Whanganui football teams have it all to lose in their respective Central League competitions over the next few weeks.
With the end of the season looming, GJ Gardner Homes Whanganui Athletic have an iron-like grip on the Lotto Federation League, while Versatile Wanganui City remains at the top of the Yorb Horizons Premiership table with GJ Gardner Homes Whanganui Athletic Reserves right behind in second place.
All three sides have had extraordinary seasons and, while Athletic currently sit second on the Federation League table one point behind Peggy Gordons New Plymouth Rangers, Athletic have a game in hand.
Athletic continued its dominance in the league with a 6-nil thrashing of Alexander Electric Napier Marist last week and play a rare home game against Havelock North Building King on Wembley Park at 2.45pm today.
They then take on New Plymouth Rangers next week where they have the chance of claiming the title outright.
Athletic Reserves nudged their way into second on the Horizons ladder with a 2-nil win over Palmerston North Boys High School 1st X1. In doing so Athletic did their neighbours, City, a huge favour dropping PNBHS down a peg to third.
City sat out last week's round through a default allowing coach Kelvin Francis a chance to watch PNBHS first-hand against Athletic Reserves.
"I hadn't seen them play this season so it was fortunate we were defaulted against," Francis said.
"Athletic played well and deserved to beat an unusually quiet PNBHS. They did us a favour and I got the chance to watch them in action ahead of our game against them at home on Saturday.
"We are fortunate we have four games to play while the others have three. We have a chance of sowing up the title in our next couple of games, but if we don't we still have that match against Massey Reserves to fall back on."
Francis was referring to the match set aside when one of Massey's players had to be tested for Covid-19 after spending time in Auckland and then returning to train with his team, forcing the match with City to be called off.
"The player tested negative, thankfully. If we do happen to wrap the season without needing the Massey game, we will probably select our under-19 side to play at the Napier City Rovers' U19 tournament at Labour Weekend and use the Massey game as a warm-up.
"But seriously, Whanganui teams have it all to lose this season, including City. Whatever happens it's been a great season for Whanganui football," Francis said.
Ironically, Athletic Reserves play Massey Reserves at home on Wembley Park with a 12.45pm kick-off.
In contrast, the Wanganui men's hockey team has lost all chance of making the play-offs of the Manawatu Premier competition with last week's 7-1 hiding from HSHC Judd Refrigeration Premier Men. That was a must-win game to keep Wanganui's hopes alive.
Things don't get any better this weekend either when Wanganui takes on the unbeaten College Premiers.
The Phillips Electrical Whanganui High School netball girls, however, are doing themselves proud in the Pioneer New World Manawatu Secondary Schools Netball competition.
The young side finished round-robin and top-four play at the top of the table with a 47-39 win over Manukura Red last weekend. WHS head straight to the final this weekend against Manukura Black.
These two sides met in last year's final won by WHS.
Coached this year by Robyn Walford and Kate Ritani, WHS is without six of its players from last season who have been replaced by younger students who have improved immensely throughout a difficult year.
They finish third in the Netball Whanganui Premier A1 competition and now will defend their Manawatu secondary school title.
"We have a very good chance of winning back-to-back titles this weekend," Walford said.
"We did beat Manukura Black a few weeks back, but to be fair they were without two or three of their players who compete in the Beko League (the next tier down from the ANZ franchise league).
"I believe those players will be back in the Manukura Black team this weekend, but I have every confidence our girls will be competitive. They have come so far this season," Walford said.