They have never won the Chatham Cup but Melville United co-coaches Michael Mayne and Sam Wilkinson went agonisingly close as players.

Mayne was a runner-up with Bay Olympic in 2010, as was Wilkinson for Melville United in 2003, when they lost 3-1 to University-Mt Wellington and incumbent skipper Aaron Scott was just a schoolboy.

"Waikato United won it in 1988 when Sam's dad, Roger Wilkinson, was in it, so that's the last time a Waikato team won the Chatham Cup before Waikato United and Melville amalgamated," explains the 34-year-old Fairfield College teacher from Hamilton before they face Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers at North Harbour Stadium on Sunday at 3pm.

With Rovers losing 2-1 to Wairarapa United in 2011 in Palmerston North, and then slipping by the same margin to Eastern Suburbs four years ago, does that make the Blues favourites?

Advertisement

"I think, historically, Napier have obviously four successes going into this game, where the bookies have made us odd favourites but we're not looking at that," Mayne says, mindful of the experience in player-coach Bill Robertson's squad.

"Probably what's worked for us is that we've been together for pretty much three seasons, so we're going to go into it like any normal game."

He believes the Northern League premier division tends to be stronger than the Central League, but then again, prefers to adhere to the edict of "anything can happen" in a cup clash.

"Both teams will get up for it, so it'll come down to who can get up the most on the day and make the [fewest] mistakes to win it."

Melville are coming off a 3-2 league loss to Central United, the feeder club to Auckland City. However, they rested Marc Evans, Liam Hayes, goalkeeper Max Tommy and Federico Marquez but started "Welsh wizard" Craig Pritchard.

"We've had seven games in three weeks, so we needed to rest a couple of players to have a full squad to select from this week," he says of a side promoted as Northern League first division champions last winter.

Melville United's Harrison Christensen-Rose celebrates scoring the red army's second goal against Bay Olympic and the side have scored 24 Chatham Cup goals this season. Photo/Photosport
Melville United's Harrison Christensen-Rose celebrates scoring the red army's second goal against Bay Olympic and the side have scored 24 Chatham Cup goals this season. Photo/Photosport

Evans and Josh Davies round off Melville's Welsh foraging trio. The former has been in New Zealand four seasons, although Pritchard is new and coming off an off-season.

However, they have a lion's share of players around the 20s under former All Whites defender Scott.

Advertisement

Asked to describe the club, Mayne says they are family orientated and perhaps Hamilton's most consistent in the past 15 years.

"We've done quite well in introducing an academy, so we're definitely a club on the rise for the past few seasons."

Victory tomorrow, he says, will be a boon not just for the club but the province.

Mayne laughs at suggestions the rain forecast for Sunday will favour Melville United but feels it'll be good for the game to have decent playing conditions.

He classes his players as "pretty versatile" in the philosophies of adopting possession-based or "direct" patterns of playing.

Cup fever has taken hold of the Gower Park faithful, just as it has the Blues, with Mayne expecting a large contingent of supporters to make the trip north in buses.