Tracking the Cup

Tracking the Chatham Cup - one round at a time

Tracking the Cup: First round - Big school vs little club

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Westlake Boys High face Drury United in a first round proper Chatham Cup tie on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
Westlake Boys High face Drury United in a first round proper Chatham Cup tie on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

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'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

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It's been a tough fortnight for football at Westlake Boys High.

The school stands accused of bullying and pettiness after trying to pressure some of its best players to turn out for the first XI, with the issue mushrooming into prime-time tabloid TV fodder.

Against the backdrop of this very public stoush on TV One's Close Up after the school refused to accept the decision of Brendan Wyatt - and a number of other current students - to play for his club in preference to the school, Westlake now faces Drury United (at Drury) in a first round proper Chatham Cup tie on Saturday.

It is perhaps fitting that at a time when the merits of school and club football are under such scrutiny, that we should be treated to a tie between one of New Zealand's largest state schools and a non-league club which is more of a dozing dwarf than a sleeping giant.

Further, one of the schoolboys most likely to star in this contest, has happily put his school ahead of his club for Chatham Cup commitments.

Seventh former Dylan Stansfield - a striker good enough to command a starting role with northern premier league club Manurewa AFC - says the players have tried to distance themselves from the media hullabaloo and focus on the game.

The 17-year-old says the drama has hardly registered a blip on his radar, with unwilling players Wyatt, Brock Messenger and Deklan Wynne having not been involved with the first XI at all this season.

"That's their decision and we have moved on," he said. "They have not been involved with the setup and there is no distraction. We are just looking forward to the game."

Stansfield - who represented New Zealand at last year's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico - has prioritised playing for his school this season.

"I also play for Manurewa, but only when I'm not playing for the school. I played four or five games at the start of the season, but when school football started that became my priority."

Stansfield is eager to replicate Westlake's successful Cup run last year, where the side made the third round.

"I was with the New Zealand team last year when our team went on the Cup run, so I'm happy that I am available to play this time.

"The Cup means a huge deal to all of us. It's such a huge competition.
It's a great test for us especially against men. Schoolboys can compete and we are out to prove that point."

Westlake advanced through the qualification round after defeating Hamilton based Clube Alegria on Anzac Day in their first competitive match of the season.

"It was a very physical game down in Hamilton," said manager Tony Buckingham.

"They tried to knock the ball around, and we were a little bit more direct and I think that worked in our favour because we put them under a tremendous amount of pressure. It took us a while to break them down but we were pretty comfortable in the end."

Westlake won all six of their warm up games before the first game of their Auckland Secondary school season last weekend where they were beaten 3-0 by Sacred Heart.

"We came crashing down to earth on Saturday," Buckingham said. "They are probably the top team in New Zealand, and they played like it. They were coached by Danny Hay and they deserved the win, they were the better side on the day."

Buckingham said his side received great support for their Cup match in Hamilton and was hoping that the support would grow even further for their trip to Drury.

Drury, a self-described "small club at the end of the motorway", play at the Drury Sports Complex which borders the northern lane of the motorway by the Drury turnoff.

They last entered the Cup in 2001, when they were thrashed 12-0 by Hamilton Wanderers, though a year earlier they reached the third round before being beaten 3-2 by Warkworth.

Coach Kevin Snell said their entry this year reflects their desire to produce a pathway for local talent.

"We have four teams in the club this year and we have put together a solid top team that is currently winning the (Auckland) division four league," he said.

"We are a club that runs itself as a senior organisation and we were over the moon at drawing Westlake. I think it will test a lot of our older guys out."

Drury has 25 junior teams and Snell said one of the problems they faced is that their better players often get snapped up by bigger clubs in the region.

Snell said his side is comprised of "guys in their mid 20's and early 30's" and is very proud of the club culture.

"Two years ago we entered the Counties Cup and got through the first round and that was a big thing, so a win on Saturday would be huge."

In the age-old debate about school v club football, the argument traditionally unfolds that boys develop their skills quicker in senior men's play because it is more intense, much faster, with players under more pressure.

However, just as with school football, there are strong clubs and not so strong clubs.

This is a big school versus a little club.

Drury may see it differently, but this appeals as one "school v club" contest where Westlake will emerge as clear winners.

Chatham Cup Round 1
Drury United v Westlake Boys High School
Drury Sports Complex
Saturday, 12 May, 2pm

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