By Luke Austin
Wellington’s neutral fans have to choose between three Men’s National League fixtures on Saturday with Wellington Olympic, Petone and the Wellington Phoenix Reserves all playing at home.
Olympic will seek revenge when they meet Eastern Suburbs at Wakefield Park for the second time this season.
The Liliywhites got the better of the Central League champions in the Chatham Cup quarter-finals in July, thanks to an extra-time goal from Francis De Vries.
Main photo: Title chasers Wellington Olympic need to turn the tables on Eastern Suburbs. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Eastern Suburbs went unbeaten through the Northern League (finishing second behind the also-undefeated Auckland City) but have struggled to carry this form over to the National League so far.
They sit on two points from their opening three games and desperately need a result to kickstart their campaign.
It already looks like it will be a race between Olympic and Christchurch United to decide who will join title favourites Auckland City in the grand final.
Olympic have started well, with two wins and a draw and will know a win this weekend will be needed to remain in the top two.
Petone go into Saturday’s game looking for their first-ever National League win.
After enduring a difficult start to life in the competition with heavy defeats to Napier and Cashmere Technical, Petone secured their first points of the season with a hard-earned draw away to Eastern Suburbs last time out.
They will hope to go one better at home this weekend but face tough opposition in the form of Auckland United, who are unbeaten after three tough fixtures.
Keep an eye out for Petone striker Matt Brazier (Central League Golden Boot and MVP) and Auckland United’s creative midfielder Yousif Al-Kalisy.
The Phoenix Reserves started their National League season with back-to-back defeats against Auckland City and Christchurch United but bounced back with a win away to Manurewa.
Luke Supyk (17), who recently signed a pro contract with the first team, found the back of the net twice in that game.
They are currently equal on points with Saturday’s opponents, Napier City Rovers.
Napier will be disappointed to have surrendered a 2-0 lead to eventually lose 4-2 against Auckland City last time out.
Rovers will be without forward Jonathan McNamara and midfielder Cameron Emerson, both serving suspensions for red cards.
Rovers will hope forward Dari Corfe can continue his streak after scoring in each of Napier’s first three games.’
Players to watch
There’s so much young talent in the National League this season, and striker Jonty Bidois can be added to the list.
Bidois (18) has been a goalscoring machine for Tauranga City for the past two seasons. He was the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship Golden Boot winner this year, scoring 22 goals and helping Tauranga secure promotion to the Northern League for 2024.
Such eye-catching performances earned him a move south to Christchurch United for the National League, and he came off the bench for his club debut last weekend. His minutes may be limited at the moment, but he has the potential to ignite games and provide a goalscoring focal point for the Southern League champions off the bench.
— Harrison Ryburn
Attacking midfielder Kingsley Sinclair (22) has returned to New Zealand for the National League season with Eastern Suburbs.
The former Auckland United player ventured overseas for spells with German club Rot Weiss Oberhausen and Australian outfit Oakleigh Cannons.
Suburbs’ poor form in the national competition surely can’t continue and Sinclair could help add the spark needed.
— Jack Sharp
Having progressed through the Northern League unbeaten, it’s been a difficult start for Eastern Suburbs on the national stage.
With only two points from their first three games, they already face an uphill battle to qualify for the National League final.
It doesn’t get any easier with a trip to the Central League champions this weekend, and though Wellington Olympic dropped points last time out against Cashmere, expect a bounceback.
Olympic to win by two goals in another high-scoring fixture.
— Harrison Ryburn
Wellington Phoenix Reserves beat Manurewa 6-4 last weekend to land their first three-pointer.
Watch the highlights clip and you’ll see 10 goals in two minutes — entertaining stuff.
The Nix host a Napier City Rovers side this weekend who have conceded 11 goals in their three outings, and who will be without forward Jonathan McNamara and midfielder Cameron Emerson (suspensions).
If the Phoenix youngsters are given the freedom to cut loose, this could be another goalfest.
I’m picking a win to the Wellington side by at least a three-goal margin.
— Jack Sharp
Games to be played on Saturday October 14, 2023
Auckland City v Cashmere Technical
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 2pm
Petone v Auckland United
Petone Memorial Park, Lower Hutt, 2pm
Christchurch United v Manurewa
United Sports Centre, Christchurch, 3pm
Wellington Olympic v Eastern Suburbs
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, Wellington, 3pm
Wellington Phoenix Reserves v Napier City Rovers
Fraser Park, Lower Hutt, 7pm
Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.