Claudelands Rovers has signed former Hamilton Wanderers coach Jeff Sole as head coach of their premier women's team, joining current coach Tai Ballantyne.
The move comes with the prospect of a second chance of Claudelands rejoining the Lotto NRFL Premier League, with Onehunga Sports and Three Kings looking likely to merge as one club under the banner of Auckland United, leaving a free spot in the premier league.
The amalgamation of the two clubs should see Papakura AFC which was last in the LottoNRFL last season, and Claudelands Rovers, which won the WaiBOP W-League, contest a play-off for the last spot.
No official ruling has yet been made, with the Northern League saying it's waiting on the completion of the amalgamation.
"Once that status of that submission is finalised, and club status confirmed via AFF and NZF, any subsequent impact on available slots in the LOTTO NRFL will be assessed at that point in concert with NFF and WaiBOP Federations," federation communications manager Mark Casson said.
There is no exact ruling in the Northern Football League regulations for how to proceed, with the only reference to promotion and relegation saying "at the conclusion of the Women's Premier League season in an 8-team competition the lowest-placed team will be replaced in the following season by the winner of a two-leg playoff series between the winner of the AFF/NFF Women's Conference and the winner of WaiBOP Football's top Women's League."
"Should one team not wish to enter either the AFF/NFF v WaiBOP winner playoff or
an NRFL promotion/relegation playoff(s) then the other team shall be deemed to
have won said playoff(s)."
"At the conclusion of the Women's Premier League season the lowest-placed team in an 8-team competition is relegated to the relevant Federation competition for the following season. "
While the wait continues to see if Claudelands get their second chance to return to the Northern League, their director of football Mark Cossey is excited at the prospect of Jeff Sole leading the team.
"Jeff brings experience with him that will be vital to making sure we remain one of the top womens team in the Waikato," Cossey said.
"He has worked in the premier women's set-up at Hamilton Wanderers, and he's got the required skills to help the team build on their campaign last season."
Sole said he wants to continue to build on the foundation laid by Ballantyne last season.
"As a club the end goal is still getting back into the Northern League, but to be successful in that league we have to continue to grow a player base," Sole said.
"There's no good winning this possible play-off and then not being able to compete."
He said he has kept an eye on the squad during the winter, and said the players with the committed attitudes are the ones who will stand out to him.
"The players that come in and want to play and are 100 per cent committed at training are the ones who will get picked. I'm not a person who has favourites. I am into people who want to play for the team and the collective goal Tai and I have."
"Nobody is guaranteed a spot. It's a privilege to play in the first team at Claudelands, it's not your right, whether you play for New Zealand or whether you're in the A division."
"People who work hard and want to listen are those who are going to stand out. I'm not interested in players who are about themselves."
Tai Ballantyne, who coached Claudelands to a W-League championship win, and fell one game short of promotion last season, said he is excited to work with Sole.
"Having that expertise that he brings is only positive for the club."
"We are singing from the same song sheet in terms of attitude over ability. It's great to hear he has that same ethos around that."