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Massey women's football team makes history

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Massey women's football team makes history

Five of them are still at school – four are just 15 – but they are one game away from national supremacy in women's football.

After a remarkable unbeaten season, the Massey University team will make history on Sunday as the first from Manawatū to play in a final in the ASB Women’s Knockout Cup.

Should they win, they will be the first national football champions from the province in either the 19-year-old women's or the 85-year-old men's (Chatham Cup) competitions. Either way, it has been a stellar year.

Massey play Three Kings United from Auckland at Newtown Park, Wellington, and are counting on good crowd support at the venue.

Team captain Rosie Missen says the Wellington final is not only a chance for Massey to make their mark on women’s football but an opportunity for some of the younger players to get noticed. “I’ve never been in a team that’s had such good team cohesion – I think that’s been a really big factor in us getting far and doing so well.”

Most of the team are born and bred in Manawatū, including five who are still at secondary schools – Feilding High, Freyberg High, Longburn Adventist College, Palmerston North Girls' High and St Peter's College. Two of the Massey students come from Wellington and one from Gisborne.

Ms Missen says the venue will also help, being close to Manawatu and with extra support expected from students and staff of Massey's Wellington campus in the neighbouring suburb of Mt Cook. "It will be like having a twelfth man on the field.”

Three Kings, with two national representatives and six players in the wider squad of the New Zealand Junior Ferns, are likely favourites. They have won the knockout cup three times since it started in 1994.

But Massey have taken many teams by surprise this year. Playing in the Women's Central League competition against teams from the central and lower North Island, they recorded 13 wins and a draw, scored 78 goals and conceded just 14, making them the best attacking and defensive team in the league.

To get to the final they won four games, repeatedly pulling out polished performances, most notably the 4-1 semi-final victory over 2010 cup winners Claudelands Rovers of Hamilton.

Coach Simon Lees attributes their year’s success to the team’s hard work and commitment to playing their own game. “We set goals about not dropping the points at home and the girls have been really switched on about trying to achieve that. We’ve got a really good work ethic and I don’t think we’ve had too many games where we’ve turned up and not played our game.”

Mr Lees says Massey have the ability to identify opponents' weaknesses and capitalise on them. “The key to our success this year is we’ve made other teams play poorly. It’s about knowing and working out really early what an opposition weakness is and learning to exploit that."

Ms Missen says another strength is speed on attack. “We like to move the ball quickly, get it down, play it. Once we get it to our strikers’ feet and we’ve got pace we can always attack against the strongest team. Our biggest focus will be defending as a unit as well."

University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey has wished the team well and encouraged staff and students to support them. "It's an exceptional effort for this young team to go through the season unbeaten. They are most deserving finalists."

The women's final kicks off at 11am as the curtain raiser to the ASB Chatham Cup final at 2.30pm, which is between Lower Hutt City and Central United of Auckland.


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