The champion flagship winter football team in Hawke's Bay are questioning the selection policy of their summer counterparts as the national league beckons in October.
Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers assistant coach Stu James says it's frustrating having secured pedigree overseas players only to find at the end of their campaign they aren't going to make the cull of the Central Football franchise team despite winning the Ultra Football Central league crown this month.
"We've won the league and have a few overseas players in the squad of which only a few have been signed," says James of the Brett Angell-coached Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United team. "I would have thought other overseas players would have had the opportunity to play for Hawke's Bay United."
The 45-year-old Londoner, speaking on behalf of the club, says the Blues players have had to leave town for yet another year to ply their trade in the impending 2018-19 ISPS Handa Premiership.
"Once they go out of town it's pretty hard for us to get them back," he laments, revealing they had met the franchise on Tuesday.
Bay United general manager Shane McKenzie says the franchise will respond after they have gathered all their information.
James says it's a demoralising exercise to create a pathway for overseas talent only to find they are exposed to other affluent regions who offer incentives over winter that the Blues are unable to match.
Those who have secured Bay United contracts include Japan import midfielder Sho Goto and homegrown talent in centre-mid Karan Mandair and striker Bjorn Christensen as well as goalkeeper Mackenzie Waite, of Auckland. Christensen, Mandair and Waite were in the squad last summer.
Central League golden boot Martin Bueno, a Uruguayan striker, has signed with the Hamilton Wanderers while Canadian midfielder Patryk Misik is in the equation of Eastern Suburbs and captain James Hoyle, of England, has got something in the pipeline with a franchise outside the region.
On the flipside, James says inspirational Canadian winger Wesley Cain had represented Bay United last summer and the Rovers had offered him continuity through winter but he chose not to return to the premiership team this season.
"He's had an outstanding year for us with a smile on his face so he's going to go back to try his luck with the Canadian league so, hopefully, he'll get something there.
"Obviously, Hawke's Bay United wasn't enough for him to stay so that's a bit of shame."
The operations manager of Summerset Retirement Village feels Bay United receive handsome funds from the region's parent amateur body, Central Football, so there should be some loyalty with clubs from its catchment area when it boils down to mustering players.
"As it stands, Hawke's Bay United are in debt to Central Football by over $100,000."
James believes if Central Football pours money into Bay United then surely their squad must comprise predominantly players from their catchment area first.
"Whether it's local players or from overseas, I would have thought you must have had to play football within that Central region.
"We're hearing there is a number of players from Wairarapa United coming here and they belong to the Capital Football region."
He argues the Phil Keinzley-coached side finished eighth in the Central League so why is their muster higher than the Rovers one?
"We understand there are some players coming to play Bay United from Wellington. Why is that?
"Surely we could have picked the players from the Central region to represent Hawke's Bay United."
However, James appreciates the Bay franchise is a standalone club and, consequently, it reserves the right to select who it prefers but feels when Central Football hooks a fiscal drip feed into its arm then it loses that prerogative.
"If it wasn't for Central Football's money they wouldn't be in the league so it irks me that they don't use players from the Central League."
He suspects anyone who loves the beautiful game in the region will be astounded to find the franchise doesn't want Rovers player/coach Bill Robertson.
"He's massively disappointed because he gave up Team Wellington to come back here," he says of Robertson who has won two premiership crowns as captain/assistant coach with the capital city franchise.
It isn't a stretch, he says, for fans here to assume that the 33-year-old was on his way to assuming the mantle of head coach of Bay United.
Robertson was Bay United skipper last season, picked up the player-of-the-year award and was voted the eighth MVP in the premiership from opposition coaches.
"Then to be told by your franchise that you won't be required as a player so it's no wonder he's trying to figure out why is it," says James.
In his third season with the Napier club and second with the flagship team as assistant, James says no one can tell him the centreback isn't good enough to foot it at the national league level.
Robertson's credentials as a mentor, he says, is indisputable because the English-born has two Central League crowns to show for it.
"You can only put it down to Brett doesn't want him to work for them, as a coach or player. That's my take on it."
James says Robertson's a strong character who has high expectations and that's evident in the culture he has built around the Blues for the past few seasons.
"He'll expect the same in the Bay United set up so I imagine they are two strong personalities," he says of Angell.
However, as head coach Angell has the responsibility to work with all types of players.
"The best players, particularly, are sometimes the ones you have to work the hardest with."
It baffles him the franchise forked out money to help him become a New Zealand citizen but now doesn't want someone who is a homeboy.
"All this is going to miff football people in the area and why it's happened.
"Brett will know it's a big decision he has made and he's aware of the ramifications."
James says the Bay franchise had admirable intentions when it embarked on the premiership journey but it seems to have lost direction.
"Initially it was meant to galvanise teams in the Central region with a national league side but I don't believe it has achieved that.
"If it doesn't achieve that at the end of this season and remains in a massive debt then what happens next?"
Robertson says the decision to exclude him came as a surprise.
"I'm disappointed but I will move on," says the bloke who has made 72 appearances for Bay United.
He has accrued 92 caps with Team Wellington, including three premiership finals and 16 appearances in the Oceania League.
Robertson had 34 outing for Canterbury United where he was captain. He has three Central League crowns with the Rovers.