Seasons come and seasons go so Joshua Stevenson knows only too well all sorts of numbers will keep cropping up.

But what surprises Stevenson more than his 250th appearance last weekend in the 1-1 stalemate against Advanced Electrical Western Suburbs at Endeavour Park, Wellington, is his constitution.

"It was the first game I've missed through an injury for 10 years," he says before the Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers host Stop Out Sports Club at Park Island, Napier, in a 2pm kickoff in round 14 of the Ultra Footballl Central League tomorrow.

He came off the bench in the last 10 minutes against defending champions Western Suburbs last Sunday.

Advertisement

Vice-captain Stevenson was returning after a five-week recuperation from a torn hamstring.

"I've had injuries but nothing's ever stopped me from playing for 10 years which is pretty lucky, really."

But luck has little to do with the striker who prides himself on his physical fitness although the police officer will be the first to reveal times spent on the beat in a patrol car or filing reports parked behind a desk means his love of the beautiful game makes it a win-win situation.

It isn't lost on the 29-year-old the Declan Edge-coached Suburbs are "the best side going around, actually" so despite his cameo appearance it gave him an opportune time to reflect on a passionate career for the Blues.

Player/coach Bill Robertson's troops are setting the pace in the premier winter league on 31 points with Suburbs three points behind them.

However, Rovers captain James Hoyle will be mindful that third-placed Stop Out will be desperate to claim three points to leapfrog Western Suburbs perched two points above them to regain the top rung they enjoyed earlier in the season.

The Blues pipped Stop Out 2-1 in round five at Hutt Park, Wellington, on April 25.

"We're in the best position in the league but that's obviously no gimme because we play Stop Out [tomorrow] who have been consistently picking up results," says Stevenson.

Advertisement

The hosts will be without golden boot contender Martin Bueno. The Uruguayan striker is serving a match suspension for accumulated yellow cards.

"That's going to be hard for us but now I'll have to play centre forward," he says with a laugh. "It'll be pretty big shoes to fill but we'll see what happens."

Stevenson sees it as an ideal litmus test to see what his body appraisal will be in the 90-plus minutes tomorrow.

He emphasises Stop Out take no prisoners in their approach to the game.

"They are strong and a gritty team. They are just a bunch of grafters who have a couple of players who have some individual brilliance."

Stevenson says the balmy 17C-18C weather forecast should unsettle the visitors at Bluewater Stadium a little.

He is philosophical in reflecting on his campaign for the Blues, making his debut for the Hawke's Bay Pacific Premiership Rovers team when he was 15.

The stocky, solid tackler has helped clinch two Central League crowns with the Blues won during his tenure in 2012 and 2015 to add to the Napier club's league bragging rights in 1981 and 1986.

He is indebted to coaches who have persisted with him over the seasons. "There have been plenty of times when I've hit pretty poor form and I've not really been doing what they've wanted me to be doing but people have stuck with me over the years."

Stevenson is brutal in self-assessment, accepting he isn't a frills player by any sense of the imagination.

"I'm not an absolute goal getter or anything like that. I've just go that passion and desire to do stuff for the team so that's what probably keeps me in the [squad]."

He feels this season's Blues have been his most enjoyable one of his career.

"We have a really good bunch of fellows who have just had no issues with anybody, to be honest. It's been really weird because in previous seasons we've had a couple of people who generally don't get on and can cause a few problems but we just haven't had that this year."

A chuckling Stevenson agrees the strikers can be prima donnas "who are more funny about it than expectant about it".

He relishes leading the Rovers, slipping on the armband when Hoyle's been unavailable.

"I suppose it means a lot to me having been there for so long at the club so it's a privilege to lead your team and I thoroughly enjoy it."

For the record, Stevenson is picking either Belgium or France to lift the Fifa World Cup in Russia.

Wanderers captain Ethan Dent says Havelock North have focused on what they can do rather than what Wairarapa United will throw at them tomorrow. Photo/file
Wanderers captain Ethan Dent says Havelock North have focused on what they can do rather than what Wairarapa United will throw at them tomorrow. Photo/file

Building King Havelock North Wanderers kick off at 1pm against Wairarapa United in Masterton tomorrow.

The last-placed Wanderers had stunned the Phil Keinzley-coached side 6-2 at Guthrie Park, Hastings, in round five on April 25.

Wanderers captain Ethan Dent says while it was a great result and a special moment in what is a tough season they are anticipating a payback time from the hosts.

"I think Wairarapa are a bit up and down themselves but certainly with the quality they've got all over the pitch, especially in the final third with Paul Ifill and Hamish Watson as well now, they can beat any team on their day," says Dent as the villagers languish at the bottom of the ladder on nine points, three adrift from promoted Integration Works Waterside Karori as the race gathers momentum to stave off relegation in their debut season.

He believes the topsy-turvy nature of Havelock North and Wairarapa's campaigns won't make it easy to predict a result.

Surprise, Dent suspects, played a big part in their emphatic win here with the injection of Solomon Islands imports Gagame Feni and Ian Paia.

Despite Ifill scoring a goal, he believes his troops had been efficient in keeping him on a leash.

At training this week, the Wanderers have been polishing their transitional work and on their intent in the final third.

That's because they came away feeling they hadn't done enough in their 2-1 loss to Lower Hutt City here last Sunday.

"So we've been looking at ourselves more than focusing on Wairarapa, to be perfectly honest."

Wairarapa United linchpin Paul Ifill wasn't amused when Havelock North Wanderers shred them to bits at Guthrie Park, Hastings, in April. Photo/file
Wairarapa United linchpin Paul Ifill wasn't amused when Havelock North Wanderers shred them to bits at Guthrie Park, Hastings, in April. Photo/file

Everyone is healthy and available for Havelock North and Paia, coming off bereavement leave, slides back on to the bench.

"We're on a bit of a journey so as long as we're learning from week to week then we're probably doing a good service to Hawke's Bay football to bring these young boys through.

"Even if the results aren't going our way we'll keep fighting until the very end," he says with four rounds remaining after tomorrow.

Dent is picking England to win the World Cup.

"They have a great draw to the final and are playing without the pressure of the teams of yesteryear," he says.