By Jonno Ross
The men’s and women’s Lotto NRFL competitions get underway at the weekend with a local derby and games involving West Coast Rangers attracting attention.
Saturday (men’s Division 1)
This year’s men’s first division looks particularly competitive with at least five or six teams lining up for the two available spots for promotion to the Northern League.
(Onehunga Mangere United coach Paul Marshall says it’s one of the most competitive divisions ever and he says eight or nine teams will be in the hunt for promotion) — click here to read his interview >>>>
There’s no doubt the division will produce closely-fought games every week.
Our aim is to tip which games will provide the most entertainment for the neutral spectator.
Here’s how we see Round 1:
Mount Albert Ponsonby v Metro FC
Anderson Park, Mt Albert
Both teams will be going for bragging rights as well as three points in this traditional local derby.
Last year, 9th-placed Metro won the fixture 2-1 and will want to kick-start their season with a similar result.
Mount Albert (6th last year) will hope they can carry forward their strong attack from last season — they were one of the league’s highest goalscorers — but will need to strengthen their defence.
UPDATE — Game postponed
The match between West Coast Rangers and Fencibles United has been postponed due to cases of COVID.
Other fixtures (with last season’s placings):
Manurewa (5) v Ellerslie (10)
Jellicoe Park, 3pm
East Coast Bays (4) v Waitemata (7)
Bay City Park, 3pm
Tauranga City (8) v Onehunga Mangere United (promoted)
Links Ave Reserve, 3pm
Northern Rovers (relegated) v Albany United (3)
McFetridge Park, 3pm
CLICK HERE to read: Five clubs go into 2022 Lotto NRFL first division season with new head coaches >>>>
Lotto NRFL men’s division 2
Division 2 awaits the outcome of the promotion play-off series between Papakura City and Ngaruawahia United before it starts its fixture schedule.
The sides drew 2-2 at Papakura’s McLennan Park on Tuesday (click here for details) and go head-to-head at Ngaruawahia’s Centennial Park at 2pm on Saturday.
Sunday – NRFL Women’s Premier League
We predict another tight season similar to last year when the gap between first and fourth-placed team was sufficiently close to ensure hotly-contest games most weekends.
West Coast Rangers v Eastern Suburbs
Fred Taylor Park, Whenuapai
Eastern Suburbs will want to defend their title, no mistake, and they will be keen to make a statement with a strong win at West Coast Rangers.
Auckland United v Western Springs
Keith Hay Park, 1pm
Ellerslie v Tauranga City
Michaels Ave Reserve, 3pm
How they finished last year
Kate Sheppard Cup final
The Hamilton Wanderers and Northern Rovers game will be held over because of the Waikato side’s appearance in the Kate Sheppard Cup final against Wellington United.
The game kicks off at 2pm on Sunday and will be live-streamed by Sky Sports NEXT.
Northern League returns
Click here for our preview of the Northern League’s opening weekend >>>>