Just because teams have elite players in the mix it doesn't mean the collective talent will mutate into anything productive on the park, come game time.
Tragically Wairarapa United fit that mould after Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers embarrassed them 9-0 in round four of the Central League encounter in Napier today.
The visitors, with Hawke's Bay United players — strikers Paul Ifill and coach Corey Chettleburgh, captain Daniel Allan and fellow defender Cameron Lindsay — were down 5-0 at halftime but it could have been their second double-figure defeat had goalkeeper Matthew King not made some fine saves in the 2pm kick-off at Park Island.
The green machine of the past, it seems, is in a state of inertia but all that shouldn't detract from the hosts' unbeaten streak of 18 on the trot.
If anything, the overwhelming performance was an endorsement of the prowess of Rovers coach Bill Robertson and his assistant, Stu James, as the defending champions should sleepwalk their way to six points and a bumper goal difference when they punch their cards for a two-match shift away against Wellington United on Easter Monday.
It was always going to be a Good Friday for the hosts and the weather gods also came out to play with a sparkling day to match the result at Bluewater Stadium.
So much so that Robertson was rolling out substitutes, including Hastings Boys' High School defender Nick Yorke, for some precious game time on the elite winter league stage.
With centre-mid Karan Mandair at an Indian tournament in Australia, Gavin Hoy, Sho Goto and Patryk Misik were clinical in the engine room to whet the appetite of those at the coal face.
Martin Bueno bagged five goals — four in the second half — perhaps posing the question if it was an opportune time to inject a budding striker in the Uruguayan import's position but, unfortunately, Robertson had used all his substitutes about midway through the second half.
Conversely, it's easy to overlook the sterling service of the defenders who kept the opposition scoreless.
Bueno revealed it was the most goals he had ever scored in a match in his career, the best previously a cluster of hattricks. His tally today included a penalty kick in the 82nd minute although referee Mark Rule had turned down a couple of other appeals in both halves.
"We always have to ask for the penalty but sometimes it's a 50-50 decision for the referees so this time it was better for the team," said the 27-year-old who now has seven goals from three matches.
Bueno, who is in danger of becoming typecast as a penalty seeker, said it was imperative to maintain that sort of confidence because the Rovers were gunning for a better strike rate with the Chatham Cup campaign looming.
The Blues raided the Wairarapa goal at will from kick-off, with Andrew Abba in the thick of them. The veteran Solomon Islander eventually ignited a passage of play that saw Hoy push the hosts to a 1-0 lead from a crisp finish inside the 18m box to leave Wairarapa goalkeeper Matthew King stranded in the 19th minute.
Bueno then extended the lead, drilling the ball into the roof of the net after a hive of activity in the stock exchange in the 21st minute.
The pressure mounted when centreback Allan gifted an own goal, for a 3-0 deficit, when he hoofed a Liam Schofield cross from the left flank into his net in the 35th minute.
Three minutes later, the visitors had a first shot at the opposition goal where keeper Kyle Baxter got his mitts on the ball from a feeble Mark Hemi attempt. Ifill had a chance but young Blues defender Kaeden Atkins did admirably to thwart the former Wellington Phoenix linchpin from 5m outside the right upright in the 41st minute.
But it was the Rovers who again rattled the crossbar from an Atkins header, following a cornerkick, but King denied Bueno from another header on the rebound in the 42nd minute.
At the stroke of halftime, Wilkinson made it 4-0 after Bueno unselfishly wound up to unleash a shot at the top edge of the 18m box but instead pushed it to the centreback on his right to plant it into the net.
Hoy added to further humiliation, leaving Wairarapa reeling 5-0 one minute into referee's time.
When play resumed, Bueno scored in the 66th minute before bringing up his hattrick in the 69th to make it 7-0. His penalty kick came in the 82nd minute and the salt in the wound four minutes later.
Ifill said Wairarapa were probably a year away from finding their mojo because of the no-import policy.
With several players under 16 in their squad, the results were inevitable at times.
"But I'm not blaming them because the senior players aren't good enough and we're not leading," he lamented. "You expect players who are good enough at national league level to be able to lead a group of young men and I don't think we're doing that so I don't want to blame the kids — I want to blame the older players."
From where Ifill was surveying the Wairarapa United landscape, they were in for a torrid season and their main objective was to stave off relegation from Central League.
"Obviously Wellington United are having a tough time as well," he said. "We have them in a week's time so it's important we get a win there."
Ifill said a lot of work was required in their highway project to stay afloat but the movers and shakers behind it remained adamant they would realise those goals with some understanding, time and patience.