As important as sporting fixtures can be, every so often people have to put them in perspective when the game of life kicks in.
Bluewater Napier City Rovers footballer Matt Hastings found that out in the past month.
"I ended up missing four weekends - three away and one at home," Hastings says after wife Reidun was 12 days overdue.
She gave birth to baby daughter Ella Elizabeth last Friday following induced labour from 9am that lasted more than 12 hours.
"She was already 2 weeks old and overdue so she came out with a whole set of hair and is extremely healthy," says the first-time father of the 8-pound, 9-ounce baby.
"She's just a bucket of love."
But games don't get much more important than Chatham Cup (knockout) as the Bill Robertson-coached Rovers prepare to play Island Bay United Coolmoves at Wakefield Park, Wellington, in the 2pm quarterfinal tomorrow.
The 28-year-old defender/midfielder, who came off the bench in the 2-2 draw against Wellington Olympic in their Lotto Central League clash in Napier last Sunday, enjoys nothing more than playing every game.
"Even though you're not playing, it's always exciting to be a part of it."
As much as he loves the game, enjoys representing the club and wants to win all the matches, fatherhood now demands he allocates time and attention to his nuclear family, too.
Despite his on-call status, the new Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United general manager stuck to the training regime of the Blues at Park Island.
"I trained on both days [Tuesday, Thursday] last week [team manager] Malcolm [Wilson] or Bill holding my cell in case Reidun was going into labour."
Fit and itching to play, Hastings realises when personal issues arise then other players have an opportunity to step into the boots of the starting XI players and sometimes make a statement, especially when the team's winning.
The Danny Wilson-captained Rovers are undefeated at Bluewater Stadium this winter and sit second on the league table, a challenging distance behind leaders Miramar Rangers.
"I'm determined to get back [into the starting XI] and I'm okay to travel.
Whether I'm on the bench or starting, I'll be taking my place to make an impact," he says before the cup quarter-final against giant-killers Bay Island who upset Miramar 3-2 in the previous round.
He is indebted to his employers, Central Football, for their understanding in giving him time off while he helps out Reidun who was discharged from the Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings on Tuesday due to complications.
"They are fantastic and knew from day one how close Reidun was to giving birth.
"I go back to office on Monday with [CEO] John McGifford giving us the best of wishes and being really supportive."
It is a quarterfinal but their bundle of joy hasn't given Hastings any nights off yet.
It's the sort of moments he's heard many fathers reflect on but he's excited to perform his domestic duties.
"I've being having late nights at the hospital.
"I was woken up by Ella at 11pm yesterday [Monday] and didn't sleep until 5am."
The nappy changing and related chores come easily to Hastings who worked as a childhood teacher when he first arrived in the Bay from Hamilton about five years ago.
He says Bay Island's mid-table Capital Premiership standing and the Rovers elite league will come to nought in the cup encounter.
"We found that out against Taradale in the first round," he says after the 2-1 derby when their Napier rivals, comprising ex-Central League and National League players, gave them a working over at Taradale Park.
As far as Hastings is concerned, the Martin Pereyra Garcia-coached Bay Island threw form books out in ending Miramar's run, end of story.
Hastings last winter coached Bay Island's Bay-born goalkeeper, William Stockill, who is a first-year commerce student at Victoria University.
"He played for us in the Prems so he'll be bigger and better after a quality game against Miramar.
"There's an old saying that once you step on the pitch mates are no longer mates and all that matters are results," he says, adding Stockill has the potential to become a sterling goalkeeper.
While Blues fans may see the cup as two matches away from national glory if they win tomorrow, Hastings hastens to emphasise there'll be 180-plus minutes of hard yakka to go in overcoming some of the country's best oppositions who are harbouring similar thoughts.
He, Robertson, captain Wilson and brother Stu Wilson are the only players in the Rovers who have tasted cup final after a tearful 2-1 loss to Wairarapa United at Palmerston North in in 2011.
"In 97 years or so the competition has not changed so we'll have to get on the bus for a four and half-hour trip to try to make it to the final."
Those who love the beautiful game in New Zealand grow up dreaming about playing in the cup and, hopefully, winning it.
As a new father, he appreciates that sharing cup glory with his daughter and grandchildren someday will be magical.
"It'll be part of the scrap book to share with Ella, only a few days after she was born," Hastings says
Goalkeeper Kyle Baxter is out of the Rovers equation tomorrow as he's serving a suspension for the red card he picked up last Sunday here in the clash against the Greeks.
Robertson reveals the Blues have dropped striker Sam Messam from their squad for the season, after the brother of All Black Liam was listed in the match programme last Sunday but conspicuous in his absence from the bench on game day.
"He thinks he should be starting and I don't think he should so we've had a difference in opinion," says the player/coach of the former Hawke's Bay United player who arrived in May after a stint in Australia.
After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Messam went to Sydney to ply his trade the following year for Dulwich Hill Club, helping them to win their first premiership title.
In 2010, he joined the Macarthur Rams outfit in the NSW Super League (two tiers below the A-League) to finish golden boot with 22 goals.
In 2011, he represented Apia Liechardt in the Premier League before helping St George in the past two years clinch the Super League crown and gain promotion to the Premier League.
"I most probably wasn't going to be able to manage his expectations," Robertson says of the 30-year-old who worked at the City Fitness gym in Napier.
Robertson is mindful the Yellow Fever will get behind Island Bay but is hoping the Bay's EPL match spectators will stay behind tomorrow to counter the impact of the home-crowd support for the hosts.
WHO: Island Bay United v Napier City Rovers.
WHEN: Tomorrow, 2pm kick off.
WHERE: Wakefield Park, Wellington.
REFEREE: Chris Kerr.
AR1/AR2: Mark Whitehead/Peter Linney.
Bluewater Napier City Rovers: 1 Jonty Underhill (GK), 2 Josh Anstis, 4 Bayley Chadderton, 5 Bill Robertson, 6 Miles John, 7 Matt Hastings, 8 Stu Wilson, 10 Andrija Ilic, 11 Andy Bevin, 12 Oli Chapman, 14 Josh Stevenson, 15 Ryan Tinsley, 16 Danny Wilson (c), 18 Angus Kilkolly, 20 Chris Greatholder, Jarrod Hastings (RGK).
Coach/player: Bill Robertson.
Manager: Malcolm Wilson.
Island Bay Coolmoves: William Stockill (GK), 2 Marcelo Riccardo, 3 James Eadie, 4 Jack Williams, 5 Mario Barcia, 6 Finn Sorger, 7 Justo Montenegro, 8 Ian Paterson, 9 Facundo Barbero, 10 Luciano Colluci, 12 Hayden Flett, 13 Paul Muollo (c), 14 Ruairi Cahill-Fleury, 15 Callum Holmes, 17 Janek Chmielewski, 19 Ronal Prasad, Washington Bgoni (RGK).
Coach: Martin Pereyra Garcia.
Manager: Poasa Tapuna.
ROADS TO QUARTERFINAL
away v Taradale FC, 2-1.
home v Wellington Olympic, 5-4.
home v Palmerston North Marist, 3-3, 5-4 after extra time.
away v Tawa FC, 4-2.
away v Wellington United, 3-1.
home v Wainuiomata, 1-0.
home v Victoria University, 2-1.
home v Miramar Rangers, 3-2.