The Wanganui Marist FC team would certainly attest to 2016 being the year of the sporting underdog as they broke their eight-year drought with rivals Cambridge United to win the Hippo Cup for the first time last weekend.

The interclub challenge was the brainchild of Marist's Ken Graham, who played for the club from 2003-7 before moving up to the Waikato.

Graham brought his Cambridge team back to play Marist, and the clash for the Cup became an annual fixture.

After he moved back to Whanganui in 2014, Graham felt for the first time what it was like to lose the end-of-season clash last year.


However, the drought was finally broken at John Kerkhof Park as Marist scored an equalising goal midway through the second half to leave the score tied 1-1 at fulltime.

The game went to the always-agonising penalty shootout, and Marist made history by taking it 4-2, sweating on Cambridge's final attempt.

"When they missed, Cambridge just fell to their knees with disbelief," said Graham.

"The Wanganui players just huddled together, a massive hug, just absolute elation.

"For me, it was particularly pleasing because I scored one of the penalties. I've scored the most goals in the challenge, it was nice to score for Wanganui this time.

"There's a couple of guys who were young teenagers when we started this, and now they're young men."

Typical of footballers, the trophy did the rounds of Whanganui's households and local bars, with photos of it being taken in many locations with various poses.

Graham said Cambridge are eager to come to Wembley Park to try and reclaim the trophy next year, but given the Marist players love going on the road trip for the game, they may play the match at a neutral venue in Taupo so everyone can pub crawl home.


The Hippo Cup gets its name for the identifying features of the two club's home bases - Cambridge is known for horses and Whanganui is known for the river.

"Hippo is a 'river horse' - so it's a combination of the two towns," said Graham.