By Jack Sharp
The annual quest for Chatham Cup glory begins this weekend as teams throughout the country take part in the preliminary round of football’s oldest club cup competition.
It’s the 100th year of the Chatham Cup and teams with low profiles get the chance to make national headlines.
This year’s competition has already produced a story of courage and determination as Gisborne Thistle prepare to play Papakura City on ANZAC Day.
With the highway between Gisborne and Napier shut after damage in February’s Cyclone Gabrielle, Thistle face playing all their Lotto Central Federation League fixtures away from home till July, forcing them to fly to games.
This weekend, they’ll fly to Napier on Saturday for a League game, and then catch an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland for their Tuesday cup tie at Papakura’s McLennan Park.
The cup has given Thistle and their Gisborne supporters something to cheer.
Team manager Mark Baple says: “Getting a win on Tuesday will be for the whole of our region, which has suffered lots of devastation from the cyclone.”
READ MORE: Cyclone forces Gisborne Thistle to undertake gruelling travel schedule >>>>
Games to watch
Cambridge v Sperm Whales
Cambridge host Auckland Sunday League side Sperm Whales in Saturday’s cup tie at John Kerkhof Park.
Last season, the Whales became the giantkillers of the competition, upsetting Lotto NRFL Second Division side Ngaruawahia United in the first round and Whangarei FC in the preliminary round.
Cambridge will need to be wary against a side that has already had a taste of cup success.
READ MORE: How a ‘bunch of mates who love playing together’ have become Chatham Cup giantkillers >>>>
Rapa Nui v West Hamilton
South Aucklanders Rapa Nui are another Sunday League outfit making their first appearance in the Auckland Sunday Football Association’s Premier League this year.
Experienced coach Ricky Espinoza, who has previously coached Manukau United, was named Rapa Nui’s coach for this season.
READ MORE: Ricky Espinoza to coach Rapa Nui in Auckland Sunday league competition >>>>
West Hamilton have had cup runs of their own in the past and whichever side wins Tuesday’s match will go into the first round draw with dreams intact.
Central United v Waitemata
Two sides who play in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Northern Conference have been drawn against each other in Tuesday’s fixture at Kiwitea Street.
Central’s start to the season has been disrupted by off-the-pitch issues relating to their promotion to the Conference, but this is the perfect chance for the club to put all that behind them.
Central United have won the Chatham Cup five times — in 1997, 1998, 2005, 2007 and 2012.
Waitemata were relegated from last season’s Lotto NRFL first division and a cup run would provide the club with a morale boost.
Pukekohe v Waipuna Rangers
Waipuna Rangers, from the Bay of Plenty, began as a bunch of mates having an after-work kickabout in 2019.
On Saturday, they’ll make their debut in the Chatham Cup.
“I wouldn’t say we’re ranked at the bottom of the Chatham Cup rankings, but we’re probably in the bottom one,” coach Mark Papworth jokes.
“But we’ll enjoy our day, and we’re pretty excited to take part in New Zealand’s most prestigious football competition.”
READ MORE: Waipuna Rangers: From casual kickabouts to Chatham Cup debut >>>>
About the Chatham Cup
READ MORE: All our previous Chatham Cup stories >>>>
READ MORE: It’s fifty years since one of the greatest Chatham Cup finals ever >>>>
Games to be played on Saturday April 22, 2023
Matamata Swifts v Papatoetoe
Matamata Domain, Matamata, 2.30pm
Bucklands Beach v Warkworth
Lloyd Elsmore Park, Pakuranga, 2pm
Glen Eden United v Colo Boys
Royal Reserve, Massey 2pm
South Auckland Rangers v Ngongotaha
Rongomai Park, Ormiston, 2pm
Te Puke United v University of Auckland
Litt Park, Te Puke, 2pm
Uni-Mount Bohemian v FC Whangarei
Bill McKinlay Park, Mt Wellington, 2pm
Pukekohe v Waipuna
Bledisloe Park, Pukekohe, 2pm
Cambridge v Sperm Whales
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 2pm
Plains Rangers v Taupo
Edgecumbe Domain, Edgecumbe, 2.30pm
Peringa United v New Plymouth Boys High School
Peringa Park, Fitzroy, Taranaki, 2pm
New Plymouth Rangers v FC Western
Merrilands Domain, New Plymouth, 2pm
Central Sports Club v Wakefield
A & P Park, Blenheim, 3pm
Western AFC (Christchurch) v Parklands United
Walter Park, Mairehau, 2.30pm
St Albans Shirley v Waimakariri United
St Albans Park, Christchurch, 2pm
Gore Wanderers v Grants Braes
Hyde Park, Southland, 3pm
Games to be played on Tuesday April 25, 2023
Papakura City v Gisborne Thistle
McLennan Park, Papakura, 1pm
Te Atatu v Mangere United
Te Atatu Peninsula Park, Te Atatu, 2pm
Central United v Waitemata
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 2pm
AFC Bohemian Celtic v Otorohanga
Michaels Ave Reserve, Ellerslie, 2pm
Papamoa v Northern United
Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa, 2pm
Rapa Nui FC v West Hamilton
Walter Massey Park, Mangere East, 2pm
Lower Hutt City v Brooklyn Northern United
Fraser Park, Taita, 2pm
Kapiti Coast United v Greytown
Weka Park, Paraparaumu, 2pm
Victoria University v Wainuiomata
Boyd Wilson Park, Wellington, 2pm
Wellington United v Seatoun
Te Whaea Park, Newtown, 2pm
Upper Hutt City v Stokes Valley
Maidstone Park, Upper Hutt, 2pm
Island Bay United v Wellington Marist
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 2pm
Paekakariki v Naenae
Campbell Park, Paekakariki, 2pm
FC Nelson v Golden Bay
Guppy Park, Nelson, 2.30pm
Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.