The Chatham Cup knockout football competition is one of New Zealand's longest running national sports events, having been contested annually since 1923. Tradition dictates that when your club is knocked out, you follow the fortunes of your victors - and in turn their conquerors - all the way to the final.
Join us on our own Cup odyssey this year, as we report on cup fortunes in a similar vein. We started with first-time entrant Hamilton's Clube Alegria in the qualification round, who were beaten 2-0 by Westlake Boys High. We then followed the schoolboys as they overcame Drury 4-1 in the first round. We'll now keep following their path (or whoever beats them) through to the final on August 25-26.
Qualifiers: Clube Alegria - New kids face off against schoolboys
First round: Big school vs little club
Sorting out where your loyalties lie can get awfully complicated in Chatham Cup football.
Take the case of youth international striker Dylan Stansfield, who yesterday played for Manurewa against Central United in the northern premier league - but tomorrow will lead the line for Westlake Boys High against his own club in a second round Chatham Cup tie.
In all probability Manurewa - who won the Cup in 1978 - will win, and bomb on to bigger things, with Stansfield cup-tied on the sideline, perched alongside a coach who has gone on record as saying school teams shouldn't even be allowed in the competition.
Former New Zealand Knights striker Sean Devine is in his first season as coach of Manurewa and he really wanted handy stocks of schoolboy talent within the Manurewa system to be available to him for the Chatham Cup campaign, rather than schools such as Westlake.
Devine argues schoolboy football should be confined to midweek to free up top young players to develop quicker in more professional environments on the weekends.
"I don't think schoolboy teams should be in the Chatham Cup - it should just be the club sides all over the country to be honest," Devine said.
Westlake have already proved their worth by disposing of two clubs - Hamilton's Clube Allegria in qualifying and Drury United in the first round.
But Devine - who can look back on a professional career which included famously captaining Exeter to a 0-0 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup third round in 2005 - is unimpressed.
"I just think it would be best for their development to be involved with the club setup and the coaching we can provide. They will progress faster playing with men in a senior football league.
"Dylan is not the only one, we have two other boys from Westlake - Jack Caunter and Ben Roberts - who I would love to have available to me but they're not.
"The boys should be given the option of playing for both club and school. I think they need to address that and play the games midweek to give the boys a chance also to get out and play club football, so they're getting the best of both worlds."
"Ideally you would have them playing on Wednesday for the school so they can play for club on Saturday.
Stansfield has scored three goals in five appearances for Manurewa and Devine says he has a real shot at going overseas and "making it".
"From our point of view we'd rather he was playing with us because the boys got a lot of talent and he's learning every week, and he's learning a lot with me and Lee (Root, assistant coach) which will benefit him as well. It's just a shame we can't come to a happy medium."
Stansfield who is still able to train with Manurewa once a week said he would be in favour of schoolboy football being changed to Wednesday afternoon kick offs to allow him to play for the Club.
"I know the guys quite well who were involved with East Coast Bays and they all agreed they would love to have schoolboy footy on Wednesdays because then they could get back into it too."
However don't expect a solution any time soon. The logistics of getting across Auckland on a Wednesday afternoon in time to warm up and play a football game in winter before the light fades would challenge any school timetable, and floodlit facilities are rare.
Stansfield was unable to train with Manurewa on Thursday because he was in Hamilton with fellow New Zealand U-17 members who were honoured as Team of the Year at the New Zealand Football Awards.
Westlake beat Drury 4-1 in the previous round and Stansfield was happy with the way his side had played, despite falling 1-0 behind at half time.
"It was a difficult match and just our second game against men, but we got a few chances and we took them. We played well in the second half and were quite happy with ourselves."
Should Manurewa win, Stansfield would be delighted for them to enjoy further success in the Cup.
"They are a great bunch of guys and I will support them on their Cup run if this is the end of the road for us."
Westlake Boys High School v Manurewa
Monday, June 4
Westlake Boys High, 2pm
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