HB Utd v Team Wellington
Park Island, Napier
By Anendra Singh
FOR a minute it sounds like someone breaking party ice for a scotch on the rocks.
Close, but it may as well be that as Dakota Lucas gingerly moves an ice pack around on his right knee not long after working out on an exercycle machine tucked away in the corner of his room.
"I'm feeling quite good so I'm keen to get back on the field," the 21-year-old Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United soccer player says from his mother's home in Hastings before tomorrow's 2pm kick off at Park Island, Napier.
Whether coach Chris Greatholder will inject him straight into the starting line-up or bring him off the bench at Bluewater Stadium remains to be seen.
No doubt Bay-born Lucas fancies a debut start against his team from last summer, Team Wellington.
His eagerness stems from his inability to play after a prolonged and recurring knee injury that became niggly.
"I only got my surgery two weeks ago," the striker reveals, adding the surgeon feels he needs at least three to six weeks to recover.
Based on his own assessment, Lucas is willing to put his body to the test after keyhole surgery at Royston Hospital, in Hastings, to repair the broken cartilage that prevented him from bending his knee.
Fervour aside, Lucas knows his limitations let alone any preconceived notions and expectations floating out there.
"I've been cycling and running heaps to keep fit but it's not the same as game fitness," he says.
In his first full mock game on Tuesday night following a series of light trainings, Lucas concedes he not surprisingly ran out of steam a little.
"I'll be playing smart but, obviously, my aggressiveness won't be 100 per cent," he says, partial to fulfilling the role of provider to English import striker Stephen Hoyle, who he rates highly after training sessions.
Having missed five games in what has been a dream start for the Bill Robertson-captained Bay United, Lucas believes his return to the ASB Premiership is perhaps timely with fellow former Waitakere United striker Sean Lovemore serving a one-match suspension after last Sunday's sending off at Fred Taylor Park, Auckland, in the Bay's 3-1 defeat.
"He [Lovemore] can't play on Sunday. That's good because he's got six goals so far and I've got zero so it's a good time for me to catch up with him," he says with a laugh of the speedy striker who is a goal behind Youngheart Manawatu player Tomas Mosquera in the golden boot race.
It does surprise Lucas that Lovemore picked up a red card last Sunday, something he hasn't seen before having played alongside him even in the New Zealand Under-20 squad that competed in the Fifa U20 World Cup in Colombia in August last year.
Regardless, he says the Bay franchise enticed a quality player in Lovemore who is equally adept in finishing up front when the opportunity arises.
A former Hastings Boys' High School pupil, Lucas left in 2008 to attend Mt Albert Grammar boarding school, in Auckland, to hone his skills under coach Kevin Fallon.
In the summer of 2008-09, he made his debut for Waitakere United with coach Neil Emblen at the helm.
For Lucas, who started playing the beautiful game at the age of 6, soccer was always the favourite but father Nick Lucas, a Cru Bar Maycenvale United veteran, made him play rugby too, to build his physical and mental fortitude.
Having moved from Waitakere to Team Wellington late last year, Lucas savoured the delight of making the cut for the OlyWhites' campaign for the London Games.
He played in friendly games before the Olympics and about 10-15 minutes in the last pool match against Brazil.
Emblen, he says, didn't want to risk the knee injury, thus the limited game time.
In winter this year, Lucas played for the Sunshine Coast Fire team in the Queensland State League of about 10 sides.
In a predominantly "young" league of a handful of older heads in each side, he had to endure the frustration of sitting on the sideline with his reinjured knee as they played in the final.
"It was my first year with Sunshine Coast and we won the league so that was cool," he says after his team pipped the opposition in a penalty shoot-out.
He intends jetting off to Melbourne next winter, hoping to secure a contract playing in the more demanding Victoria Premier League.
"It's a stronger league and has better money."
The decision to come back home to roost while recovering from his knee injury was an easy one.
With mother Frances Kepa, grandmother Mary Lucas and aunt Jo Lucas here among other relatives, he says his stay has been enjoyable.
"It's been like four to five years since I've come home for a week or two," he says, adding family ties made choosing Bay United over summer a possiblility.
"It's the best Hawke's Bay team I've seen in years and I also like working with Chrissy G."
It surprises him that Team Wellington have lost three matches from five to sit in fifth place on the table, two below Bay United.
A team that boasts some Wellington Phoenix greater squad and development players such as Henry Fa'arodo, Bay-born Tom Biss and ex-Bay United striker Hamish Watson, Wellington have played five games to the Bay's six.
Wellington coach Matt Calcott isn't probably reading too much into it but the visitors have never lost to the Bay away in eight years, including dishing out a 7-0 thrashing five years ago.
Having said that, Calcott doesn't need reminding of bringing Miramar Rangers as defending Chatham Cup winners here a few winters ago only to receive a good old-fashioned hiding at the hands of the Bluewater Napier City Rovers competing in the battle of the Central League campaigners.
The Bay are seeking to break the hoodoo of not having made the playoffs in the history of the premiership.
After two successive losses to Canterbury United and Waitakere following two wins and a draw, it's imperative they bounce back on a winning note tomorrow to keep kindling that fire of breaking down barriers.
Who: HB Utd v Team Wellington.
Where: Bluewater Stadium, Napier.
When: Tomorrow, 2pm kick-off.
Referee: Nick Waldron.
Head to head: Played 20, HB 4 wins, Wellington 12 wins, 4 draws.
HAWKE'S BAY UTD form: W-D-W-L-L.
The players: Sorely missed during last week's 4-0 reverse in Christchurch following suspension, former All Whites midfielder Cole Peverley returns to the Bay squad. Leading scorer Sean Lovemore is suspended.
The vital statistics: Bay United have never beaten Wellington in a regular season ASB Premiership match at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island. A record of no wins, four draws and six defeats makes up the tale of the tape
for Bill Robertson's troops.
Squad list: 1 Richard Gillespie (GK), 2 Aaron Jones, 3 Josh Margetts, 4 Danny Wilson, 5 Bill Robertson, 6 Stephen Hindmarch, 8 Cole Peverley, 10 Stephen Hoyle, 12 Harley Rodeka, 17 Fergus Neil, 18 Dakota Lucas, 19
Rudi Bauerfiend, 20 Conor Tinnion, 21 Matt Bruin, 2- Angus Kilkolly, 26 Danyon Drake (GK).
Coach: Chris Greatholder.
TEAM WELLINGTON form: L-L-W-W-L.
The players: Cory Chettleburgh (suspended) and skipper Adam McGeorge (hamstring) are key losses for Wellington as they try to get back to their winning ways.
The vital statistics: Wellington linked two wins from two over the Bay last season and rattled in nine goals for with three against. The capital team's biggest win at Bluewater Stadium was a 7-0 thrashing five years ago. Wellington have never lost to Bay United away in eight years.
Squad list: 1 Scott Basalaj (GK), 2 Tim Schaeffers, 5 Andreas Damgaard, 7 Wiremu Patrick, 10 Henry Fa'arodo, 13 Karl Whalen, 14 Dominic Rowe, 17 Jimmy Haidakis, 18 Tom Doyle, 19 Tobias Bertsch, 20 Luke Rowe, 21 Justin Gulley, 22 Hamish Watson, 23 Tom Biss, 24 Alec Solomons, 25 Will Jones (GK).
Coach: Matt Calcott.