Northern Wairoa stalwart watches his club's Chatham Cup debut from Melbourne

Mary Montgomery holds up her phone so that son Evan can watch Northern Wairoa play their first Chatham Cup game from the ...
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Mary Montgomery holds up her phone so that son Evan can watch Northern Wairoa play their first Chatham Cup game from the comfort of his couch in Melbourne.

What do you do when your football club is making their debut in the Chatham Cup, and you're stuck in Melbourne?

Call your parents and get them to stream the game for you using their cellphone, of course.

That's what Evan Montgomery did on Monday, when his hometown club, Northern Wairoa, hosted the University of Auckland in the preliminary round of the cup at Memorial Park in Dargaville.

Lapinmal Morris scuffs a kick for Northern Wairoa during their Chatham Cup debut.
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Lapinmal Morris scuffs a kick for Northern Wairoa during their Chatham Cup debut.

Having only had a few hours sleep the night before, he woke up, got himself some bacon and eggs, then got in touch with his parents, Mary and Barry, just in time for kick off.

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As the game unfolded, his passion for the Northland club was clear to see.

Shem James takes a corner for Northern Wairoa during their Chatham Cup debut.
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Shem James takes a corner for Northern Wairoa during their Chatham Cup debut.

"I was sitting here on my couch, and my girlfriend was next to me, and she was telling me to watch my language, but the thing was, no one could hear me," said Evan.

"It was like I was at the game, screaming and yelling like I would have done if I'd been on the side of the pitch."

On the sideline in Dargaville, some 2572km away, Mary and Barry took turns holding up the phone.

Armelino Santiago controls the ball for Northern Wairoa during their Chatham Cup debut.
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Armelino Santiago controls the ball for Northern Wairoa during their Chatham Cup debut.

"I said to him, 'how clear is it?' and he said it was as clear as anything," said Mary.

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"As long as we had the camera in the right direction following the movement, he could see it very clearly, and he was telling us what should happen and telling the boys they should keep moving."

Mary said it was a fun day, having Evan there, even if not in person.

Northern Wairoa made their debut in the Chatham Cup on Monday, with an avid fan watching on from Melbourne.
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Northern Wairoa made their debut in the Chatham Cup on Monday, with an avid fan watching on from Melbourne.

"It was Facebook messenger, so I presume it didn't cost me anything - I hope not."

If it does, her son will surely be happy to pay.

Evan, 32, said it would be worth it to make sure he saw his club make their debut in New Zealand's premier club football tournament, one that dates back to 1923 and attracts hundreds of entries every year.

He played for Northern Wairoa throughout his youth, before leaving town once he finished high school, eventually settling in Melbourne in 2006, where he works in hospitality.

Two years ago, he needed a break from the hospitality industry, so came home to work on the family dairy farm and linked back up with the club as a coach and a player.

Last year, they caused a few upsets in the Northland second division, while also going on a run in the Stafford Choat plate, a local knockout competition.

"We made the final, and then I left to move back to Melbourne, but prior to doing that I booked my return ticket back for the final," said Evan.

"So I was over there for about five weeks, then came back for the grand final, flew in Friday, trained, played Saturday and flew back Sunday."

In the final against Tikipunga, Northern Wairoa won with a penalty in injury time, scored by who else but Evan, securing what was just the second piece of silverware in the club's history, following their Northland first division triumph in 1985.

Evan's passion for the club is so great, that he even thought about making a quick trip home for Monday's game.

"I would have loved to have been there for something like that, and I did actually contemplate flying home at one stage, possibly, for it, but due to my commitments [in Melbourne] I wasn't able to," he said.

"I called up, said hello to a few people via the stream, and it was just like watching a game of football live."

Unfortunately for the Montgomerys, the result didn't go Northern Wairoa's way, with the University of Auckland winning 6-2.

Club president Allen Dennis said that despite the result, it had been an excellent day for the club, whose playing numbers across all grades - junior and senior - total just 130.

"Obviously because we're a rural club, we weren't too sure what the officials would comment on, as far as the ground was concerned, but they were very, very impressed. They thought we had a very good field and of course we took them to an after-match function and they really enjoyed that as well.

"From a club's perspective, I think it was worthwhile entering the competition. It certainly gave our players an insight into the next level up that they have to play at."

As for Evan, the avid fan cheering them on from Melbourne, Dennis says that's just his nature.

"Any time he comes back, he always hooks up with us at the club, be it in the season or offseason. He's very passionate about his club."

 - Stuff

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