By Jack Sharp
Auckland’s top three women’s teams get their chance to assert themselves at the top of the Women’s National League this weekend — but will they be able to do it?
Eastern Suburbs (1st), Western Springs (3rd) and Auckland United (5th) all have home fixtures, and on past form, should expect maximum points.
But the opening rounds of this year’s competition suggest southern teams are aiming to shift the balance of power.
CF Wellington United (2nd), hybrid team formed by Capital Football with the club that were runners-up in the Kate Sheppard Cup, and Southern United (4th) have emerged as contenders for Grand Final spots.
Problem is they face each other in the opening game of the weekend, meeting at Wakefield Park in Wellington at 11am.
A draw won’t suit either side, and the winner of this game will be propelled into grand final contention.
By the time the result filters through, last year’s runners-up, Western Springs, will be kicking off against Wellington Phoenix Reserves at Seddon Fields.
The young Phoenix side should be no match for the Springs side, and by Saturday evening, there’s a fair chance Springs and the winner of the Wellington United/Southern United clash will be top of the table.
Main photo: Western Springs striker Sofia Garcia leads the Women’s National League Golden Boot race with five goals. Photo: Andrew Skinner / Phototek.
In Christchurch, slow starters Canterbury United Pride and newcomers Ellerslie will both be desperate for a win.
Eastern Suburbs, the only side to have maximum points after three rounds, host FC Waterside Karori on Sunday.
That will provide a marker for the Wellington side whose early fixtures have suggested they could also be capable of toppling the Auckland clubs.
Auckland United host bottom-placed Central Football on Sunday and it’s hard to see an upset at Keith Hay Park.
Player to watch
Pepi Olliver-Bell (19) has been in good form so far, scoring four goals in CF Wellington United’s three games.
She’s a talented futsal player and former NZ Secondary Schools rep player, who was a member of the Wellington United Diamonds’ who were runners-up in this year’s Kate Sheppard Cup.
The CF Wellington United v Southern United match will be a cracker.
Two good teams with plenty at stake — exactly what’s needed to boost interest in the competition.
Though a draw suits neither of them, I suspect they’ll go toe-to-toe and be forced to share the points.
Let’s say, 2-2.
Games to be played on Saturday October 14, 2023
CF Wellington United v Southern United
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, Wellington, 11am
Western Springs v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 1.30pm
Canterbury United Pride v Ellerslie
English Park, Christchurch, 5pm
Games to be played on Sunday October 15, 2023
Eastern Suburbs v CF Waterside Karori
Madills Farm, St Heliers, Auckland, 2pm
Auckland United v Central Football
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, Auckland, 3pm