End of the long locks nigh
After 95 national league games for YoungHeart Manawatu, most regular watchers barely notice Nathan Cooksley's prolific dreadlocks flailing about.
The 25-year-old midfielder has worn the lengthy locks for most of his seven seasons with the team.
He grew them soon after leaving Palmerston North Boys' High School where short back and sides ruled, and still do.
"I liked long hair and it was the thing to do," he said.
Cooksley said the dreadlocks don't bother him while playing, but he's not sure how long they will survive.
"Maybe another year. They are almost coming to an end I think."
He had hoped to bring up his ton of games for YoungHeart this year, but that's next year's goal now because Sunday's clash with Auckland City at Memorial Park will be their last of the summer.
"I missed two games through suspension. If we'd made the playoffs it would have been different."
By day he is an electrician and in the winter he will be in his third season in the Central League with Wairarapa United alongside YoungHeart team-mates Adam Cowan, Matt Borren, Dale Higham and Seule Soromon.
Not having a Central League side in Palmerston North is a drawback for Manawatu.
"It's a big step up," Cooksley said.
"Keeping the youth coming through is good.
"A few of them need a couple more years and we need to bring in a few new players with a bit of experience to lead the young guys."
Three young Manawatu players have been named in the Junior All Whites but as Cooksley pointed out, Liam Higgins and Kade Schrijvers are from Lower Hutt, getting national league exposure in Palmerston North, and Dale Higham is from Wairarapa via Manawatu.
Cooksley has been with YoungHeart in the good times but they could go into the record books as the first team to collect three consecutive wooden-spoon finishes if they take a heavy beating from Auckland on Sunday.
"It has been another really tough year. We have won three games, which is nothing to be proud of, but it's three more than we won last year."
Manawatu traditionally lift against Auckland but to get anything out of the game would be a big call because Auckland have had only one loss and three draws all summer.
"Considering where they are, almost professional players, and where we are, anything would be nice; we'll take a draw."
Auckland will rest key men with one eye on the playoffs and with second place wrapped up. Daniel Koprivcic will play his 100th game.
"They will still put out a very high-quality squad," Cooksley said.
Coach Stu Jacobs has left out Tom Mosquera and Higgins but back come Cowan, Wade Randle and Jordan Martens.
Sunday's game kicks off at 2pm.
MOST APPEARANCES (games played by current players)
Adam Cowan (Manawatu/H Bay) 144
Allan Pearce (Waitakere) 132
Jake Butler (Waitakere) 122
Chad Coombes (Auck/Waitak) 122
James Pritchett (Auckland) 121
Karl Whalen (Wellington) 117
Dan Terris (Canterbury Utd) 115
Aaron Scott (Waikato/Waitak) 110
Andy Coburn (Otago United) 103
Danny Robinson (Waikato/Waitak) 102
Grant Young (Auckland City) 100
Neil Sykes (Auckland/Waitak) 100
Daniel Koprivcic (Waitak/Auck) 99
Nathan Cooksley (Manawatu) 94
- Manawatu Standard