For Claudelands women's coach Tai Ballantyne, the 2019 football season is one of development, and rebuilding a team that has endured a tough period in its proud history.

A sharp downward spiral sent Claudelands out of the Northern League last year after 24 years at the top; in that time they won the league twice and won the Kate Sheppard Cup in 2010.

Once boasting names in its squads such as former football ferns Sarah McLauchlin and Helen Arjomandi, the club will now look to its younger talent to return them to the Northern League, a task that Tai is looking forward too.

"I'm really happy with this season's squad. I can hand on heart say I believe the girls we have in the Claudelands Rovers Women's first team want to play for the right reasons; it's certainly a "we before me" team," Tai said.


"We had a early start to pre-season and its shown with a great culture forming in the team. Even before the season opener there are some strong new friendships, and solid bonds forged which will hold true when the squad need to dig deep later on in the season."

While there are fresh faces in the squad, including American import Natalie Dixon, there remains several players who have came up through the ranks at the club, including Rachel Porteous, Olivia Schuler, Rhiannon Jones, Paige McCloskey, and also Stella Neems.

Stella was one of the success stories for Claudelands last season, after breaking into the first team squad during the winter season, she was also selected to represent WaiBOP in the national women's league.

"These girls as well as others are the nucleus of what makes this an exciting team," Tai said.

"Our American import Natalie Dixon adds a great dynamic to the team, she's fit in so well and all the girls love her, she's exciting to watch on the ball."

Captain Paige McCloskey is also is singing praises for the club's latest import, saying she is excited to line up alongside Natalie.

"She's a pure talent, that will bring a lot of skill, class and many laughs to the squad," Paige said.

Paige, who hails from Tokoroa, is approaching her third year with Claudelands, and was one of the players to remain at the club after an exodus of players during 2018.


"I stayed at Claudelands this year because of the people that are still there, and wanted to continue to remain loyal to not only the team and team members but also to the club."

"This year is no doubt different to the previous years; however, I do think our side is decent and underestimated. Showcasing both talent and a strong team culture on and off the field."

Paige is looking forward to a season with Tai at the helm, saying he is practically one of the girls.

"Tai is a quality coach and has formed great relationships with many if not all of us girls."

The goal for Tai's team is simple, to return to the Northern League, but also to have fun on and off the pitch.

"Focus on the controllable elements that make the biggest difference on and off the pitch, and keep players believing in and working on the BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), which is for Claudelands Rovers Women to get back up into Northern League football."