By Jack Sharp
It’ll take a while before football folk stop calling this the Northern League second division.
The Northern League tag went two years ago, when restructuring and rebranding created the Lotto NRFL second division.
By the end of last season, most had just about got the hang of using the new name.
Now, after more tweaking of the pyramid structure of northern football, we have the Lotto NRFL Northern Conference, the counterpart to the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference.
Between them, these competitions will provide the clubs to be promoted to the Lotto NRFL Championship.
However, circumstance and geography have created very different Conference competitions.
The Southern Conference has only two clubs (Cambridge and Claudelands Rovers) from last season’s second division.
The Northern Conference has six from the second division, and two that dropped down from the ‘old’ first division (Albany United and Waitemata).
Interestingly, not one of the Northern Conference clubs comes from central Auckland — all are based on the outskirts of the city, except for Northland.
The branding may take a while to settle in but it won’t take long to see which clubs are best prepared …
Game of the week
It has to be the clash between Albany United and Waitemata, the two clubs relegated from last season’s Lotto NRFL first division.
Both had opportunities to build form and clear the relegation zone last year but they were dragged down.
They’ll be looking to start afresh and this game will flush out which is best prepared.
The game’s at Ngahue Reserve.
The battle of the west, between Oratia United and West Auckland, could throw up any sort of result.
Oratia were only confirmed as starters in this competition with a fortnight to go — after administrators ruled Central United could not take their place in the competition — so it’s hard to know whether the ‘Tia will be ready for this level of football.
READ MORE: Relegated Oratia United get reprieve as Central United miss Conference spot >>>>
West Auckland, meanwhile, have promoted last year’s assistant coach, Daniel Menzies, into the lead role, after the departure of Scott MacKay to Metro.
READ MORE: West Auckland appoint Daniel Menzies as first team coach for next season >>>>
Local rivalry often inspires high-scoring games.
I’m tipping five or more goals for this game — and it could go either way.
Games to be played on Saturday March 25, 2023
Albany United v Waitemata
Ngahue Reserve, 3pm
Oratia United v West Auckland
Crum Park, Auckland, 3pm
Franklin United v Beachlands Maraetai
Bledisloe Park, Pukekohe, 3pm
Bucklands Beach v Northland
MacLeans College, Bucklands Beach, 3pm
Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.