It’s now or never for two clubs who meet on Saturday to decide which of them returns to the Lotto NRFL second division, and which will spend another season in their regional competition.
Ngaruawahia United face Papakura City in the second of their two-legged promotion play-off series which starts at Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, at 2pm.
Why a 2pm kick-off?
It’s because this game could require a sudden death shoot-out if the aggregate score is locked up at 90 minutes.
They go into the game four days after drawing 2-2 at Papakura’s McLennan Park when a Munit Krishna goal late in added time saved the day for the South Aucklanders.
Main photo: Ngaruawahia United goalkeeper Patrick Steele … a national U-20 futsal rep.
Both are former division 1 clubs seeking a return to NRFL
Papakura seek a return to the Lotto NRFL after relegation in 2018.
Ngaruawahia pulled out of the Lotto NRFL in 2016, unable to sustain the costs of participation.
Both have played in the first division within the past decade and feel they are ready to rejoin the NRFL.
Large crowd expected after ease in restrictions
Chances are the game will attract a large crowd.
It’s the first chance supporters have had to attend in large numbers since the easing of COVID-related restrictions on the size of outdoor events.
In addition, Lotto NRFL second division clubs do not have fixtures on Saturday, meaning supporters of Claudelands Rovers and Cambridge are likely to head to Ngaruawahia to cast an eye over the men in green who may become their new season rivals.
How to get there
What’s at stake
The winner of the play-off series takes the final place in the Lotto NRFL’s second division.
They will join:
- Bucklands Beach (relegated from Division 1 last year)
- Beachlands Maraetai (3rd last year)
- Franklin United (4th)
- Hibiscus Coast (5th)
- Cambridge (6th)
- Northland (7th)
- Oratia United (8th)
- Claudelands Rovers (9th)
- West Auckland (promoted from NRF Conference)
West Auckland and the play-off winners will replace Uni-Mount Bohemian Celtic and Papatoetoe who were relegated last season. Greenhithe, who came 10th last year, withdrew from the competition over summer.
The promotion play-offs have produced some thrillers in years past due to the all-or-nothing nature of games with so much at stake.
Recent winners include Cambridge (2017), Onehunga Mangere United (2018) and Franklin United (2020).
Play-offs were not required in 2019 when Beachlands-Maraetai and Papatoetoe were promoted. WaiBOP Premiership champions Papamoa -— who were undefeated in 26 games back-to-back in 2019-20 — were denied the opportunity to go up because no winner was declared in the Auckland/NFF Conference.