Season preview: Transfers make for interesting Southern League season

posted in: News, Southern League

By Logan Smith & Harrison Ryburn

With many clubs facing a raft of personnel changes, an interesting Southern League season is ahead for football fans in the South Island.

In its fourth season under the current National League format, the league will have eight clubs from Christchurch, one club from Dunedin and one club from Nelson.

Promoted UC Football will make their Southern League debut in 2024, replacing Dunedin club Green Island who withdrew from the completion at the end of last year.

READ MORE: UC Football hold nerve in penalty shootout to win promotion to Southern League >>>>

READ MORE: FC Twenty 11 get reprieve after Green Island withdraw from Southern League >>>>

The joy of winning promotion … UC Football will play in the 2024 Southern League.

The top two finishers will qualify for the National League Championship, while the last-placed team will be relegated to their respective regional division.

As the new season beckons, we’ve analysed the teams and predicted where we think they’ll finish …

Christchurch United (1st in 2023)

Defending champions Christchurch United come into the 2024 season with extensive turnover in their squad, none more notable than the departure of head coach Paul Ifill, with Ryan Edwards arriving from Petone to take over the mantle.

READ MORE: Petone’s Ryan Edwards to replace Paul Ifill as Christchurch United head coach >>>>

Significant departures have included goalkeeper Scott Morris, leading 2023 topscorer Sam Phillip and imports such as Eoghan Stokes and Aaron O’Driscoll.

United have brought in quality arrivals such as former All White Joel Stevens, Central League Player of the Year Matt Brazier and Dutch goalkeeper Steven van Dijk, ensuring they’ve still assembled another strong squad on paper.

Brazier misses United’s opening three games after his red card in the Charity Cup.

READ MORE: Red card set to sideline Christchurch United striker for start of Southern League >>>>

The question for Ryan Edwards and his coaching staff will be how quickly the side can gel and get up to speed. A 3-0 defeat to Wellington Olympic in the Charity Cup, with nine players making their competitive debuts, certainly gives them food for thought.

READ MORE: Wellington Olympic lift Charity Cup with 3-0 win against Christchurch United >>>>

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 2nd
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 2nd

Chatham Cup winners Christchurch United landed a treble in 2023, adding the Southern League title and the English Cup to their season’s achievements. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Cashmere Technical (2nd in 2023)

Bested by Christchurch United two years in a row, National League Championship regulars Cashmere Technical will be after another Southern League tilt in 2024.

And with more continuity than some of their opponents, Technical may stand a good chance.

Led again by head coach Dan Schwarz, they will have to fill a few gaps though, most notably at centre-back and goalkeeper with the reliable Andrew Storer moving to Coastal Spirit and youngster Matt Foord joining the Wellington Phoenix.

With Ben Lapslie and Matt Tod-Smith crossing town from Christchurch United, they have added quality to their squad.

READ MORE: Cashmere Technical’s Matt Foord joins Phoenix Reserves for new season >>>>

If preseason form is anything to go by, it could be another fruitful season in the goals department, with big wins recorded over Nelson Suburbs, FC Twenty 11 and Nomads United as well as a 4-3 win against Christchurch United in the Steve Sumner Shield.

READ MORE: Rival Christchurch clubs to play for Steve Sumner Shield in pre-season match >>>>

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 1st
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 1st

Coastal Spirit (3rd in 2023)

Following a string of midtable finishes, Coastal Spirit have been one of the stories of the Southern League offseason, making their ambition to qualify for the National League very clear.

Spirit have retained a strong core and recruited from the teams around them, with American striker Alex Steinwascher signing up, while Mason Stearn and Andrew Storer join from Christchurch United and Cashmere Tech, respectively, as well as a few from Ferrymead Bays.

Robbie Stanton enters his second year in this spell as Coastal Spirit coach and will hope the new additions can add to their robust, physical style of play and help a push for a National League place.

Comfortable preseason wins against FC Twenty 11 and Nomads as well as a narrow defeat to Christchurch United will have them believing they can compete for the top places.

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 3rd
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 3rd

Richard Murray.

Dunedin City Royals (4th in 2023)

A consistent finisher in the top half of the table, Dunedin City Royals have shown promise and ambition to reach the National League but haven’t quite managed to crack it yet.

The departures of key defenders Sean Cooper (to Victoria Premier League 1 club Bulleen Lions) and Kaleb de Groot-Green (Christchurch United), captain Ollie Petersen (Waterside Karori) and attacking livewire Ben Stanley (Napier City Rovers) present some big shoes for the club to fill in 2024.

Time may tell how experienced head coach Richard Murray replaces their contribution.

But with some new signings from the Otago region, capable young players coming through and the ability to attract players as the only Southern League club in Dunedin, they’ll be eyeing another competitive season.

READ MORE: Richard Murray returns to lead Dunedin City Royals again in Southern League >>>>

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 4th
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 5th

Ferrymead Bays (5th in 2023)

Ferrymead Bays have been competitive since debuting in the Southern League in 2022, securing back-to-back 5th-place finishes.

A slew of departures to Coastal Spirit may present a challenge, however, with Ryan Stanley, Alex Meaclem and Danny Boys all making the switch.

Brothers Nikolas and William Fairley have arrived from Nomads United, as well as standout UC forward Charlie Peacocke.

Alan Walker is back in the dugout for another year, and Ferrymead will hope to keep that competitiveness and improve their final table position. They have threatened to finish higher before and know they can push the top clubs all the way.

READ MORE: Ferrymead Bays confirm coaching staff and start of pre-season programme >>>>

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 6th
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 8th

Nelson Suburbs (6th in 2023)

With Neil Connell and Ryan Stewart at the helm again, sole Nelson representative Nelson Suburbs will target improvement on a disappointing 2023.

The club showed in 2023 they had attacking quality, scoring the third-most goals in the league. However, inconsistency, defensive errors and an inability to hold leads plagued their season, most notably when they lost against Cashmere Technical after leading 4-1.

Pre-season outings have indicated that issues at the back may still need fixing.

Trevin Myers has signed on from Green Island for 2024, while a strong core of regulars should be back again. If they can amend their woes of 2023, Suburbs could be in for a strong finish.

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 7th
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 6th

Nomads United (7th in 2023)

The task for Nomads United in 2024 may be achieving a higher finish than the past two years, with particular emphasis on a strong start.

In both 2022 and 2023, the club found itself bringing up the rear of the league table in the early rounds of the season, before hitting form and recovering to finish 7th.

Attacker Cooper Goldsmith from Coastal is one notable arrival, but Nomads have also lost promising youngster Jacob Killick to UC. Riley Casewill has headed to Australia where he’s joined Victoria Premier League 2 side Beaumaris.

They’ve got continuity with club director of football Matt Jansen leading the coaching team again, and preseason victories over Dunedin City Royals and Ferrymead Bay indicate they could be off to a better start this time around.

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 5th
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 4th

Chris Brown … a challenge on his hands.

Selwyn United (9th in 2023)

The big news at Selwyn United over the summer came when head coach Lee Padmore was announced as the new academy director at Wellington Phoenix.

Padmore has been replaced by assistant coach Chris Brown, who led the side before, from 2019 to 2021, with the club qualifying for the National League in 2021.

He’s certainly got a challenge on his hands, with Selwyn slipping to 9th place in the last two seasons and narrowly avoiding relegation both times.

With an experienced squad, Selwyn will believe they can improve on two disappointing years and become a more competitive team in 2024.

READ MORE: Chris Brown takes over as head coach for Southern League’s Selwyn United >>>>

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 9th
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 10th

FC Twenty 11 (10th in 2023)

After an unexpected reprieve, after the withdrawal of Green Island, FC Twenty 11 are back in the Southern League for 2024 and will hope to avoid relegation through their own efforts this time under the leadership of new head coach Graham McCann.

Last season was challenging for the club upon promotion, struggling to compete at Southern League level and registering only six points.

Preseason has also been tough, with heavy defeats to strong Cashmere and Coastal teams.

Although there have been some departures, FC Twenty 11’s squad has at least got a year of experience at Southern League level, and under new coaching, will look for improvement.

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 10th
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 9th

UC Football coach Aldo Miramontes.

UC Football (1st in Mainland Premier League in 2023, promoted)

One thing is for sure about UC Football; they have certainly earned their place in the Southern League for 2024.

After a commanding win in the Mainland Premier League, the club defeated FC Nelson and Roslyn-Wakari over two-legged ties to earn promotion.

They will be led by Uruguayan coach Aldo Miramontes, who joins from Coastal Spirit’s U-20 team, and have signed a trio of former Spirit players in Roque Fuentes, Liam Pledger and Luke Pennington, and Jacob Killick from Nomads.

It’ll be a new adventure for the club, but if their promotion squad and newly signed Southern League experience can mix well, they have the potential to surprise.

READ MORE: Newly-promoted UC Football name coach for 2024 Southern League season >>>>

Logan Smith’s predicted finish: 8th
Harrison Ryburn’s predicted finish: 7th


Round 1 

Games to be played on Thursday March 28, 2024

Ferrymead Bays v Universities of Canterbury
Ferrymead Park, Ferrymead, 7.15pm

Christchurch United v Nomads United
United Sports Centre, Christchurch, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Friday March 29, 2024

Dunedin City Royals v Cashmere Technical
Tahuna Park, Dunedin, 12.30pm

FC Twenty 11 v Nelson Suburbs
Avonhead Park, Christchurch, 2pm

Coastal Spirit v Selwyn United
English Park, Christchurch, 2.45pm

How they finished last season

Fixtures for the 2024 Southern League can be accessed here >>>>

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