The Loaded WaiBOP women's football team may be out of grand final contention, but they can still have a say in who hosts the big dance.
WaiBOP complete their 2018 National Women's League campaign against Northern Lights in Hamilton tomorrow, the one side who have already claimed a spot in the final.
While WaiBOP have little to play for in terms of table position, a win for Northern could secure them top spot and a home final, so there is plenty of interest heading into the match.
WaiBOP head coach Michael Mayne was part of the New Zealand Under-17 Women's team's record-breaking World Cup campaign and was looking forward to bringing a flavour of what took place in Uruguay to Hamilton's Gower Park.
"The past month has obviously had some notable moments of interest and you will see some of the players on show on Saturday. We welcome back Georgia Candy, Grace Wisnewski and Kelli Brown to our playing squad after a massively successful time in Uruguay. The achievement of this team has not been lost on anybody in this country and I know the high these players have been on this week won't be any less dull today. Both teams will want to put out a performance to be happy with.
"For myself and Max [Tommy, WaiBOP's goalkeeper coach who also travelled with the Under-17 squad], who were able to be there and witness history being made, it was a great experience to see these players go and do things on the world stage that were unprecedented. They come back to the squad today as national heroes in the game. As much as they will deny it, they have really sparked a movement in the female game that will only become more evident over the next little while."
Mayne was hopeful the resolve his side showed in their last performance, a 1-all draw at Grand Final-chasing Auckland – would be evident again this week.
"We come into this game off the back of a massively challenging encounter with Auckland last week in which, for a number of reasons, we had only one available substitute.
"In the context of the season, a point away from home against a top team in the league was massive and really validated the commitment these players have had all the way through. The players showed a great deal of execution around the game plan and, while we conceded late again, I was totally proud of what they did that day and the way they stuck together.
"Unfortunately this season we have had to learn some of the toughest and cruellest lessons the game can throw at you, but we have spoken to the group over and over about what this does in terms of our personal development and that the benefits of these lessons are yet to come. And they will come."
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