weren’t ready for it,” said Keinzley,

“We were full of our own importance at that stage, and suddenly striking a competitive team on an artificial really brought the truth home.”

Playing on artificials became the team’s Achilles heel, with two of their losses to Petone U20s and Wellington United on artificial turfs, where the players’ fitness was tested.

“I actually thought we were fitter at the start of the season than any other team in the league, but as the season progressed, we never improved in our fitness, and the other teams did and closed the gap big time there, and we had quite a good run on grass pitches and a number of home games but the warning bells were there that we were going to have trouble on the artificials.”

Keinzley said Greytown weren’t helped by having to play on a sub-standard surface at Soldiers Memorial Park, and the difference between the teams in the end was the quality of both the training and playing pitches.

“I think the South Wairarapa council should be disgusted with it.

“There are no ifs or buts – I felt our pitch was the worst pitch anywhere in the league.

“Places like Waterside-Karori and Naenae used to be the bogs, but they’re immaculate now and are like cricket pitches, and the council is not recognising the fact that football participation has grown and there’s too much overuse of the pitches because there is nowhere else.

“We never lost at home, and in the same way we struggled with artificials, other teams struggled with the state of our pitch. We trained at Carterton, which was even worse, so we were okay with it.”

Overall though, Keinzley was thrilled with the outcome, saying it was better than expected, especially the attack, where former national league player and assistant coach Josh Stevenson netted 33 goals for second in the Golden Boot, while captain Jarrod MacDonald was third with 21 goals.

“Josh’s finishing was really good, and his experience was invaluable, and for me personally, it was handy having an assistant coach where you can break up the trainings a bit, so I didn’t need to be at every training.”

Looking ahead to next season, Keinzley said there is a solid core of players, and some promising young players, including Liam Andrew, Xavier Marshall-Cox and Charlie Matthews, coming through, but there are areas to improve.

“The players have to work on fitness in the off-season, so we’re not starting from scratch again, and we need to have a bit more depth in our midfield and centre back – the axle of the team.”

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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