The selection of Vanessa Taylor in a national under-18 age group development squad was the icing on the cake in a satisfying season for the Wairarapa United Capital Football Women’s Division One side.
Earlier this month, Taylor had attended a trial involving 50 players from the Wellington region and was shortlisted for the second trial of 30 attendees. On Friday, she was announced as a player in the Capital Football 2023 squad to compete in the National Youth Development League. The league is run separately from the winter leagues and is designed to give the very top youth players the opportunity to continue their development in a more performance-oriented environment.
Taylor’s selection followed an outstanding season in which she top-scored for United, who overcame a disruptive start and finished runners-up in the top division below the Central W-League.
The absence of about half of their squad because of secondary school tournament week commitments meant that United were forced to default their final game away to Seatoun on Sunday. Even if they had been able to assemble a team, second place was the best United could have hoped for, with winners Miramar Rangers Firsts completing an unbeaten season.
United finished with a second-round record of six wins, one draw and two losses, in contrast to their sixth place in the first round, where they managed three wins, two draws and four defeats.
Captain Holly Rausch felt the inconsistent run of form in the first round was down to players getting used to playing together again and doubts surrounding a home venue, which placed more pressure on the team.
“We never knew where we were going to be, so the beginning of the season was a bit hard, but we locked in Masterton AFC [Hullena Park] for some of our games, and obviously the weather wasn’t helpful.
“When we got on our way, it felt good, but it just took us a few weeks to get settled and gel as a team,” said Rausch, adding that overall, she was pleased with their second placing, one spot outside of promotion to the Capital Premier division.
“We were very happy with it. We lose a few girls at the end of this year as well to uni, so a step up would have been a challenge, but I think we are quite content being in the same league.”
Romy Ifill, Freya Lewington, and Anna O’Connor are among those expected to move on at the end of the year.
Rausch remains positive about the future of the club, with a good mix of youth and experienced players, and plans well underway to establish a permanent home venue. There is also the possibility of appointing a part-time women’s development person for next season.
As well as the top team, United fielded two sides in the Wairarapa Women’s League, with both playing integral roles in getting more women playing.
“They’re a group of ladies who haven’t played before or not since school, but they’re pushing it now, and they just had so much fun. It was just the four teams, Carterton, Greytown and two of ours, and every week they would get out there, and both teams improved so much.”
Rausch added there had been a lot of outside interest in the club, and there was a good response to their supporters and sponsors day on the final home game at Trust House Memorial Park two weekends ago.
Defending champions Carterton Redbacks will take on DV Skulls in the Wairarapa Cup final on Saturday.
Redbacks were pushed hard before prevailing 2–0 over Featherston United Property Brokers in Saturday’s semifinal, stretching their unbeaten run to 35 games, while Skulls were untroubled reaching the decider, thumping Douglas Villa Drake 8-1.
Saturday’s final will be played at Carterton’s Howard Booth Park, along with the three other finals.
Progressive Engineering Masterton Athletic will take on Greytown Tremains in the plate final, Lions and Ziggy’s Glass Presidents will meet in an all-Masterton club bowl final, and Greytown Property Brokers will line up against Douglas Villa Cams Flooring in the shield final.
The finals would normally represent the end of the local season, but there are several catch-up games to be played in early September.