Football: Rovers newbie wears heart on sleeve

By Anendra Singh

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Josh Anstis. PHOTO/Warren Buckland
Josh Anstis. PHOTO/Warren Buckland

He started with Taradale FC as a child but Josh Anstis always harboured ambitions to join the flagship football club in Napier.

"I used to play for Taradale but I'd been watching the Rovers since I was 5. I went to all their Central League and [former] National League games," says Anstis before the Bluewater Napier City Rovers host Wellington Olympic at Park Island, Napier, tomorrow.

When he was 14, Anstis moved to senior club level.

The 19-year-old Eastern Institute of Technology sport and recreation student is in his debut season with the Bill Robertson-coached Rovers team competing in the Lotto Central League.

A bench player, Anstis has had three starts with the Blues this winter.

Having competed at the ComputerCare Pacific Premiership level for the previous four years, he is beginning to come to grips with the hectic pace.

"It's a quicker standard and the pace is faster but I've been adjusting to it and becoming quite confident."

The Danny Wilson-captained Rovers will certainly be tested in speed stakes in the 2pm kickoff at the Bluewater Stadium tomorrow even though rain is forecast.

The Greeks beat Napier 4-2 in Wellington in the first round on May 3 but succumbed 5-4 in a Chatham Cup goal-fest at Park Island on June 2.

"If we play to our potential we can be quicker and better than they are," says Anstis of his team who are in second place on the ladder on equal 25 points with Olympic.

The Rovers also have a game in hand but Miramar Rangers appear to have an unassailable eight-point lead going into round 14 with a game in hand and a healthy goal difference of 29.

For Anstis, should he get on the park, it is simply a case of doing his job to the best of his ability as a rightback who also performs on the left.

"We have a very good chance of winning to finish second and doing very well in the cup," he says of the cup quarterfinal to be played against lower-tier Capital Premiership side Island Bay United in Wellington next Sunday.

He finds inspiration from imports Ryan Tinsley and Miles John, as well as homeboy Phil Dol.

His father, David Anstis, and stepmother Melanie have provided the platform to ensure he had everything to achieve his footballing goals.

"I enjoy playing for the club and bringing passion like no other sport in the world can offer," he says, emphasising the hunger and desire in the beautiful game was evident in the Fifa World Cup to even anyone who isn't a follower.

The determination to win and the commitment to work for others on the paddock and build on the foundation of club pride drive Anstis.

On the flip side, few can argue Olympic are equally parochial, if not more, about their club.

So much so that early last month the Greeks sacked their former All Whites and Rovers coach Mick Waitt to start focusing on "re-strengthening" for next year.

"The committee came to a point that Mick was no longer needed to do the job on the back of some poor results," Olympic skipper Mikey Halikias said yesterday.

Halikias said the last straw came on the heels of four losses on the trot, culminating in the 3-0 league defeat to promoted side Palmerston North Marist with the cup loss to the Rovers in between.

"The boys got together and thought they should be taking a different tack," he said, adding the players had high expectations.

The club committee had invested a lot of time, manpower and money into winning the league and cup but to no avail this winter.

Former chairman Stathie Tziras, who is still on the committee, had discussed the issue with Waitt before his sacking on the Monday after the game.

"I think he was pretty disappointed and thought he could add more but people were losing confidence and we have a lot of passion from outside our club.

"We're a family club and a lot of the Greek community are doing things here on a daily basis."

Under player/coach Jamie O'Connor and co-coach Simon George they had beaten Petone 1-0 first up but succumbed 4-1 to Western Suburbs away, revealing their defence was brittle although beating the Suburbs on their turf was never a given.

"We didn't have any direction from the side with Simon unavailable and Jamie playing," Halikias said, adding George had previously coached the Greeks to a Chatham Cup title in 2009 and a Central League one the following year. George isn't available tomorrow so it's imperative O'Connor remains on the sideline.

Frankly, Halikias feels Miramar have sealed the league title so that makes tomorrow's game against Rovers a pride affair to claim second place.

While they respected the Rovers and their rivals' envious club culture, the midfielder said Olympic had a proud record to preserve, too.

"It's the first time we've lost to Napier for a long time [in the cup match here]. I've been playing against them from the time I was 16 and I'm 28 years old and I can't remember too many times when they've beaten us."

Halikias said the attack-minded Greeks were coming off a 2-0 loss to the Wellington Phoenix in a friendly match and were upbeat.

"Rovers are tough and play with a lot of heart and work for each other but we'll try to keep the ball."

Olympic have signed up former club player Van Elia during the transfer window.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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