The 2017 football season is just under a fortnight away and the Waikato Bay of Plenty region’s flagship men’s leagues, the Loaded WaiBOP Premiership and the WaiBOP Championship, are set to begin with a bang.
With 2015 champions, Cambridge, visiting newly promoted Taupo, a three time winner of the top flight, on opening day, alongside Hamilton and Western Bay of Plenty derbies, there are some tasty early fixtures in store for local football fans.
WaiBOP Competitions Manager, Karyn Walters, is pleased to have the draws out for the top two leagues. “It was a bit of an exercise getting to the point where we could confidently publish the draws for both leagues but, with the support of the clubs, we managed it.”
Ultimately, three places became available in the Loaded WaiBOP Premiership due to Ngongotaha’s promotion to the NRFL, Tauranga City United’s relegation and Katikati, who received a reprieve from relegation, being unable to field a side in Federation competition. That gave Te Awamutu, who finished third in the Championship, an opening to join the top two from 2016 – champions West Hamilton United and Taupo.
“This gives us a spread of clubs from across the region and what looks like being an incredibly competitive Loaded WaiBOP Premiership,” said Walters.
Indeed, going on last season’s form, there doesn’t appear to be a clear favourite for the title. Cambridge will be expected to do well again after three consecutive top two finishes, while Matamata Swifts and Otumoetai will be aiming to build on solid top four finishes in 2016. Most of the other clubs, including all three promoted sides, will also be confidently eyeing top half finishes, or better.
Click here for the full Loaded WaiBOP Premiership draw.
The alterations to the Premiership caused havoc with the production of the WaiBOP Championship draw. “Yeah, we had some real fun pulling that together with various teams entering then being unable to take their spot,” said Walters, “We had to keep going down the list of teams based on their 2016 finishing positions in both Waikato A and Bay 1. I’m pleased we’ve been able to fill the Championship out with the full quota of twelve teams.”
In the end the WaiBOP Championship will contain eight Premiership reserve teams, alongside Tauranga City United, Tokoroa, Hamilton Wanderers and Te Puke United.
Click here for the full WaiBOP Championship draw.
Unfortunately it looks as if the WaiBOP Women’s Premier League, which had a successful inaugural season in 2016, is unlikely to go ahead. Initial entries suggested this popular league had increased in size from seven to eight teams, but several withdrawals over the last couple of weeks means the Premier League currently sits at an unworkable five committed sides.
Walters says there may be options to bring the numbers up to a still less than ideal six teams. “But if we can get that across the line we’ll press ahead with a three round competition. It would be a real shame to see this league go into hibernation after a successful 2016.”
On a positive note, the opening weekend of the season sees the introduction of the new Federation Under-12 Junior League, which features ten teams from across the region, including several clubs new to Federation-wide competition.
This new league is aligned with the NZF Skill Centre + programme, where the training emphasis focuses on developing player Skill Acquisition around the four moments of the game. The new league replaces the previous U-12 Boys Skill Centre programme and will provide more players with a higher quality football experience. Each of the clubs accepted were asked to meet a specific criteria, aligned to New Zealand Football’s Skill Centre programme, to be eligible to enter a team in the competition.
The clubs have responded well to the challenge says WaiBOP’s Football Development Manager, Ken Cresswell. “They are very excited at the prospect of a new premier league for this age group. It is our expectation that the standard of the competition will challenge the players, coaches and clubs as well as enhance their opportunities for further development.”
Click here for the full Federation Junior U-12 League draw.
Further Federation-wide youth leagues, for Under-14 and Under-16 boys and Under-16 girls, will kick-off at the start of term 2.
Fixtures on the opening weekend
Saturday April 1
Loaded WaiBOP Premiership
Taupo v Cambridge, Crown Park, 2.45pm
Papamoa v Otumoetai FC, Gordon Spratt Park, 2.45pm
Waikato Unicol v Melville United, Waikato University, 2.45pm
Waikato Stud Matamata Swifts v Tauranga Boys College, Matamata Domain, 2.45pm
Rotorua United v West Hamilton United, Neil Hunt Park, 2.45pm
Edmonds Judd Te Awamutu v Tauranga Old Blues, TA Stadium, 2.45pm
Richardson Racing Stables Matamata Reserves v Tauranga City United, Matamata Domain, 12.30pm
Rotorua United Reserves v Te Puke, Neil Hunt Park, 12.30pm
Edmonds Judd Te Awamutu Reserves v Tauranga Old Blues Reserves, TA Stadium, 12.30pm
Waikato Unicol v Tokoroa, Waikato University, 12.30pm
Taupo Reserves v Cambridge Reserves, Crown Park, 2.30pm
Hamilton Wanderers v Otumoetai FC Reserves, Porritt Stadium, 2.45pm
Sunday April 2
Federation Junior U-12 League
Cambridge v Blue Rovers, John Kerkhof Park, 10am
Rotorua United v Northern United, Puarenga Park, 10am
Mt Maunganui v Papamoa, Blake Park, 11am
Claudelands Rovers v Taupo, Galloway Park, 11am
Hamilton Wanderers v First National Tauranga Otumoetai FC, Raymond Park, 11am