Sunday’s Kate Sheppard Cup final will become the last hurrah for some of the Hamilton Wanderers players who will face Wellington United at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium.
After a cup campaign that’s taken nine months due to COVID-related disruptions, some of the players will be wearing the Wanderers shirt for the last time.
Captain Ollington: ‘It’s sad some of the team will break up after the game …’
“In a way, it’s sad that some of the team will break up after the game but people’s lives move on, and we’ve got some excellent young players coming through who’ll take their places,” captain Maddi Ollington says.
Long-time defensive duo Michaela Foster (23) and Chelsea Elliott (26) are relocating to Auckland and have delayed their transfers to Northern Rovers so they can complete their cup run for Wanderers.
On Sunday, Foster will take to the same North Harbour Stadium pitch at 2.30pm where her rugby star father Ian has coached provincial sides and the All Blacks.
Sarah Carpenter (18), who is Auckland-based, was unable to train with her Wanderers team for six months due to lockdowns but has been commuting for training sessions in the lead up to the final. After the final, she’ll join Auckland club Ellerslie AFC.
Lisa Evans (18) moved to Christchurch to study at Canterbury University and will fly north for the grand final while defender Grace Cox (21) has returned from Melbourne where she moved last year.
Cox and defender Shannon Trebes (20) have played together since juniors, and were part of a Wanderers U-14 girls team that in 2013 formed the base for the club’s future first team.
Coach Bult: ‘We’re getting one last chance to bring the team together …’
“It’s like we’re getting one last chance to bring the team together for one big push for a trophy,” coach Scott Bult says.
Bult never expected the chance to be coaching the team at the final as he was the club’s women’s reserves coach when the first tie was played last June.
Head coach Steve Cox decided to step away from coaching at the end of last year, leaving Bult with the responsibility of completing the campaign.
Bult knows what it takes to control nerves and the pressure of a sudden-death cup final. He has two Chatham Cup winners medals and won three National League titles with Waitakere City in the mid-1990s.
“It’s important our players go into the final with the right frame of mind,” he said.
“They’re certainly capable and have the right team culture to see it through.
“They are a group of 17 sisters who all support each other and after all they’ve been through together, I’m sure they’ll give it everything they’ve got.”
Captain Ollington said the squad had been training hard for the past eight weeks, getting ready for what could be the biggest game of their club careers.
“The team is fairly young but we all stick up for each other,” she said.
“We’ve got plenty of enthusiasm and the club provides an encouraging environment. We have lots of fun at training but we work hard too.”
The team: ‘We’ll give it our best shot, that’s for sure’
Ollington says the players are aware of the history they will create if Wanderers takes its first national title.
“It’s been nine months since we started. When everything went on hold, we wondered when the competition would resume … then we started to wonder if it would resume.
“It would have been gutting if the cup had been called off after we reached the last four, so we’re really relieved we’re getting the chance to play the final.”
For Ollington, Sunday’s game will be the highlight of a career that started as a junior with Rotorua United, alongside Football Fern Paige Satchell, before joining Wanderers in 2017.
She spent two seasons in the United States playing at Sussex Country Community College, New Jersey, but returned to rejoin the club.
Will she be the one to lift the Kate Sheppard Cup on Sunday?
“We’ll give it our best shot, that’s for sure.”
Hamilton Wanderers v Wellington United
North Harbour Stadium, Hamilton
2.30pm, Sunday March 27, 2022
Watch: Broadcast live on Sky Sports NEXT
Spectators holding an MVP (My Vaccine Pass) can attend the Kate Sheppard Cup final between Wellington United and Hamilton Wanderers at North Harbour Stadium. Gates open at 2pm.
As this is an MVP event, vaccine passes must be displayed upon entry.