Time for your weekly edition of the ASB Premiership Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Today, the legend of Bucketman, Solomon Island sensation Micah Le'alafa and Lionel Messi in the ASB Premiership.
The corner was swung in from the left, and once again, my teammates failed to clear it properly.
The ball ricochetted out towards the opposing striker, who sent a sweet first-time volley rocketing towards the roof of the net.
Primed for action, I jumped, punching the ball over the crossbar to avert the danger.
There was only one problem.
I was not a goalkeeper. I was a left winger.
And so it came to be that instead of being the tallest winger to ever play in the New Zealand football scene (I'm 6'4" and really should have decided to be a centre back), I am here writing this prelude to the second edition of the weekly ASB Premiership Funbag hosted by myself and Steven Holloway.
Despite my unmatched ability to be unmarked at the far post, the thought of being able to watch and write about football far outweighed training all week only to play for 40 minutes on a Hamilton swamp masquerading as a football pitch.
Fortunately for you good readers, my lack of commitment and athleticism means I'm one of the few people who tuned into the ASB Premiership opener on TV this weekend.
My football credentials may be lacking, but at least my mail-answering credentials are.... well they're not great either. Let's just get to the letters already. - Niall Anderson
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.
Last week's Funbag: Where would a team of eleven Ivan Vicelich's finish in the league?
From Calum, Auckland
Is Bucketman banned from Kiwitea St or does he just prefer to watch from over the fence?
Holloway: First of all, great question Calum. This is what the Funbag is all about, getting to the heart of the big issues in New Zealand Football that no one else wants to touch. For those of you who are not familiar with the work of Bucketman, shame on you. Bucket, as I imagine his friends might call him, is an Auckland Football icon, the voice of a generation and the creator of some incredibly catchy chants.
Before embarking on a Cannon-award-level winning investigation into the life and times of Bucket this week, this was all I knew about the City crooner:
- He is at every Central United or Auckland City home game at Kiwitea Street.
- He watches games through the fence behind the northern goal, while banging on his bucket and chanting.
- His main chant, and arguably his best, is YELLOW, YELLLOOWWWW (when Central are playing)
- When Auckland City are playing he yells 'something, something City'..
I have also caught a form of tourettes from Bucket. Any time, in any situation, when someone says the word 'yellow', I immediately launch into my best, and most annoying, rendition of 'YELLOW YELLLOOOOWW'.
Anyway, here's what I now know:
- Bucketman used to live at the house behind the goal, but now may have sold it.
- Bucketman usually rocks a silver sleeveless puffer jacket.
- Bucketman is politically active.
- Bucketman owns a panel van with graffiti on it that says 'the Auckland city council isn't very good'.
- Bucketman lights fireworks at halftime, in daylight, while chanting 'pretty pretty City'.
- Bucketman has a wide range of chants but his favourite is "listen to the beat City, pass it to the feet City."
- Bucketman carries balloons on a rod.
Bucketman is not banned from Kiwitea Street, he just prefers to watch games through the fence.
Boom. Case closed.
From Grant, Tauranga
I was left speechless by the performance of Auckland's Solomon Island import Micah Lea'alafa last weekend. He looked the real deal. How good is he and how far can he go?
Rest assured you weren't the only one, Grant. Unfortunately, my job description technically doesn't allow for me to be speechless, so
As I was rattling off some of the former Pacific Island stars to grace the ASB Premiership, it struck me how difficult it can be to judge the quick, skilled, small in stature winger's chances of making it to the next level.
Benji Totori was a real problem at national league level, but flopped with the Phoenix, while Roy Krishna has proven to be more proficient at the higher level. I think the boost Lea'alafa has is his shooting prowess - he seems to have the full attacking arsenal available to him.
He reportedly had teams in Italy interested in him before joining Auckland City, so there will be scouts taking serious notice. Still, I'm not prone to making sweeping, bold statements based on small samples, but add in another goal against Hawke's Bay and he is off to a flier - a player absolutely worth keeping an eye on.
From Cordwainer, Hamilton
Will televising of national league matches this summer encourage more or less people to watch live?
Holloway: The televising of two live games a week (and a Monday night highlights show) has been a huge step in the right direction for the ASB Premiership, but it won't result in more numbers through the gate and will likely result in less - in the short term.
For example, when Waitakere United play WaiBOP next Thursday night at 7.35pm at North Harbour Stadium, that 's a tough sell for your average footy fan in Auckland. Add in the fact that any semi-interested punter can now just kick their feet up and watch on TV, and it makes their stay-at-home decision even easier. But the visibility of the league on national television, and the exposure it generates cannot be under valued. Casual sports fans will be more likely to go to more matches live, if they are aware of the league actually existing.
And if the quality of the league exceeds expectations, it's possible that in the second half of the season, we see a noticeable bump in attendance at live games.
From Dee, Mt Eden
Do you think the ASB Premiership is brewing enough local talent for our national team?
Anderson: If we were doing this purely on numbers, the national league's contribution to the All Whites would look fairly strong. Unfortunately, that would largely be as a result of Anthony Hudson's policy of testing out young players, the latest being ASB Prem products such as Clayton Lewis and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi.
Having said that, a lot of the All Whites who have been brought up playing football in New Zealand have been products of the ASB Premiership - and I do think there's an unnecessary stigma floating around in NZ football circles that significantly overrates playing at an overseas club.
For example, Aaron Clapham will get overlooked playing at Canterbury United, but I bet if he packed up his whole life and flew to play in a lower-quality competition - say, third division in Sweden - he'd be given the "Oooh, pro overseas club" boost, despite being the exact same player.
(I'm going to go play for a seventh division Bulgarian side and await my All Whites call-up).
What I'm trying to say is, I think that perfectly capable ASB Premiership players - while not perhaps being starter-quality - have been missing out on squad spots due to an intrigue of overseas players of a similar standard. It could be better, but the league is doing a satisfactory job at the moment.
From Sebastian, Remuera
If an NRFL premier league team was selected of players who were unavailable to play in the national league through work commitments or not being asked to sign for other reasons, and they trained three times a week, where would that team likely finish, assuming a good coach was in charge?
Holloway: O.k, so the big question here is what would motivate a team of high flying corporates, dads, loose units and hot heads to pull together and give it one last push in the ASB Prem?
Anyone under the age of 26 who lives in Auckland, is serious about their football, and is good (and manageable), already plays in the national league, so our hypothetical squad are all elder statesmen who no longer hold football as their No.1 priority.
So training three times a week throws up a big red flag. The turn out to training's will be horrible (the wiley old experienced crew will be full of bullsh*t, yet impossible to argue excuses like 'my babies sick') and the Gaffa will have to live with that.
Ultimately, the team's success will come down to conditioning. The 'big guns' will all still possess the ability, experience and quality to grind out results - but they would need to be fit, and need to stay motivated.
Tim Myers, Ian Hogg, Sam Mathews, Dan Morgan, James Pritchett, Jack Hobson McVeigh, Mikael Munday, Allan Pearce and Jared Colligan could form the spine of a team who would get results at national league level, but old super-coach is going to have his work cut out. Best case scenario - they finish mid table.
From Tinoi, Hutt Valley
If Lionel Messi joined Southern United, would they win the ASB Premiership?
Anderson: We all know Lionel Messi can get it done in the La Liga, but can he perform on a cold Thursday night at the Caledonian?
I can only imagine Brian Shelley's team talk for this weekend if the Argentine wizard was on the Southern United wing.
"Aite - Ross, you take Sam French. Sam, you keep an eye on Rodeka. I'll mark Stu Kelly. Aaron. Where's Aaron?? Oi, Aaron.... you mark Messi out of the game for us."
The question is not only fascinating for how many goals he would score (all of them), the crowds he would attract (the whole South Island), or the hysteria which would follow when Matt Joy inadvertently injured him at training, but the ludicrous tactics teams would use to try mark him out of the game.
Whether it'd be triple teams, or simply hacking him down whenever he receives the ball, Messi would receive the type of attention from defenders only matched by media members' infatuation with the 1982 All Whites.
To answer the question - Southern United would waltz into the playoffs where they would eventually fall to Auckland City with Ivan Vicelich putting Messi in his pocket.
Holloway: Heck yea Southern United are winning the league with Messi, they might even go close to winning the Club World Cup. If Messi-mania hit New Zealand, Southern United would become THE team to play for. Journeyman players from all over the world would sell their soul's to link up with Southern and the greatest player in the world, because this team is going to get serious exposure.
But even without a slew of new recruits, Southern would still win the league. As we saw by some of Waitakere's defending against the pacey Micah Lea'alafa last weekend, our national league defenders cannot deal with pace. Let alone pace, skill, technique, unmatched dribbling ability, a wand of a left foot and clinical finishing.
As long as he stayed injury free, the pitches were flat and he was able to get some quality service, Messi would bag a minimum of two goals a game and we would ALL watch the national league, EVERY WEEK. Someone make it happen.
From Sam, Wellington
What exactly was Jacob Spoonley doing for Hawke's Bay's equaliser?
Anderson: The question on everyone's minds who watched last night's Auckland City v Hawke's Bay United clash. For those who didn't, here is the incident Sam is referring to:
Why Spoonley is charging 30 metres out of his box to get to a ball his defence seemingly has covered and isn't particularly dangerous to start with is the big question, before he gets himself into a world of trouble, leading to a very cool finish from Hawke's Bay's Kohei Matsumoto.
I mean, check out how many defenders are between him and the goal by the time he recovers his footing:
The affable Spoonley had a solid explanation though of a mistake which before this season would have likely only been seen by few.
From Andrew, Auckland
In your last Funbag you mentioned that Craig Wylie had signed for Waitakere United this season. Is that the same Craig Wylie who made his debut as a 16-year old for the Football Kingz in 2001? Last I heard he was playing for Waitemata in the Auckland Conference League. Can you help me fill in the gaps here...
Yes Andrew, you are quite correct. Craig made his
alongside Riki Van Steeden, Chris Jackson and Paul Urlovic. Wylie has since played for WaiBOP, Auckland City and Waitakere in the national league.
This year, 31-year old Wylie spent his winter playing for Waitemata FC and has made the jump from the Auckland Federation League to the National League along with English team mate George Curry.
Waitemata, who also had former national league players Colin Gardyne, Dan Jones and Roy Bell on their books, perhaps unsurprisingly won all 22 of their games in the lower tier, scoring 122 goals at an average of five goals a game.
This week's ASB Premiership matches:
Sunday 15 November: Southern United v Waitakere United
Sunday 15 November: Wellington Phoenix v Canterbury United
Sunday 15 November: WaiBOP United v Team Wellington
Got a question you want answered next week? Email Steven.firstname.lastname@example.org or Niall.email@example.com.