Petone v Rovers
EVERY SO often in sport the unimaginable not only becomes plausible but it transcends to the realm of harsh reality.
In such times Bluewater Napier City Rovers coach Grant Hastings believes common sense should prevail.
Having to play another Lotto Central League soccer game out of three on a "tupperware pitch" in Wellington today is a case in point.
"It's more and more a realism nowadays so we just have to adapt," Hastings says before the 2.40pm kick off at the Memorial Park astro turf in Wellington today against Petone AFC.
"I can understand why they do it [play on them] but at the top-level games should be played on grass," he says of Petone, Upper Hutt and Olympic who have artificial surface home grounds.
With inclement weather in the capital city turning fields "into custard" Hastings appreciates the need for organisers to move games, especially age-group and social ones, through the astro turf fields to avoid a back log.
However, with some rain forecast today, he suspects the pitch will play truer than when it's dry.
"When there's no water the ball doesn't run on. It hits the ground, sticks and bounces up."
Defending champions Rovers haven't won a game after two rounds, losing 5-2 away to Olympic and drawing 2-2 with Lower Hutt City at Bluewater Stadium in Park Island, Napier, last Sunday.
"We'll be going for a full house," Hastings says, revealing Petone are one of the few teams below them on the league ladder. The Mark Foster-coached hosts have lost both their games.
"They are struggling ... so they'll be direct and clinical."
The trick, he reckons, is for the Blues to shorten the passes on today's pitch.
"Last week we played the long ball too much so we'll just have to keep the ball on the deck and knock it around a lot."
Playing today rather than the traditional Sundays is another adjustment in the 8am to 11pm Saturday stint, but Hastings will be the first to admit it beats the hell out of doing the same thing on a Sunday.
"We'll be doing it nine times this season but for the term to travel here [Napier] just the once is a novelty."
All said and done, he accepts it's vital to take such quirky travel arrangements within their stride to ensure the Bay is represented in the premier winter league in the region.
"Guys like Fane Morgan [teenage Western Rangers striker on debut] need to play in leagues like this to grow."
While there was much talk about how the ComputerCare Pacific Premiership (Hawke's Bay men's elite soccer league) should be played after Maycenvale president Graeme Hill failed submissions to Central Football, Hastings says the concept of promotion/relegation at the highest level.
"Look, I'd like to see another team from here [the Bay] in the Central League and another one or two from Palmerston North, too.
"All we'll need to do is for Dannevirke to push up and Woodville to get into the act in our league [Pacific Premiership]," the witty coach says with a laugh, mindful having more Bay and Palmy teams in the central League will immediately cut back the travel time to the capital city.
A more pressing need for the Blues is trying to get captain Bill Robertson on the park this winter.
Since signing an O-League deal with Waitekere United the nuggety centreback hasn't had any game time in the Paul marshall-coached 30-man squad.
"It's great for Bill, and I want to emphasise here I'm not bagging him, but he trains two nights a week with us but isn't playing for us and he certainly isn't making their [Waitakere] team."
Hastings says New Zealand Football, or whoever is responsible for policing the O-League rules, need to relax conditions that will make it possible for a player to get on the park rather than become rusty on the sidelines.
"It's frustrating for all the parties - a quality player, us and them," he says of the Englishman who also captains the Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United in the ASB Premiership in summer.
In the only change, Reiner Bauerfeind will start in the midfield after starting from the bench in previous games.