Football: Mark Paston surprised by HB Hall of Fame induction

By Shane Hurndell

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Calm keeper: Mark Paston during one of his numerous training sessions at Napier's Park Island. Photo/File
Calm keeper: Mark Paston during one of his numerous training sessions at Napier's Park Island. Photo/File

It was arguably the most memorable night in the history of New Zealand soccer ... November 14, 2009 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Hawke's Bay's All Whites keeper Mark Paston saved a penalty from Sayed Mohamed Adnan in the 51st minute which was enough for New Zealand to secure a 1-0 win over Bahrain and a berth in the following year's World Cup in South Africa.

Man-of-the-match Paston was midway through the post-match interviews when he realised the team bus had left him behind in the team's haste to return to their hotel and start celebrating.

There was no panic from Paston.

"Don't worry. They will return and pick me up," he calmly told reporters and the interviews continued before the bus, as Paston predicted, returned to collect him.

That calmness was a hallmark of his 36-match international career from 1997 until 2013.

It will no doubt be a feature of conversations between Paston and fans after he and Paralympian Duane Kale are inducted into the Hawke's Bay Sports Hall of Fame at the 2017 Hawke's Bay Sports Awards function which will be attended by a crowd of 500 in Taradale's Pettigrew-Green Arena tomorrow night.

Paston, now 40 and a product manager with Revera in Wellington, ranked that Cake Tin encounter and his starts in all three World Cup games as the highlights of his career.

"It's hard to separate them."

Hawke's Bay fans got an inkling he was destined for higher honours when Napier City Rovers coaches Keith Buckley and Mick Waitt selected him while he was still 16 and attending Napier Boys' High School for an away match in New Plymouth where he had 20 minutes off the bench.

"Don Finlayson was the keeper that year but didn't come back the following year so I stayed in goal. We won the National League-Chatham Cup double in 1993, the National League in 1994 and repeated the double in 2000 when Charlie Howe was coach," Paston recalled.

"I learnt a lot during those days which set me up well for my international games. Back then losing wasn't part of the culture and there were a lot of ex-professionals who I learnt a lot from," said Paston, who first made the New Zealand Under-23 team at the age of 20.

A father of three boys aged 7, 6 and 4, who all play for the Island Bay club, Paston started playing the beautiful game when he was 5 at Eskview.

When it comes to keeping, Paston was a "late starter" taking up the position as a 14-year-old after making a couple of age group rep teams as a centreback.

"I remember playing for a team which was short of a reserve keeper. We had a penalty shootout to decide who got the role, which I did, and two years later I was playing in the National League."

In 2003, the year he won the Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year award, Paston, moved to the United Kingdom to join Bradford City.

"I played the first 13 games and got the No 1 keeper's spot. I was playing well and the team was flying and then the body started falling to pieces," Paston recalled.

Injuries again nagged him when he played nine games for Walsall during the 2004-05 season. Surgery restricted Paston to two appearances with Scottish club St Johnstone.

"Injuries skittled my time in the UK which made life challenging. When the New Zealand Knights needed a keeper for their A-League campaign that gave my career a lifeline," Paston said, referring to his 10-game stint with the Knights in the 2006-07 season.

When the Knights folded he finished his professional career with 72 appearances for the Wellington Phoenix from 2007 to 2013.

It was appropriate his final outing against the Melbourne Victory was played at the Cake Tin, the venue of that memorable 2009 clash.

Always a modest bloke, Paston, said he was surprised when he heard about tomorrow night's induction.

"It wasn't something I thought of because I've been long retired. It was quite humbling when you look at some of the names on the list of those who have already been inducted."

He will be accompanied by his wife Amie, parents Christine and John and his four siblings.

When asked about the advice he would give his sons if they decided to follow a similar path to him, Paston replied: "Don't be a keeper. Play up front where there is more money and more glory."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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