Dunedin City Royals go into their Kate Sheppard Cup semi-final against Northern Rovers knowing a finals appearance might be their way of farewelling head coach Graeme Smaill.
Smaill is stepping down from coaching after being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that affects his muscles.
He will give up his head coaching role with national league side Southern United but hopes to see out the season with the Royals who he also coaches.
After having a month off work, Smail told the ODT’s Jeff Cheshire: “I was just finding it was just too much for me to try to commit to the football and then focus mainly on my health.
“So I decided, in consultation with the doctor and my family, that I needed to focus on my health and get that right first.
“It was a tough decision. I was really keen to have a crack with the girls again, and see where we went in a full national league.
“But I really didn’t think I could do the job justice when my main focus really needs to be on my health.”
Smaill faces a course of steroid treatment over 18 months to two years to treat the condition.
Last year, he guided Southern United to the women’s South Central Series title.
He told the ODT It had been difficult coaching in recent weeks, and he was grateful for the support of assistants Una Madden and Richard Smith, and team manager Patrina Roche.
“It was pretty tough,” he said.
“I was hobbling along to trainings and stuff like that. I found it hard to focus — the pain was pretty bad at times.”
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Northern Rovers v Dunedin City Royals
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 2pm
The Kate Sheppard Cup is supported by the NZ Football Foundation.