PREVIEW: Auckland United ready ‘to do country proud’ in Solomon Islands

New Zealand national champions Auckland United will break new ground on Tuesday when they become the first club to represent their country at the OFC Women’s Champions League. 

United, winners of the 2023 Women’s National League, will play Fiji’s Labasa in their opening game at the eight-club tournament in the Solomon Islands.

The game was rescheduled from Monday to Tuesday after adverse weather conditions disrupted the start to the tournament.

READ MORE: Weather disrupts opening games in OFC Women’s Champions League >>>>

Main photo: Auckland United won the national women’s title at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart in November. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

After fundraising $140,000 to get to the tournament, Auckland United now face the challenge of playing three group games in six days, and training and playing in humidity expected to be at least 80% and in 30-degree temperatures that the local weather office warns will feel like closer to 40-degrees.

Head coach Ben Bate told OFC Media he remains confident his side can meet the challenges.

“We are hoping to do the country proud and go deep into the tournament,” he said.

“Being the first New Zealand team to be able to attend the competition is a matter of great pride for the club, and a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to enable us to be able to attend.

“However, with past experience in qualifiers for several of the players, we view these challenges as opportunities for the team to bond.

“It’s a great opportunity for us as a team to face and overcome these challenges together.”

Auckland United coach Ben Bate … ‘we’re hoping to do the country proud.’ Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

The team features a mix of experience and youthful energy with eight players 18 and under from the 18-player squad.

Talisha Green, a tough-tackling full-back, will captain the United squad at the tournament and has been a domestic stand-out since breaking into first team football as a 15 year-old, seven years ago.

Auckland United earned the right to represent New Zealand at the 2024 OFC tournament by winning the Women’s National League grand final against Southern United in November.

They become the first New Zealand club to compete in the OFC Women’s Champions League after the withdrawal of Eastern Suburbs from the inaugural event in 2023.

It is expected that results at OFC Women’s Champions League tournaments will determine which clubs will qualify to represent Oceania at future FIFA Women’s World Cup competitions.

Fijian international striker Sofi Diyalowai (left). Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Labasa have a new coach with Roneel Ram leading a squad with seven Fijian internationals.

Labasa’s attack will be spearheaded by Sofi Diyalowai who had a strong campaign for her country at the recent OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifier tournament in Samoa.

Seven of national coach Angeline Chua’s squad will line up for Labasa Women FC in Honiara, including national captain Unaisi Tuberi.

Three players — Shayal Sindhika, Vanisha Kumar and Ema Mereia — were in the Fiji squad that finished runners-up at the Pacific Games in December.

it’s been a difficult build-up for Labasa with their preparation hampered by a lack of full squad training and poor weather.

Ram told OFC Media: “The majority of my players were in the national team, and around five live and work in Suva. As a result, we couldn’t have full squad training.

“To be honest, we have been struggling to put ourselves together. The weather has not been in our favour and it’s a well-known fact that Labasa has suffered from flooding in the past two weeks.

“All this has really hindered our preparation.

“Whenever we have a national competition, it’s not easy. All teams come prepared and are there to try their best. Being grouped with Auckland United and the defending champions will be a mammoth task, but we will try our best.”

That said, Ram has set high goals for the team who will draw on experience from last year’s competition in Papua New Guinea.

“This year, we have a different approach to the tournament. Last year was the inaugural tournament as many of us were not aware of the expectations,” he said.

“However, we now know the level of club competition in the region and we have a positive mind set. The aim is to at least qualify for the knockout stages.”


Game to be played on Tuesday March 12, 2024

Labasa (Fiji) v Auckland United (NZ)
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara, Solomon Islands, 5pm (NZT)

Game to be played on Thursday March 14, 2024

AS Academy Féminine (New Caledonia) v Auckland United (NZ)
SIFF Academy, Honiara, Solomon Islands, 2pm (NZT)

Game to be played on Sunday March 17, 2024

Auckland United (NZ) v Veitongo FC (Tonga)
SIFF Academy, Honiara, Solomon Islands, 2pm (NZT)

Knockout stages

If Auckland United finish first or second in Group B, they’ll go into the semi-finals to be played on Wednesday March 20, 2024.

The winners of those games meet in the final on Saturday March 22, 2024, at the Solomon Islands National Stadium.

Auckland United squad

Auckland United’s OFC Women’s Champions League squad prepare to leave Auckland Airport.


1 Amberley Hollis (26)


2 Talisha Green (captain), (23)
4 Greer Macintosh (21)
6 Riley Sheldon (18)
13 Holly Rennell (17)
19 Kara McGillivray (15)
21 Kate McConnell (21)


8 Danielle Canham (18)
10 Pia Vlok (15)
12 Alaina Granger (20)
16 Yume Harashima (27)
17 Penny Brill (17)
25 Piper O’Neill (15)


9 Bree Johnson (23)
11 Rene Wasi (21)
12 Alaina Granger (20)
14 Alexis Cook (18)
15 Charlotte Roche (19)
20 Poppy O’Brien (17)

Head coach

Ben Bate

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