Groan... Ok, so I end my post drought with a pithy poor pun, but the heady, desperate days before a knockout play off game do strange things to a Football Tragic's brainwaves.
Since the last time they played Perth the Phoenix have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and marched towards the A-League playoffs, finishing fourth in the ten team league. The fact that they finished fourth is a matter of some pride, not just scraping into a generous play-off quota, but firmly entrenched in the midst of the top six.
A few weeks ago they picked up a record crowd of 19,258 at 'home' in Christchurch. An event which would go along way towards a Cantabrian claim for an A-League spot. However unlikely this may seem you'd have to think that Canterbury would make a good fist of it. Their sporting teams have an unparalled knack of performing when it counts; Their Rugby and Cricket teams in particular have set the standard for domestic success in Aotearoa, and the Englishness of Christchurch lends itself to the leisurely pursuit of all colonial sports, not least of all Football. It would be fantastic if the Nix could cast off the phony war against Perth, and play a real derby against our traditional Southern rivals. The Cantabrian fans would also be loathe to share their team with the rest of the country. Even though Wellington is proudly parochial, and the Phoenix are Harbour City heroes through and through the Yellow Fever are made up of football fans from all over the Country, and are happy to share their team.
Despite the improbable fancy of two NZ teams in the A-League it is in fact Melbourne who will become the first A-League team to get a proper City Derby,when the Melbourne Heart starts beating next season. And why not? To the Melbourne Victory the Phoenix record home crowd of 19,000,is a paltry figure, and still below their season average of 21,105.
So the challenge of restoring NZL's transtasman football dignity remains the sole burden of the Phoenix, for now at least. This weekend Wellington city is fair fizzing at the prospect of sudden death finals footie- this is coupled with a delicious Perth V. Wellington doubleheader at the Stadium. (The Western Force Rugby team take on the Wgtn Hurricanes tonight. How many Perthites are taking in both games I wonder?)
It seems as though the Phoenix home attendance record is set be nixed again as fans flock to the city. My old football coach from Rotorua rung me up saying he is in town for the game and wants to catch up. If this random occurance is anything to go by I'd say a 25,000-30,000 home crowd could be on the cards, as fairweather fans, or those yet to be tempted by the Nix, throw their misgivings to the wind, and join New Zealand's team in the A-League.
So the season comes to ahead tomorrow for the Nix, if Dadi is fit to play I hope he isn't assigned Penalty duties. But if Paul Ifill comes to play with the vision and calmness he has found in recent weeks, and if Manny Muscat keeps his Maltese crosses flying into Tim Brown's educated melon at the far post then the 'Longest Derby' promises to be less one sided this time around.
I think that the Nix will beat Perth tomorrow; Fortress Wellington has been tough to seige this season, but I don't think the Nix have got the goods to trump Melbourne or Sydney if they meet them in the final But as they say in Rugby League, you have to lose a final to win a final, so the Nix first ever taste of playoff footie will be invaluable in their quest for A-League glory.
On a personal note I am about to disappear into the black hole known as the NZ International Arts Festival from this Friday 26 Feb until March 21. I have been working on this Festival as the Education Coordinator, and soon the fruits of my labour will fall from the tree.
I may not return from this journey quite as sane of mind nor as fleet of foot as before. Wish me luck, for the arts can be a dangerous place to play: