For most of my 18 years playing football, I was at the back, defending, because I was never quick enough to play anywhere else.
As my body grew and my reflexes didn't, size-13 football boots became more of an inhibitor rather than an asset, except in those cases which required poking the ball away from a fast-footed forward facing goal, ready to pounce.
As someone who probably could have done with a bit more speed training in my formative years, I've had many altercations with flashy strikers who do enough step overs to fill any centre half with a certain level of anger and contempt.
One instance stands out above the rest when I was playing in Palmerston North's premier men's club competition a few years ago. After an unfortunate and accidental elbow to a striker's face from yours truly as I was backing up under a high ball, the player exploded into a verbal tirade of abuse and swearing.
Minutes later, he had slammed into me off the ball, sending me flying. He would run alongside me, threatening me as I went for the ball or simply moved across the backline.
Thankfully we won the game, but I distinctly remember not shaking his hand after the game, still fuming at his childish approach to what was an unintentional clash of bodies.
Looking back now, I wish I had shaken his hand. I wish I had looked him in the eye and told him to look at the scoreboard. By not shaking his hand, it inflamed the situation, something which clearly gave the player more satisfaction, knowing he had rattled me.
This would have to be the worst thing I've ever been involved in on a football field and I can assure you every bit of it is true. But I know from experience and through the grapevine, most players have been through something similar.
At the senior club level, it's way too common. I can't speak for the women's game, but if I did, I'd say men would be much worse.
Senior men's football is an interesting environment to come into as a young player. Instead of playing boys around your age, weight and height, suddenly you're up against players two or three times your age (and weight in some cases).
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You're dealing with players who are from a different generation, one which accepts an over-physical style of play as the norm, and carries a distinct disrespect for younger, smaller players navigating their transition into the club scene.
If you read your Northern Advocate sports section on Thursday, you may have been surprised to hear the kind of serious incidents which occur in Northland and Auckland football on a regular basis.
Serious incidents, broadly defined as racist, sexist, violent and anti-social behaviour, which have been recorded by the Northland and Auckland football federations (NFF/AFF) in 2019 include: continued abuse of match officials by players, coaches and spectators, violent incidents on- and off-field, and numerous counts of anti-social conduct by players, coaches and supporters across all grades.
In Auckland, two serious incidents involving an alleged assault by an adult on a child under 18 years of age and the alleged physical and verbal intimidation of an opposition at an under-12 grade competition have occurred this season.
NFF have said there is no significant change between the number of serious incidents which have occurred at this point in the season compared to 2018. This alone should be enough to tell everybody in Northland football that things need to change.
It's not just players who have to experience these incidents, abuse towards referees is a big part of this issue too. In that story, NFF acting referee development officer Warren Bunn was quoted as saying dissent towards match officials is on the rise in Northland.
For what it's worth, I applaud Bunn for coming forward and shining a light on an issue which needs desperate attention. Northland has lost six referees in the last two years and if this kind of behaviour continues, you're only going to lose more.
And what then? We play with a referee from one of the clubs playing. Anyone who has played any sport without a neutral referee knows how well that goes down. Any decision in favour of the referee's club or against the opposing team is immediately chalked up to bias and it inflames tensions even further.
I've seen and heard enough to know there are a lot of players in Northland who have experienced similar incidents to that I did in Palmerston North. The way things are going, that doesn't look to be changing any time soon.
In my view, there is only so much the NFF can and will do to curb this kind of behaviour. The real onus is on the clubs themselves.
I know of a few clubs in Northland who have got rid of the dead weight, the ones who tarnished these clubs' reputations. For that, they should receive enormous respect. Taking action in these circumstances is much easier said than done, especially in a community where everyone knows everyone.
As a millennial, I often wonder whether these problems will still persist when a more socially aware generation becomes the old heads of club sport. But it really is a fantasy to think we won't adopt those same attitudes when we finally receive the power that comes with experience.
So to clubs, I would say: don't be afraid to move in the right direction. Don't be afraid to distance yourselves from players who act on the field in a way unacceptable in a school or work environment.
Otherwise the cycle will simply go round again, and the sport will suffer because of it.