All-important National League points won’t be the only thing at stake when Napier City Rovers hosts Auckland club Eastern Suburbs on Saturday.
So too will be family pride.
The clash at Bluewater Stadium is set to see Napier City Rovers captain Jim Hoyle come up against his brother, Stephen Hoyle, and brother-in-law Adam Thurston.
It’s also a match Napier City Rovers are desperate to get points from after back-to-back heartbreaking losses in Christchurch; including last Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Cashmere Technical.
“Eastern Suburbs are one of the best teams in the country, my brother plays for them, my brother-in-law plays for them . . . it’s a big, favourite match of mine,” Hoyle said.
“Steve and I always call it the Hoyle Brothers Derby.
“I’m looking forward to it. They’re a top team and went unbeaten in the Northern League.”
Hoyle has been one of his side’s best players throughout 2023, both in their Central League and current National League campaigns. During the Central League, he brought up his 150th league appearance for the club.
The Barnsley-born player is in his ninth season with Napier City Rovers, coming to New Zealand in 2015 to join older brother Stephen who at the time was playing for the club.
Home for Jim Hoyle – who recently got engaged - is firmly Napier, while Stephen’s footballing journey has since taken him to Canada, Hamilton and now Auckland.
As well as playing for Eastern Suburbs, Stephen is also the club’s women’s director of football and coach of the club’s women’s first team; a side that is topping the women’s National League.
Work is set to see Stephen return to Hawke’s Bay early next year, having taken up the role of Central Football’s community development officer for Hawke’s Bay.
“My partner and I have been wanting to get back to Hawke’s Bay for a while now and this opportunity came up that I couldn’t refuse,” Stephen said when the appointment was made public last month.
“I am passionate about the development of Kiwi players and the game in New Zealand and I’m really looking forward to getting into the role in the New Year.”
Thurston is also no stranger to the region either, having travelled from his native UK to join Hawke’s Bay United in 2017.
Thurston had spent eight years in the Manchester United academy as a schoolboy. As well as playing for Eastern Suburbs, he is also director of Auckland-based The Pro Project football training academy.
He has young twins - Louis and Lilly - with his partner and the Hoyles’ sister, Amy.
Jim Hoyle had impressed again in his side’s gutting loss to Cashmere Technical on Sunday; on defence as always and also coming close to getting his name on the scoresheet.
In the lead-up to the match, Napier City Rovers coach Bill Robertson spoke of how frustrating it was that his team was missing out on crucial points by “fine margins”.
That trait continued on Sunday; albeit not all their own doing.
Napier City Rovers held a deserved 2-0 in the first half after an own goal by Cashmere Technical goalkeeper Alexander Boomer when he bombed a ball into the box from Cameron Emerson. Ry McLeod added a second just 20 minutes in.
The lead was cut after Garbhan Coughlan scored the first of his three goals of the match, despite match officials missing a clear offside leading up the goal.
Further pain was inflicted by the match officials shortly before halftime when Deri Corfe – one of the most fouled players in the National League – was brought down in Cashmere Technical’s penalty area.
But instead of being awarded a penalty, Corfe was inexplicably given a yellow card after officials deemed he had dived.
Napier City Rovers are no strangers to having been on the receiving end of dud calls during the National League. But the one against Corfe was arguably the most galling.
They still held the lead until the 83rd minute – six minutes after defender Jack Albertini had been sent off for a second yellow card – before eventually going down 4-2 conceding three goals in four painful minutes.
Napier City Rovers dropped to ninth on the points table after the loss. Their opponents on Saturday are in fifth spot.
The match kicks off at the earlier time of noon due to chart-topper Robbie Williams’ gig at Mission Estate Winery later in the day.
Despite the clash, Robertson hoped a strong crowd would still be on hand to cheer on Napier City Rovers in a match which is their final at home for 2023.
“We’re hoping people will come along . . . Eastern Suburbs are a huge club,” he said.
“If you look at the infrastructures of the two clubs, they’re a massive organisation in Auckland and it’s good to have a club like them coming down to play in the National League in Napier.
“It’s great that we’re in the National League competing against these big clubs. We look forward to trying to finish on a high in our last home game for the year.”
>> Napier City Rovers v Eastern Suburbs
Kick-off: Noon, Saturday
Neil Reid is a Napier-based senior reporter who covers general news, features and sport. He joined the Herald in 2014 and has 30 years of newsroom experience.