• Nothing brings out the true colours of arch rivals better than a Chatham Cup encounter, such as the Napier City Rovers v Western Suburbs at Park Island tomorrow.
• The top two teams in
the Central League won't want to succumb to each other in a defining round of the national knockout competition because it could set the mood for the rest of winter.
Crawl out from under the cosy blanket of pre-match, post-match rituals of conviviality and you'll discover arch rivals simply can't bear the thought of losing.
Sure, pride can get in the way but that emotion is really an admission of powerlessness that tends to cloud fears of competition and dreads any opponents who want it just that much more than them.
Frankly, such rivalry is a great snapshot of one of the most riveting human behaviours because it has the propensity to be an atom away from turning into a calamity to expose one's innermost phobias.
Consequently when Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers host Western Suburbs for the second time at Park Island tomorrow this year the Bluewater Stadium faithful and opposition fans will be reading what is said between the lines or even be guilty of deducing what isn't really there.
For the Fergus Neil-captained hosts, the 2pm kick off will come on the nagging memory of a morale-sapping defeat at the hands of the Ole Academy boys who had driven a stake into their hearts three minutes into referee Martin Roil's time for a 3-2 loss in round six of the Central League encounter on April 28.
But as much as that match would have felt like a knockout affair, tomorrow is the real deal — a round four Chatham Cup clash where there'll be no place to hide.
Just as the Wellingtonians will be aware, the Blues will need no reminding that a slip will end their campaign in the national knockout cup which, like it or not, is far sexier than a league crown.
What makes it more tantalising is Blues coach Bill Robertson's troops are defending Central League champions and perched on the top rung of the table, a point above the Ben Sipploa-mentored visitors who also managed a 1-all stalemate last weekend as the sides trade places for a potential double this winter.
"It was a horrible feeling," says Neil who will know who will prevail in the clash between Miramar Rangers and Wellington Olympic in the 2pm kick off at David Farrington Park in the capital city derby today.
He says Western Suburbs have been a top unit in the two catchment areas (Capital/Central) for a few seasons now so it'll take something special to shake them down in 90 minutes.
It isn't lost on the right back that the Rovers looked comfortable in the league loss here and it had stung them when they had taken their foot off Suburbs' throats in the final few minutes.
"They had scored in the last kick of the game and nicked it, really," he reflects. "You know, funny things can happen in a [knockout] cup and we know that from last year."
The Blues unceremoniously bowed out to Wellington Premier League campaigners Upper Hutt City at Maidstone Park in just the second round of the Chatham Cup stint in June last year.
Neil doesn't believe the proud four-time cup champions have to approach the game any differently but ensure they don't lapse into complacency.
"It's a 90-minute or 120-minute game, you know, so we just can't play for 60 [minutes] and then get comfy."
The hosts will be without momentum winger Andrew Abba who is representing his birth country, Solomon Islands, at the Pacific Games in Samoa but Neil says they have enough depth to be competitive.
Uruguayan striker Martin Bueno also has left after signing a South African playing contract but the likes of Jonny McNamara and Sho Goto have been finding the net. How well the park has drained after the rain will determine the brand of footy.
Sippola, who ran on late in the league game because they have their youngest squad to date, had copped some raspberries on the sideline, akin to ex-mentor Declan Edge.