Time for your weekly edition of the ASB Premiership Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Today, we're covering Ivan Vicelich, off-season signings, Chad Coombes and much more.
Four years ago, I stopped playing football in New Zealand's national league when my new job as NZ Herald online sports editor clashed with my role of sitting on the bench for Waitakere United on weekends.
I still remember the day I finally decided to prioritise the pen over the ball, it was when 100kg, 40-year old player-coach Neil Emblen decided he was a better option than me to come off the bench as a striker. He was right.
But I did enjoy some highlights across the years. I'm still Waikato FC/ WaiBOP's top scorer of all time and have played in teams with Chris Wood, Marco Rojas, Roy Krishna and Bill Tuiloma. My claim to fame is that I once started a game as striker where Wood and Rojas were both on the bench (I think they were both 14 and I went off with a pulled hamstring).
The reason you should care about the miserly career of a washed-up nobody footballer is because this season (with the help of stats-guru and WaiBOP diehard Niall Gunner) we will be writing a weekly Funbag column to answer all your ASB Premiership queries, so I thought credentials should be presented. - Steve Holloway.
Every Friday we will answer the best questions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com about the ASB Premiership in a Herald Funbag, where nothing is off limits.
Big Sal from New Lynn:
Where would a team made up of 11 Ivan Vicelich's finish in this year's competition?
Team Ivan would be an incredibly sensible, lanky, beast of a team that would bore the bejesus out of their passionate Croatian fan base. Their back four would be an iron curtain, their midfield filled with thoughtful positioning and aerial dominance, and they'd have two decent old fashioned target men up front. I remember a season in 2010 when All White centre back Che Bunce was converted to play as a striker for a season in the Northern Premier League, and he was a revelation, scoring 16 goals in 18 games. I bet Vicelich could do a similar job at ASB Prem level. Team Ivan would single-handedly support New Zealand's Alice-band market, dominate the league at set plays, have an average age of 39 and a pretty well versed half time team talk, but would possess two glaring weaknesses; pace and a decent goalkeeper. Tricky, nippy wingers would be Team Ivan's kryptonite, and his side would struggle with fatigue late in games. But they'd grind their way to a sixth place finish in the eight team league, mostly through 0-0 draws, and would finish above Southern United and WaiBOP. - SH
Gregor from Tauranga:
Which players from this year's comp should/could be playing pro?
As Auckland City displayed at last year's Club World Cup, the gap between the top of the ASB Premiership and professional football is closing every year. Auckland defenders Angel Berlanga, Takuya Iwata and Mario Bilen are all good enough to play A-League, while Ryan DeVries would likely be a pro if he lived in a different country. There are four players (Aaron Clapham, Emiliano Tade, De Vries and Jake Butler) that fall into the ASB purgatory, too good for the national league but not quite good enough to make a living from the game. - SH
Mark from Huntly
Can any team other than Auckland City realistically win the league this year?
No. Waitakere have recruited well in the off season and will push Team Wellington close for second place but neither team have the resources, technical ability, quality of player and quality of coach that Auckland possess. Auckland will cruise to the Minor Premiership title, but there is always a small chance they stumble in the one-off playoff Championship final. - SH
Yes. It would take a fool to suggest that Auckland City won't win the Minor Premiership, but the one-off nature of the finals system can be perilous for even the most dominant sides. Auckland have been the best team in the league without winning the title before - going unbeaten in 2011/2012 before being humbled in the semifinals by Team Wellington. Likewise, in 08/09 they were second best to Waitakere all year before toppling them in the final. The odds say they'll be champions, but never rule out the competition-levelling powers of one-off finals. - NA
Ben from Palmerston North
Hey boys, firstly love the idea of a Funbag. The ASB Prem needs as much media support as it can get and I think this is a great initiative. Can you fill us in on all the off-season player movement?
The big winners in the off-season meat market are Waitakere who have added Aaron Scott (From WaiBOP), Michael Gwyther (Team Wellington), Sean Lovemore (Hawkes Bay), Chad Coombes (WaiBOP) and Craig Wylie (WaiBOP). They've cut ties with former All Whites Andy Boyens and David Mulligan but have also signed Eastern Suburbs' UK imports Brandon Barnes and Tom Shaw to give them plenty of attacking options. To me, the squad looks good for second place. Team Wellington have lost a lot of experience with strikers Jarrod Smith, Gwyther and Henry Fa-arodo moving on along with former All Whites defenders Ian Hogg and Tim Myers. They've picked up former Hawkes Bay and Waitakere goal poacher Andy Bevin. Auckland City FC have Emiliano Tade back from South America and have signed Solomon Island speedster Micah Lea'alafa and Junior All Whites Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Jesse Edge. - SH
Further down south, Southern United have made some impressive additions in their quest to become more competitive, with their three big signings being Harley Rodeka (Hawke's Bay), Stu Kelly (Canterbury) and former Otago star Tristan Prattley (Waitakere). New Canterbury United coach Willy Gerdsen has re-signed the influential Aaron Clapham as captain, and has brought in U-20 standouts Brock Messenger and Andre De Jong, as well as midfielder Gary Ogilvie from England's Conference South.
Hawke's Bay have lost three players to WaiBOP, but have snared some impressive Wellington-based replacements in Hamish Watson, Sam Mason-Smith and Cory Chettleburgh. Tom Biss returns, while there will be an air of mystery over international signings Kohei Matsumoto and Godwin Addai. Finally, WaiBOP will be hit hard by the loss of key ex-All Whites Scott and Coombes, but have a potent frontline with Federico Marquez, Maksim Manko and Dylan Stansfield. They've also added a bunch of former Wanderers SC players, including U-20's centre back Adam Mitchell. - NA
Pauly from Auckland
Waitakere play Auckland in the season opener on Sunday, what are the odds that Chad Coombes picks up a yellow card or a red card in the match?
Ah, the enigma that is Chad Coombes. A marvellous guy off the field by every account, but an all-time card accumulator on it. An analysis a few seasons back had Coombes second all-time in ASB Premiership yellows, trailing only Cole Peverley. Since the 06/07 season, Chad has picked up 31 yellows in 114 games, but only had three in his highly-impressive 14 game stint with WaiBOP last season.
Unfortunately and ironically - to answer your question, Coombes is suspended for Sunday's game due to a carry-over yellow card accumulation from last season. He'll have to wait until next week to bring back his unique brand of brilliant ball-skills and roughshod tackling. - NA
Marcus from Hastings
Why are so many lads from Hawkes Bay trading a beautiful summer in Napier for one in Hamilton with WaiBOP? Something doesn't add up.
There was a lot of talk around the traps (Such a gas-baggy sentence) that Hawke's Bay players weren't overly enamoured with head coach Brett Angell, leading to a side bereft of local players last season. However, Angell's work was mightily impressive, leading Hawke's Bay to the final.
Unfortunately, now the man who (fun fact alert!) played for Everton and scored against Chelsea has a trickier job on his hands, with three Napier City Rovers and Hawke's Bay standouts (Ryan Tinsley, Stephen Hoyle and James Hoyle) all heading north. Having also moved from Napier to Hamilton, I now feel like a real trendsetter, a meagre 17 years after the fact. All up - Angell might have to further display his coaching acumen this season for the Bay to be playoff contenders again. - NA
Reg from Herbertville
People bloody love a penalty or a shoot-out but on the evidence put forward by the under-17s and the Football Ferns this year, New Zealand is not good at the basic fundamental of scoring from the spot under pressure. What's the solution? A penalty shootout tournament. The ASB Premiership could pull it off. But it would have to take place in front of a decent crowd to put players in a real pressure cooker. The solution to that? Do it during a lull at the NRL Nines or sevens. Tell me how this isn't a great idea.
I think there is a market for a penalty shootout competition in New Zealand but the stakes would have to be high enough for people to actually give a shit. A big crowd would be a good start but you would still get too many fanny dancers who would try to take the piss with a poor man's Panenka. If the clubs who were fighting for the few remaining spots in next year's ASB Premiership competition had to qualify through a penalty shootout, during the nines, live on TV then people might care. Would this in any way improve New Zealand's penalty taking across all levels? Of course not, but our penalty revolution has to start somewhere... - SH
Got a real question you want answered next week? Email Steven.firstname.lastname@example.org or Niall.email@example.com.
The 2015/16 ASB Premiership kicks off on Sunday when Waitakere United host Auckland City at QBE Stadium at 4.35.