The grass was long but not as long as it took to kick-start the season.
Postponed from last weekend because of rain, the 2012 Lotto Pacific Premiership began on Saturday with gusto.
The premier Hawke's Bay men's soccer competition has two Taradale teams this winter.
The Jamie Hall-coached Taradale AFC are out of the Western Premiership because of a Central Football edict that demands teams play in their own regions.
Hall said they had no choice amid some debating and to-ing and fro-ing they were ready to rumble after a drive last season to give youngsters experience on the road.
The other major change is the amalgamation of resources from last winter's Gisborne outfits.
In the mould of Team Taranaki in the Western Premiership, Gisborne Thistle, Gisborne Bohemians and Lytton High School have formed a composite unit.
"We've also taken two Gisborne Boys' High School boys," Team Gisborne coach Brett Derry said, adding the initiative was to have a concerted drive to provide youth a pathway to better platforms.
"We're working with Hawke's Bay United who are backing us," Derry said, mindful of his region's inability to ever realistically have enough funds to foot it at the ASB Premiership level.
"We're playing a different style now, keeping the ball on the ground passing it around in the big Childers Road Reserve ground here.
"We're playing like Thomas Edge and I used to play by pushing it out wide a bit more," he said, hopeful also of winning the Pacific Premiership to earn the right to promotion to the higher Central League in winter.
Dale 1 Vale 1
The Warren Gilbertson-co-coached Geon Taradale drew first blood through captain Chris McIvor in the 31st minute after a fast break when he tucked the ball away past the keeper in a one-on-one situation.
Cru Bar Maycenvale United replied in the 44th minute from veteran defender Sam Stove, minus his expansive locks, when he finished off on the far post from a cornerkick at Taradale Park.
Gilbertson said goalkeeper Chris Penney had fumbled.
Veteran Perry Cotton also missed a penalty kick for the hosts in the 62nd minute after the ball clipped the crossbar.
"It was our first game in three weeks," Gilbertson said of a side who have inherited the services of former All White striker Paul Halford from their Vikings team with David Gearey crossing the floor to the Bluewater Napier City Rovers Central League team.
Vale coach Richie Howard, who was at the helm of Best Travel Havelock North Wanderers last winter, said the long grass prevented his predominantly under-20 troops from playing a free-flowing, passing game.
While not taking anything away from McIvor's finish, Howard said the goal resulted from a defensive mistake.
Substitute Jerome Groot, in his first touch, clipped the crossbar as Vale didn't drop their heads.
"They [Dale] felt they should have won but I don't agree with that," Howard said, adding a stalemate was a fair reflection.
NCR 8 Port Hill 0
At Park Island, Napier, the Terry-O'Neill-coached Promotem Napier City Rovers side thumped Ericksen Honda Port Hill United 8-0 with four goals in each half.
With a shadow Central League look about them, the hosts started their scoring spree in the 12th minute before finding the net at almost similar intervals.
Matt Single, Sven Exeter and Corey Jensen scored two each while schoolboys Josh Stewart and Cameron Emmerson completed the demolition job.
"We're basically playing people who don't make the first [Central League] team," O'Neill said.
He has inherited four Napier Boys' High School pupils who last Thursday returned from a tour of England.
"They visited Old Trafford and watched Manchester United play QPR so they were pretty excited boys," he said.
Port Hill coach Murray Loader, missing four key players including Patrick Pilz who has joined Rovers in their Central League campaign, said they were rebuilding with several new faces.
Wanderers 2 Dale AFC 2
At Guthrie Park, hosts Havelock North had a tit-for-tat affair against Taradale for a 2-2 stalemate, albeit against 10 men for the most part.
"It was a serious case of mistaken identity because the ref sent off the wrong guy," coach Hall said, adding he had emailed Central Football to put it right after the hosts confirmed Reece Corban wasn't the culprit in the 14th minute for a deliberate hand ball.
Former Vale winger Keegan Bright struck first for the visitors in the eighth minute but player/coach Anthony Floyd levelled terms six minutes later from the deliberate handball penalty kick but Bright took Dale into the breather with a 2-1 lead after tapping in a Nathaniel Wright freekick in the 38th minute.
Keiran Young equalised in the 64th minute.
Floyd said his team were predominantly in the 15-18 age group.
"It was a hard unit to break down and we wanted to give everyone a run."
Gisborne 8 Rangers 0
The killing fields of Gisborne is back in footy folklore with possibly another chapter this winter.
Jennian Homes Team Gisborne crushed Western Rangers at Childers Road Reserve after surging to a 5-0 lead at halftime.
Nick Sommerton claimed four goals, Albert Geuze a hat-trick and David Ure one in the one-sided affair against the Nathan Ross-coached Hastings club.
"We were pleased the games were postponed last weekend because otherwise the Rangers might have won and come here with their tails up," Gisborne coach Derry said.