Title will be won and lost at home

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

Prompted if he had anything else to add that I had failed to ask, Grant Hastings didn't hesitate to boil his cabbage twice.

"Yes, it's a very big game. It's our last game away," the Bluewater Napier City Rovers coach said last night before their 2.30pm kick-off against Western Suburbs in Wellington today.

It is the Blues' last Lotto Central League game on the road, although Hastings emphasised the league champions will be decided at the Bluewater Stadium, in Park Island, Napier, in the coming weeks.

The third-placed Rovers host second-placed Wellington Olympic next Sunday before playing catch-up games against league leaders Wairarapa United and then fourth-placed Miramar Rangers, who found themselves derailed in the Chatham Cup semifinal last weekend after they were reduced to just eight men on the park.

Wairarapa are on 34 points after 15 games, with Olympic three points behind them (16 games), Rovers on 30 points (14 games) and Miramar on 28 points (12 games).

It's Miramar versus Wairarapa and Olympic versus Chatham Cup finalists Lower Hutt this weekend.

"It'll be huge to go down there to get three points," Hastings said of Rovers' match at Endeavour Park.

Ex-All White striker Jarrod Smith will be serving his second match suspension but everyone else will be on the team card.

"Anyone can win this season. Us, Wairarapa, Olympic or Miramar - but it'll be decided on Park Island."

Last year the league champions won on 34 points, Hastings said, but this season it'll take about 40 points.

"There are better sides in the league this year."

Hastings said if one took into account how many teams from the Central League competition had played in the Chatham Cup final in the past few years, it clearly indicated this winter league was the best in New Zealand.

Lower Hutt are in the final this month. The Rovers and winners Wairarapa were in it last winter while Miramar and Olympic have won in years before that.

Cru Bar Maycenvale United coach Dion Adams is beginning to get that sinking feeling.

"Obviously we're looking like we're relegated now," Adams said last night before tomorrow's 2pm kick off in Hastings against Tawa, who are comfortably sitting two rungs above them on 15 points.

Last-placed Vale have only four points from a win and a draw with Wellington United on 13 points.

Adams said the priority was to give the young some exposure at the top level.

He said last weekend they injected eight under-20 players but went down 4-2 to Wairarapa.

Unlike yesteryear, the league's relegated teams are automatically culled from the competition. The premiership teams from the other Central Football and Capital Football regions battle it out to see who will gain promotion to the top winter league.

Vale survived two years.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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