Ben Watson [white] and Scott Adams [green] have hunkered down with the Turton family in Greytown waiting for the Central League to start. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

FOOTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Two American footballers are loving their time in Wairarapa even though they haven’t kicked a ball in anger yet.

Ben Watson and Scott Adams arrived in the country on March 11 to join Wairarapa United for the Central League season, but had to go into isolation almost immediately at the Greytown home of club chairwoman Wendy Turton and her husband Dave because of the covid-19 restrictions.

“We had one day of freedom and Dave and Wendy showed us around Wellington. The next day, we had to isolate at their house and then the quarantine started and we’ve been there ever since,” Watson said.

The 22-year-olds both had athletics scholarships at Northeastern State University, Oklahoma. Watson is a right-back and Adams a midfielder.

Watson is originally from Sherman, Texas, about an hour from Dallas. Adams, who graduated in December, hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Watson left university in December and completed his last semester in New Zealand while playing for Tasman United in the National League. He returned to the US in February to trial for some professional teams.

He was due to graduate this weekend.

Their enforced quarantine had been a lot better than expected.

“It worked out well,” Adams said, “Connor Turton is also in the Wairarapa United side and we trained together.

“We’ve done really well. We’re fitter now than when we got here, and I’ve had six weeks to work on my weak foot – my left foot – and improve on that.”

Watson and Adams found their way to Wairarapa United through coach Davor Tavich, who was assistant coach at Tasman United during Watson’s time in Nelson.

However, there’s another reason why they chose Wairarapa United.

“We know it’s a good club, but we’d heard about Paul Ifill and how he’s a bit of club legend.

“We wanted to work with someone like him who has so much knowledge and experience from competing at the highest level,” Watson said.

“We know Wairarapa United had a tough season last year, but we see a lot of potential in the side and we want to keep on improving.

“We’re both trying to get into the New Zealand National League for next season, and we want to play professionally at the highest level we can.”

Watson and Adams have met some of their fellow Wairarapa players but have yet to catch up with another player from the States.

Frenchman Hugo Delhommelle, who graduated from Syracuse University, New York, played four games for Wairarapa United in 2019. A dead-ball specialist, he scored three stunning goals from freekicks during his short stay.

“We don’t know Hugo but we know he came in before just before quarantine started and he’s been staying in Martinborough,” Adams said.

Besides backyard training, Watson and Adams have found some work in the stock room at the Fresh Choice supermarket in Greytown.

They will also assist with coaching at Kuranui College once the covid-19 restrictions are relaxed.

They are uncertain when they will meet the rest of their Wairarapa United teammates.

“It sounds like May 16 when we might be able to start team practice, and May 30 when we could start playing, but that could change quite quickly,” Watson said.

As for their families back home in the US, Adams said they are in “areas that aren’t too contagious, so it’s not that bad but they’re isolating and quarantining as they need”.

Watson said his father was a doctor so the family was doing all the right things and couldn’t be in better hands.

In the meantime, the two young Americans are soaking up the Turtons’ hospitality but are itching to get out on the football field.