Well the Saturday started like so many before... with a haze, a heavy head, stale breath, takeaway boxes showing the remnants of leftover J&M chicken or cat... and a "fire up" text from one of our esteemed leaders. And was I fired up! Where were my socks? Where were me pants? Where in Titahi Bay does Jas live? So many questions, so little time...
As I slowly progressed through the city to pick up up Toddy, noting missed calls and texts, I came to realise that 45 minutes to drive to Porirua, pass the Haywards and hit Fraser Park may have been a little industrious and that time waits for no man. But this was no ordinary man, this was after all - Ganesy... And after pulling up and seeing the outrageous pony tails of the "Naenae Express" strikers donning their boots, I knew we were fine.
Greeted by fine north-westerlies the pitch was nothing to write home about. Dreams hadn't been broken on this ground, they'd been dumped on by the weather gods that be. I don't recall having signed up for water polo but who knows in my state in the past 48 hours. One thing was for sure, this was not going to be the rolling, flowing game the Elite enjoys playing.
The game started well enough, if not a little quiet... A few knocks and the ball coming to a sudden halt on multiple occasions showed the state of affairs, but a few passes up to the front showed the elite can play in any condition and opportunities would come.
Unfortunately the first opportunity came to the opposition as an unlucky slip in central defence allowed a lucky run through the middle by pony-tail no.1 and a low shot for the first goal. With the wind in our faces, we knew would have to stand our ground for the first half and our time would come in the second half with the wind behind us.
After testing both sides of the pitch and finding both heavily sodden, the Elite started to string more passes together. CJ was making runs through the middle, balls were flying through from Nick and Damo on the left and more of the same from Niall and Andrew on the right. Persistence paid off as the ball managed to find its way to Adam who carefully placed the ball to side of the keeper to equalise. No stopping that one son.
Naenae sensing that in these conditions they may actually be able to get out in front, started their own bombardment of the Elite defensive line. After some solid clearances, pony-tail no.1 managed to find time to shoot and hoofed the ball to the top corner. Dave knocking the ball down in slippery conditions fell to the shot and a myriad of defenders and attackers came rushing in alike. The body count was high with orange and white falling into the brown sludge and lady luck again finding her way to the Naenae boot as a toe poke moved the score to 1-2.
Not to be defeated, the Elite stepped up their game. The tackles increased, our want increased, and the pointy end of the attack came sharply against the keeper's well timed saves. CJ, with a cracker of a shot was denied as the ball deflected to the post. But he would not have to wait long as a stunning cross from Andrew found CJ and a powerful header levelled the score at 2-2. With the "have some of that" fist pump celebration the Elite were back in the game. More shots were fired in as the tempo increased. Archer, Stevo, Jas and Damo were repelling the mounting aggression from Naenae. Cory and Toddy were firing passes up to the front and the wings were pressing hard. Half-time sounded with a 2-2 score line in testing conditions.
The second half started with the wind behind the mighty elite, catching Naenae off guard. CJ in the space of five minutes took revenge for the first half torment of several unlucky strikes and sends the ball screaming past the keeper who in awe, forgot to move off the line. Not satisfied CJ again found himself pushing through the defence, holding his ground and firing another shot through for his hat-trick, bring the score to 4-2. Knowing he'd beaten the 2 goal fine, CJ came off for Niall to finish what he'd started. After taking notes, Niall moved the ball out past the defender and lined himself up for glory only to sky the ball like he was sponsored by Rocket Lab.
Still the attack pressed on. Adam was a dominant force in the middle rarely losing ground, the defence was able to push up and the ball found itself falling to Jock Niall "I must score" Jessiman. And sure enough, rolling the last defender Niall cements his moment of glory with a low strike in the back of the non-existent net and an extravagant, Platoon- esque celebration that got more mud on his kit then actually playing.
The game play continued on with the Elite staying dominant in Naenae's half. After trying to push through the now churned up middle of the pitch, Cory decides he's had enough of getting stuck and places a weaving scud missile into the top right, 6-2 Elite.
As both teams tire, play starts to move back to the wings. Nick manages a burst of speed down the right hand side with the ball stopping completely at times, requiring another touch, then awkwardly bouncing between puddles before eventually finding the one hard part of the pitch and rolling out. Naenae push back with pony-tail no.2 attempting to send the ball into the Elite's goal mouth. Toddy rushes in for the block coming off second best with the ball clipping one hand before smashing into the other. A penalty is given and swiftly taken to bring the score to 6-3.
The final moments of the game close in with both the weather and the ground having taken its toll on both teams. As the final whistle blew both teams knew they had done their best in trying conditions and the mighty Elite proving they can weather the storm.
3 points to CJ for a solid all round game, nice runs and some great finishes.
2 points to Cpt Adam for holding the centre of the pitch, maintaining our structure and having a good game in general.
1 point to Damo – Cleared a lot of ball, not much gets through our man at the back.