Rodeka waits to face old team

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor


HB Utd v Otago Utd

ASB Premiership

Park Island, Napier

ONLY THIS month Roberto Di Matteo said: "Sometimes playing against your old team gives extra motivation, sometimes it inhibits you."

That's before Chelsea got their soccer coach to walk the plank on Thursday, only to replace him with former Liverpool coach Raphael Benitez who, reportedly, will be better able to bring the best out of pricey striker Fernando Torres in a desperate need to find the net more regularly.

Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United right winger Harley Rodeka is also out of the equation in their ASB Premiership match against his former club, Otago United, in Napier, when the game kicks off tomorrow at 2pm.

But, unlike Di Matteo, Rodeka should have another shot at playing against his home team at the covered Forsyth Barr Stadium, in Dunedin, provided he's fit and in the equation of coach Chris Greatholder.

While the opening goal by Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie against his old club, Arsenal, early this month drew muted celebrations to win the respect of the Gunners' fans it's hard to say what Rodeka will do.

In 2009 fuming Gunners spectators fired an artillery of coins, lighters and even a stadium seat at Emmanuel Adebayo as he ran the length of the field to celebrate his goal against his former club in Manchester City colours.

How Rodeka will react when he finds the net, and how Blue-and-Gold fans will respond in Dunedin, will have to wait until February 3.

For now the 24-year-old Caversham AFC player will have to watch tomorrow's game from the players' perch of the Bluewater Stadium at Park Island.

The premiership website incorrectly stated midfielder Cole Peverley had collected a second yellow card in added time of the 1-1 draw against Auckland City at Kiwitea Street on Sunday.

As much as Rodeka probably prefers the website version, the card of referee Mark Hester is unlikely to re-affirm such aberrations.

"It's really disappointing. I had no intention of getting sent off during a bad tackle," he says, explaining it was one of those inexplicable moments when he went sliding into Auckland City player Takuya Iwata a second too late, "so it looked bad".

"I was pretty gutted, but that's football.

"Obviously I'll get another chance to play my old team at the [Dunedin] stadium.

"My family will be there and I'll play in front of my home team."

He is no stranger to experiencing what it's like to switch allegiances then returning to face the music.

He once crossed the floor from Caversham to Waikari United in Dunedin.

"It's a wee bit daunting, but I'm not like that now, so I'm looking forward to it."

Having come through the ranks of the Otago United youth teams, Rodeka played for the premiership side for three seasons.

So why did he switch to the Bill Robertson-captained Bay United?

"It was a good chance to get out of Dunedin to experience a new city," he says, wanting to break out of his comfort zone.

No doubt there is the burning desire to make the play-offs with a franchise, too - something Bay United is trying to attain as the only franchise not to have done so in the eight-season-old national summer league.

The former Football South employee, who relished mentoring primary pupils as the Kiwi Football coach, sees merits in helping Bay United create history this summer.

Perched on the third rung of the premiership ladder after three games on equal seven points with Auckland, Greatholder's troops are only two points below leaders Waitakere United.

It is the best start the franchise has had with two wins and a draw.

No points for guessing what the mindset is going into tomorrow's clash against a winless, pointless Otago sitting just above wooden-spooners Waikato United on goal difference.

No doubt, ticking the box of teams they can collect three points from is easy, but taking it off the underdogs isn't always a given.

Otago have shown that against Auckland, who came from behind to beat the 10-man southerners 3-1.

Born in Sydney, Rodeka quickly qualifies that he's no Aussie.

Parents Lynn and Marcel Rodeka were working there when he was born.

Born in Holland, Marcel was 6 years old when he left his birth country with his family and, no, the musician is no soccer player.

"I'm not sure where I get it from but dad has passion and loves football."

Harley Rodeka fondly recalls travelling with the Otago United under-17 side to compete in the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland in 2005.

Among the highlights was playing against Portugal giants, SC Porto, losing 3-0.

The Porto youth team joined other giants Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea in the play-offs that year.

"I remember in the Barcelona-versus-Chelsea game, Giovanni playing for Barca, so it was such a great exposure to become an international.

"To come from small city such as Dunedin in Otago, you find the level of difference in skills is incredible."

To the former Cavanagh College player, it was an eye-opener and made him want to strive for bigger and better things in soccer.

"My job in Dunedin wasn't going anywhere and there was nothing holding me back there."

Asked to describe himself as a player, Rodeka says he diligently toils for the collective.

"I do the simple things professionally and effectively. I've got a bit of pace and I'm fitting in well and enjoying playing here."

He does acknowledge the Bay have a tendency to have their wingers sit back more defensively, so it limits the ability of players of his ilk to spread their wings going forward.

"But I don't mind that because we're winning games, so it's definitely all right."

While he had no issues with his home club, Rodeka reveals the Bay United set-up is run more professionally.

"The coaches were always good with players down there, but here things are put in place to ensure players enjoy their time with the team."

He confirms Dunedin doesn't experience a decent summer and he's lapping up the predominantly spring weather here, but is bracing himself for the 30C-plus temps in peak summer.

Greatholder says the goal is primarily to make Bluewater Stadium a fortress so every home game should potentially be a three-point affair if making the premiership play-offs is the overall picture.

"I've seen the stats and video analysis on Otago and we feel they are pretty unlucky and should have had some points on the table."

He is wary of the Tristan Prattley-captained southerners who are "a better team than that" so, consequently, the Magpies will be treating them with some respect.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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