Solomon Islands striker Commins Menapi will not, single-handedly, win the New Zealand Football Championship for Waitakere United, but coach Steve Cain is looking to his smiling assassin to spark a much-needed resurgence.

After a close-run second behind Auckland City in the inaugural season, the West Auckland club slumped badly a year later, finishing sixth with less than half the points City gathered in defending their title.

In a flurry of off-season signings, United have retained less than half of last season's squad, with Menapi switching from YoungHeart Manawatu to spearhead their attack.

With 24 goals in 35 outings for his national side, Menapi, 29, has the credentials to net the goals United struggled to score last season.

Coach Cain needs that as he will be under pressure given the talented squad the club has signed. Led by defender Danny Hay, United have a host of past or present internationals including goalkeepers Michael Utting (vice-captain) and Simon Eaddy, Jeff Campbell, Craig Wylie, Rupesh Puna, Allan Pearce, Jason Rowley, Hone Fowler and Graham Pearce.

They have also placed a heavy emphasis on youth, with eight players eligible for the 2008 Olympic under-23 team.

Menapi, born in Lata on the island of Santa Cruz where he played his early football with the Makuru club, is looking forward to playing for an Auckland-based club for the first time.

"We have some good players and I'm sure we can challenge for the title," said Menapi who first came to New Zealand in 1999 linking with Nelson Suburbs under coach Colin Tuaa.

He returned for a second season in Nelson before switching to Australia playing for Sydney United in the old NSL for four seasons. He then had a season with St George in the NSW State League before again linking with Tuaa at Manawatu last (NZFC) season.

Asked what has been the highlight of his career, Menapi does not hesitate.

"Scoring the two goals for the Solomon Islands in our 2-2 draw with the Socceroos in Adelaide at the Oceania Cup," said Menapi.

"We won through to the World Cup and Confederations Cup qualifiers at New Zealand's expense there."

Of the move to play in New Zealand, Menapi, who has since convinced other players including Alex Maemae and Benjamin Totori to follow him here, said this was a better place for players to start their careers than going to Europe.

"There are many good young players in the Solomons and I have always encouraged them to move away and get as much experience as they can," said Menapi, who still plays for his national side.

The Waitakere squad was announced last night after their 2-0 weekend win over Manawatu in Taupo. United play their last pre-season game against Team Wellington at Papakura's McLennan Park on Saturday.

In other warm-up games over the weekend, Auckland City beat Waikato 5-1 in Huntly and Wellington edged Canterbury United 2-1.

The third NZFC kicks-off on October 14-15.


STATE OF PLAY

Commins Menapi

* Born: Lata, Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands.

* DOB: September 18, 1977.

* International: Solomon Islands national side/under-23.

* International appearances: 35 (24 goals).

* Clubs: Makuru (Solomons), Sydney United, St George (Australia), Nelson Suburbs, YoungHeart Manawatu (NZ).