Marlborough football’s fluctuating relationship with Nelson’s division one competition is back on again.
Two years ago Rangers AFC cut an unbeaten swathe through the Nelson championship, taking the title with three games to play. However last season, through a combination of factors, there was no Marlborough team in the division one race, the province’s top players being sprinkled through the various club sides on this side of the hill.
But in 2020 there will again be a presence in the top of the south battle, Rangers AFC confirming that they will field a team.
Leading the way is former Rangers AFC skipper Tore Waechter, a key player in their 2018 charge to the title. The 26-year-old midfielder will be player/coach of a formidable unit, comprising some veterans of previous campaigns and some untried, yet talented youngsters.
Lanky striker Adam Rose, right winger Sam Pearson, forward Carl Connor-McClean, defenders/midfielders Liam Sluiter and Julian Delgado, the energetic Jordan Columbus, plus young striker Harrison Pine were part of the title-winning team in 2018 and will form a solid basis of the current crop.
Newcomers Juri Casali, an Italian centre back working locally as a winemaker, plus former Tahuna player Scott Belsham will offer fresh talent, while such solid local performers as defender Ollie Baker, Jono Masters, James Coughlan and George Bond will team with youngsters such as Tana Connor-McClean and Dan Diamond, last year’s MBC keeper, in a squad which is expected to have more additions over the coming weeks. Providing back-up at keeper will be Brad Eiffe, the Tasman United Academy coach in Marlborough and a former Waimak (Christchurch) club player.
Waechter said a group of players had begun pre-season training on January 21 and were showing promise, especially during a run against a Woodbourne combination last week.
“Obviously we have a pretty big squad, which may mean we use some rotation, but it’s great for cover when players are away or injured.
“There is plenty of excitement in the camp … there are some players that have been around for a while who have come in this year and are fully fit, ready to give it their best shot.
“In our pre-season game we didn’t appear to have any weaknesses around the park, everyone was putting in the same sort of effort and pulling their weight around the field. It’s awesome to have a team back this year, so now we are just keen to get into it.”
Rangers’ first game is expected to be on March 28, although the draw had not yet been confirmed.
The participation record of Marlborough-based sides in the Nelson division one league has been something of a rollercoaster over the past decade.
When Rangers AFC joined the Nelson league in 2018 they followed in the footsteps of the Marlborough Mariners side, who competed in 2016.
The first Marlborough team to carry the Mariners moniker was in 2010, when they brought together the majority of the region’s top talent.
The Mariners continued in 2011 then, after a two year hiatus, Marlborough again established a presence in the Nelson league, with talented youngsters forming a Marlborough Development combination who contested the league in 2014-15.
Rangers AFC manager this season is local footballing stalwart Wolfie Waechter.
Bullets all fired up
The Rangers men won’t be the only Marlborough-based team plying their trade in a Nelson division one football competition.
The Blenheim Valley FC Liquid Action Bullets women’s team are gearing up for another season, which kicks off on Saturday, April 4.
Having placed fourth last year, the team are keen to build on that debut success. Coaches Ian Thomas and Alan Elvy are confident they will again be competitive and are pleased with the addition of five, more experienced players to the squad – in the form of Hannah Cook, Nicole Hyland, Tessa Lewis, Alicia McLeod, and Kirsten Pease.
The team farewelled Ruby Smith, Jannika Roubos, Ruby Wybourne, and Maggie Lane at the end of last season – with the first three leaving the region and Lane returning to play for her home team of Picton in the youth grade in 2020.
“We have a really promising team lined up to play this season – with a good solid crew of returning players, buoyed by the addition of our experienced newcomers to the team. We’re ready to build on our success in 2019, and excited to get the season underway,” Thomas says.
The BVFC Liquid Action Bullets: Makenzie Adkins, Destiny Aires, Shannah-Lee Aires, Eliza Bickerton, Taryn Gilbert, Tessa Hyland, Hannah Martin, Lucy Martin, Erin Mustey, Abby Owen, Lea Poletti, Riley Preece, Lauren Sloan, Rebecca Stuart, Freya Thompson, Hannah Cook, Nicole Hyland, Tessa Lewis, Alicia McLeod, Kirsten Pease, Maddison Rowe.