It’s showtime for Whanganui
Athletic prepares for the great unknown against Petone FC visitors in first CFL match since mid-1990s
Pre-season has wrapped and it’s showtime for Whanganui Athletic. The side will play its first game in the Central Football League since the mid-1990s this weekend, at home to Petone FC.
Athletic, last season’s Federation League champions, lost their promotion series against Stop Out Sports Club but got the nod to go up after Wellington United pulled out.
Player/coach Matt Calvert said recruitment had gone well in the offseason, with players such as Melvin Rumere (Palmerston North Marist), Ethan O’Halloran (FC Western), Josh Lawson (Havelock North Wanderers) and Thomas Cudby and Tre De John (Hāwera Football Club) on board.
“Jamie Clark has also returned from England and is back in the fold, and so has Zac Farmer, who missed the last playoff games,” Calvert said.
“We’ve set everyone on a level playing field and made them work hard through the pre-season to get the spot.
“It’s not just a case of new players coming in and taking them.”
Calvert said performances in preseason games had got better, with a highlight being an away victory over fellow Central League club Napier City Rovers.
The majority of the new recruits travel to Whanganui for games and training.
“For me, people now recognise the opportunities here which haven’t been here before.
“They want to be at the club because the club is at the highest level and they want to play at the highest level, just as the players from Whanganui do.”
Now, it was a case of not just making up the numbers.
Calvert said Petone was a fantastic club with a youth system that had to be admired.
“They were a mid-table-placed team last season but it doesn’t really matter where a team finished last year.
“We know all the games are going to be tough, competitive and challenging, and that’s what we’ve been
We are going to have a packed Wembley Park and people haven’t seen this level of football [there] in 25 years. Player/coach Matt Calvert
working towards for years.”
Training sessions were held three days a week during the pre-season but have now been cut back to two.
A strength and conditioning coach and a goalkeeping coach have been brought into the fold to provide as “much of a high-level environment as we can”, Calvert said.
Player numbers at training had been consistently in the low 40s.
“People know they have to be on it when they’re training because there are three or four other people in their position that are ready to go,” Calvert said.
“That’s good for us though. Nothing is given to us on a plate and we can take that mentality onto the pitch.”
Calvert said the club was in a “monumental position” and people wanted to be a part of it.
“We are going to be up against players getting ridiculous amounts of money and we are still paying to play.
“If players haven’t paid their fees by Friday they won’t be playing.”
Athletic’s first three games are at home at Wembley Park.
After Petone this weekend, it’s the Wellington Phoenix Reserves then North Wellington.
“I think there’s also a massive excitement for Wellington teams to come up here and see what it’s like,” Calvert said.
“We are going to have a packed Wembley Park and people haven’t seen this level of football [there] in 25 years.”
The match kicks off at 2.30pm tomorrow.