PREVIEW: Former champs to host newcomers in Women’s National League

By Harrison Ryburn

After losing their season opener, six-time national champions, the Canterbury United Pride need to get their National League campaign back on track when they welcome Waterside Karori to English Park on Sunday.

In eight previous seasons, the Pride had lost only once in the first round of the National Women’s League, emphasising the importance of getting off to a flying start in a competition of only nine rounds.

They’ll have to find a way to turn it around against Wellington-based club Waterside Karori, who opened their first-ever National League campaign with a point.

A lack of cohesion and playing time together hurt the Pride against Auckland United in round one, suffering a 2-4 defeat to the already battle-hardened Lotto NRFL Women’s Premier League champions.

Futsal Fern Britney-Lee Nicholson. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Early goals from Alexis Cook and Rene Wasi gave Auckland United a comfortable early lead inside the first fifteen minutes at Keith Hay Park, with Canterbury struggling to find their feet.

Britney-Lee Nicholson and Nicola Dominkovich replied for the Pride, but two more Auckland United goals, from Manami Nishio and Rene Wasi, extended the hosts’ lead and made it a 4-2 advantage at the break.

The scoreline remained the same at full-time, but the Pride were much improved in the second half and found a way to shore up their defence.

Further improving upon that second stanza performance will be the aim this Sunday, and defender and former NZ Universities Futsal representative Ellena Firth will seek to make amends for the early wobbles shown by her side at Keith Hay Park.

Experienced forward Nicola Dominikovich will also be key to getting their first points on the board, having already opened her goalscoring account for the National League season.

Here are the highlights from that game:

Meanwhile, CF Waterside Karori travel south with the aim of building on a positive start to their first campaign.

The Women’s Central League champions picked up a first point following their 1-1 draw with fellow capital-based club Wellington United at Martin Luckie Park in round one.

Pepi Olliver-Bell edged Wellington United in front after just seven minutes, but Waterside Karori responded with a stunning long-range strike from Kaley Ward just after the halftime break.

Main photo: Waterside Karori players celebrate the club’s first goal at National League level.

Here are the highlights from that game:

How Waterside Karori fare against sides from outside the Capital region is the big question, and there’ll be much interest around the performance they deliver against the six-time champions at English Park.

Player to watch

Striker Kaley Ward has been their key figure this season, scoring 12 goals in the Women’s Central League, and already making her mark on the National League with a brilliant goal in the opening round.

She could have a big say in their efforts against the Canterbury United Pride, having also formerly represented the Capital Football women’s team on this stage.

Sunday’s clash promises to be intriguing as such, with the Canterbury United Pride still looking to rebuild cohesion and partnerships in just their second game of the season as a team, whilst Waterside Karori travel south with the ambition of knocking over the former national champions in just their first National League campaign.

Canterbury United Pride squad


Amber Bennett, Una Foyle, Scarlett Gray, Madeleine Iro


Shannan Delany, Ellena Firth, Lily Fisher, Xanthe Jane, Grace Johns, Ashley Mclean, Olivia Paul, Meg Simpson, Georgia Smith


Jonelle Arthur, Jasmine Barney, Chloe Bellamy, Amber De Wit, Rosie Hayman, Whitney Hepburn, Darsha Keogan, Amelia McAllister, Anna McPhie, Charlotte Mortlock, Denva Perrott, Abigail Platt, Minah Van Dam, Maia Wilkinson, Dorothy Yek


Lainey Altieri-Need, Khara Bouterey, Petra Buyck, Nicola Dominikovich, Lisa Evans, Elise Jackson, Sara Mann, Isla McPherson, Laura Newman, Britney-Lee Nicholson, Alison Noniewicz, Aimee Phillips, Katie Pugh, Charlotte Roche, Giselle Rynvos, Jayda Stewart, Lara Wall

CF Waterside Karori squad


Ariana Gray, Kya Stewart, Alisha Perry, Katia Brown, Annie Foote


Devyn Crawford, Maggie Blackburn, Mei Burden, Daphne Ranta, Jemma Hall, Emily Watt, Jess Shilton, Saskia Vosper


Margot Ramsey, Sarah Morton, Kennedy Bryant, Olivia Gibbs, Hayley Hedges-Flicking, Jenna Barry, Katie Lewis, Grace McRobie, Tory Schiltgen


Renee Bacon, Kaley Ward, Nikki Furukawa, Jade Morrissey, Emma Kruszona, Skye Solomon, Nicola Ross

How to watch

The game will be one of 46 Women’s National League games to be live-streamed under the new content partnership between NZ Football and FIFA+.

READ MORE: ‘Gamechanging’ deal to provide more live-streaming of football than ever before >>>>


Game to be played on Sunday October 1, 2023

Canterbury United Pride v CF Waterside Karori
English Park, Christchurch, 2pm

Harrison Ryburn

Harrison Ryburn is a Canterbury-based football writer.

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