Western Suburbs win Central League title with two games to go
Popping the champagne cork proved the toughest task for the Western Suburbs players on Sunday.
The club claimed their first Central League title since 2009 courtesy of their 6-0 thumping of Palmerston North Marist at Endeavour Park, winning the league with two games to go.
It was a win in keeping with their dominance of the league this season where they have won 13, drawn two and lost one, but things proved a little tougher post-match for captain Harry Edge after being presented a bottle of bubbly to celebrate their win.
He gave it a couple of shakes without much success, before reserve goalkeeper Isaac Tetteh took control of the situation to ensure a proper uncorking. Earlier, Wests chairman Dean Eagar had quipped about it being potentially the cheapest shout for in Central League title-winning history.
That indicated two things about this squad: they are young - Tetteh, at 22, would be considered an elder statesman of the team - and they haven't lifted too many trophies in recent times.
It was the first title of coach Declan Edge's five-year reign, with more importance put on developing players than results, but he said a big motivation this year was to silence their critics.
"Being pissed off with a few people saying we couldn't win," he said of the change this season.
"Other people saying things like 'maybe Declan is good at developing players, but he doesn't know how to coach a team to win'.
"So I must thank all the haters, the ones who have said we can't do something. It's just been people pissing me off saying I couldn't win the league for a few years really. It was about going and doing that now, doing a few things a bit different, be a bit more diligent at the back.
"Also, those boys at the back are 20, 21, they're starting to find some maturity."
Edge said part of it was also himself getting better as a coach.
"I think I'm learning more as I develop as a trainer as well. Like shutting the f*** up and saying nothing and in those moments the learning begins for those players."
While it has been a while between titles for Wests, it would be wrong to call them unsuccessful.
They have been the most consistent team in the Central League over the last five seasons. They haven't finished lower than fourth in that time and have accumulated the most points of any team over that time, with their 180 coming into this weekend putting them 15 ahead of next-best Miramar Rangers.
Sunday's game was over very early on. Any worries about getting past last-placed Marist were put to bed with two goals in the first 15 minutes. That was the halftime score as Wests laboured through the rest of the first 45, but Xavier Green's top-class strike into the top-right corner from the left-edge of the box early in the second half sparked them again as they ran away with the result.
While few would've expected overly wild celebrations from the young Wests team, Edge said they would be straight into training for next Saturday's Chatham Cup quarterfinal, at home to Bay Olympic.
"They'll have training tomorrow [Monday], we'll get straight back into it. It's important to understand winning and losing is the same. So if we win we go back the next day and if we lose we go back the next day.
"I mean, it's not the Champions League, it is what it is so we'll just put things in perspective. It's nice, it's been good for the players to have a little bit of pressure and butterflies today. So it's good for them to put that in their football bank."
Meanwhile, the result, coupled with Lower Hutt's 3-2 win over Wairarapa United, meant Marist's relegation was confirmed.
Other results saw Miramar Rangers hammer Napier City Rovers 5-0 in Napier, Team Taranaki beat Wellington United 1-0 and Wellington Olympic eased past Stop Out 4-2.
In the W League, Upper Hutt City are one win away from being crowned champions after an 8-1 win over Seatoun on Saturday where former Football Fern Sarah Gregorius scored six goals. That has them four points clear of Palmerston North Marist with two games to go, needing to beat only winless Wairarapa away next Saturday to win the title.
AT A GLANCE
Central League results
Western Suburbs 6 (Owen Parker-Price 2, Callum McCowatt 2 Elijah Just, Xavier Green) Palmerston North Marist 0
Lower Hutt City 3 (Jarred Cuniff 2, Tim Fenton) Wairarapa United 2 (Sam Mason-Smith, Paul Ifill)
Miramar Rangers 5 (Tom Jackson, Lewis Jackson, Eric Molloy, Richard Bott, Andy Bevin) Napier City Rovers 0
Team Taranaki 1 (Vance Hoskin) Wellington United 0
Wellington Olympic 4 Stop Out 2
Standings: Wests 41, Wairarapa 31, Stop Out 26*, Wellington United 23, Miramar 20*, NCR 20, Taranaki 20, Olympic 19, LHC 17, PNM 9
W League results
Palmerston North Marist 6 Stop Out 0
Upper Hutt City 8 Seatoun 1
Wellington United 2 Wairarapa United 0
Standings: UHC 34, PNM 30, Wellington 28, Seatoun 13, Stop Out 7, Wairarapa 1