Takapuna relish return to football’s top tier despite tough opening fixtures

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The 2022 Northern League fixture draw could hardly have been more challenging for Takapuna than facing big guns Eastern Suburbs and Auckland City in the first two rounds.

But newly-promoted Takapuna AFC landed the upset of the league’s opening day with their 1-0 win against Eastern Suburbs, courtesy of a Sam Robertson goal.

Click here for our round-up on last weekend’s games >>>>

In round 2, they face the challenge of a visit to champions Auckland City, 2-1 winners last week against Melville United.

Takapuna supporters are relishing the return of national-level football to Taharoto Park for the first time since 1981 when Takapuna AFC competed in the then 12-team National League.

Keenly anticipated are local derby match-ups with Birkenhead United (coached by former Takapuna player Paul Hobson) and North Shore United, something that excites men’s first-team coach Chris Milicich.

Said Milicich: “It’s great that a family-oriented club like Takapuna is coming into the top league.

“The group came together well in a short space of time last season and we’ve now got a long-term opportunity to build a consistent and relevant team worthy of the national competition.

“Takapuna have premier facilities and we’re looking forward to visiting other clubs with great facilities, something we didn’t always come across in Division One.

“We improved during a positive pre-season build-up. It’s a massive leap for us and our aim is to establish ourselves and avoid relegation.”

New signings include attacking midfielder Bronson Kelly from Northern Rovers and centre back Joss Neale from North Shore United.

Returning from last season’s successful team are experienced goalkeeper Liam Anderson with a number of younger players joining and some stepping up from Takapuna’s championship-winning U-23 Reserves side from last season.

Main photo: Leading the resurgence at Takapuna are (from left) chairman Glyn Taylor, president Wayne Hallford and head coach Chris Milicich.

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