A Much Better Version Of NZ Football’s Annual Awards Thingy

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It’s not particularly fun to keep having to rag on NZ Football. It’s great for business but it’s not exactly endearing considering what’s at stake for the game in Aotearoa. But, damn, they just make it so easy. Just the other day it was reported that NZF were stumping up $150k in payouts for Harry Hostility and Austrian Andy… a hundy and a half grand! If The Niche Cache stumbled on that kind of money then the empire would be complete already (check out our Patreon!).

Now there’s this New Zealand Football Awards thing. It’s a small matter considering the scale of NZF’s many dramas, plus it’s a well-meaning one so I’m not gonna be a dick about it. It’s a worthy thing to celebrate the elite people in the game. It’s just that the general weirdness of it all fits too comfortably with NZF’s tendency to stumble over their own feet and choke on their own tongue. Andy Martin’s gone now, we don’t have to keep doing this.

It should be said that the Awards are “staged in conjunction with Friends of Football and the New Zealand Football Foundation”. It should also be said that it’s funny to be hosting them in September when the qualification period is the calendar year of 2017. Almost makes it seem like an afterthought, what with the Chatham Cup polishing off an entire winter season of ineligibility the day after the Awards.

Now, I’m quite fond of a good awards ceremony. So yeah, I don’t wanna dwell on how silly it is to lump domestic players up against internationals like that’s an equal platform or whatever. Instead I’m just gonna do it better. Starting with nominating Abby Erceg. And also by extending the eligibility period roughly through the last European season, call it the last year or something like that. Hey, they’re my awards, I can be flexible with ‘em.

Women’s Player of the Year

  • Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City/Utah Royals)
  • Abby Erceg (North Carolina Courage)
  • Erin Nayler (Girondins Bordeaux)
  • Ali Riley (FC Rosengård)
  • Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City/Seattle Reign/Sky Blue)

Figured I’d stick to a max of five nominees in each category, which meant making the tough call to exclude Olivia Chance and Rosie White. Chance after her breakthrough at Everton and with the Ferns, working her way into the starters of each while especially dominating in a cup run to the FA Cup semis and White with a strong season in Boston moving back into midfield.

But the five selections are pretty immense. Erceg captained NC Courage to the regular season Shield and then to runners-up in the NWSL Grand Final. That was in 2017. Since then she’s been even better, not missing a second in 2018 as they’ve wrapped up another shield with time to spare and are now huge favourites to go one better and win another title. She’s made three consecutive Team of the Months as we speak. Even if you’re limiting it to the calendar year of 2017 then she’s still not only a guaranteed nominee but she’s the outstanding candidate to win and it’s not even that close. But nah, NZF didn’t nominate her because she retired from national team duty in early 2017… even though they’ve also literally nominated amateurs in the same category. Let’s be honest about it, they just don’t wanna deal with a player who has made it pretty clear where she stands with them. Abby probably woulda told them to bugger off anyway.

But even if you excuse that through such salty, petulant logic, how do you then explain not nominating Ali Riley when she was the only New Zealander to make the 55-player longlist for the FIFPro Women’s World XI for the year of 2017? She won the Swedish Cup and came second in the Swedish league in 2017. Played Champions League footy once again. She assumed the captaincy of the national team. Chelsea sure took notice when they signed her up for next season. Where’s the logic here? Ah well, she’s on my list.

Same as Rebekah Stott after winning the W-League and performing well for two NWSL sides in America, as well as holding the fort at the back for the Ferns. Erin Nayler after her best season as a professional over in France with Girondins and a couple classy effort for the national team. And also Katie Bowen whose 2017 was pretty remarkable, surging into where she’s now one of the two or three first names on the teamsheet for the Football Ferns.

WINNER: Abby Erceg

Men’s Player of the Year

  • Tyler Boyd (CD Tondela/Vitória de Guimarães)
  • Michael Boxall (SuperSport United/Minnesota United)
  • Stefan Marinovic (SpVgg Unterhaching/Vancouver Whitecaps)
  • Ryan Thomas (PEC Zwolle)
  • Chris Wood (Leeds United/Burnley)

Tough and somewhat controversial call to leave out Winston Reid here. He wasn’t great last year and has been injured basically all of this. You can make the argument that Winston at 50% is worth more than most others at a hundy because of the standard he plays at and that’s fair enough but I’ve not gone that way. Instead Big Stef gets a nod after going from German lower leagues to being a starting keeper in the MLS along with playing every game for the All Whites for about two years under Uncle Tony. He almost never makes mistakes. The man’s a marvel.

Same goes for Mike Boxall, just another super dependable dude. Went from playing basically every game for SSU in South Africa and as a right back to doing the same in the MLS for Minny as a centre-back and finally cementing his reputation amongst Aotearoa’s best defenders for the national team.

Chris Wood needs no explanation. Ryan Thomas shouldn’t either. Tyler Boyd slides under the radar since he doesn’t play for the All Whites at the moment but forcing his way in as a regular for Tondela in the top division in Portugal, where the top clubs are scrapping for Champions League knockout places each year, and scoring goals in the process is no mean feat. In fact it’s a massive feat.

WINNER: Chris Wood

Young Player of the Year

  • Callum McCowatt (Auckland City)
  • Meikayla Moore (FC Köln/MSV Duisburg)
  • Sarpreet Singh (Wellington Phoenix)
  • Malia Steinmetz (Northern)

I don’t really know what defines a ‘young player’ but thanks to my wider qualification period I do at least get to pick the best ones. Like McCowatt for example, going from nowhere famous to playing all the time for ACFC and scoring the winner in the Grand Final. Sarpreet Singh too after his late season heroics for the Nix and then his excellent performances for the national team. Meikayla Moore turned 22 in June so I think that still counts as a ‘young player’ and she’s been brilliant for a year and a half, stepping into the starting team for the Ferns after Erceg retired and making the leap from Canterbury in the national league to playing professionally in Germany. Malia Steinmetz is one of the finest players still playing domestically and is captaining the U20s at the World Cup this very minute. Wasn’t sure about a fifth nominee. Folks like Emma Rolston, Anna Leat, Libby Cacace and Michael Woud all spring to mind but I decided to leave it at four and save making a tough decision.

WINNER: Meikayla Moore

Administrator of the Year

  • Andy Martin (NZ Football)

The only nominee. Recognised for his immense and selfless services to the game in this country, specifically the time that he retired. That was awesome. Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t have this category with Hostile Andy a leading nominee. It really feels like an NZ Football thing to do, giving awards to themselves. I mean, they nominated Anthony Hudson for coach of the year after all.

WINNER: Andy Martin

Coach of the Year

  • Jose Figueira (Team Wellington)
  • Gemma Lewis (Auckland Football)
  • Hiroshi Miyazawa (Onehunga Sports)
  • Ramon Tribulietx (Auckland City)
  • Simon Elliott (Sacramento Republic FC)

Mostly borrowed a bunch of people from the NZF awards here. It’s hard to find good kiwi coaches because we still don’t give them enough chances here but hopefully that’s changing now. We’ve got the winner of the OFC Champions League, winner of the Premiership, winner of the National Women’s League and winner of the Chatham Cup here. Anthony Hudson is excluded because while I’m not one who thinks he did a terrible job, I also don’t think he did anything better than par for the course. Similar for Chris Greenacre as Nix caretaker and poor old Gareth Turnbull suffers for his association with Heraf – not his fault and I’m confident he’ll help bring us out of that. I do have a lot of respect for what Danny Hay’s done at Eastern Suburbs but the last nominee is old mate Simon Elliott whose Sacramento Republic team are currently fourth in the USL Western Conference over in the States. Pretty impressive, that. Cameron Knowles’ Portland Timbers reserves are seventh in the same comp. Kiwi coaches at fully professional clubs – gotta go to America to find ‘em.

WINNER: Jose Figueira

Independent Review of the Year

WINNER: The one currenty being conducted into the conduct and culture at NZ Football.

All Of The Futsal Awards

I don’t care about Futsal. Other countries do not care about futsal. It’s a fun game to get you through the summer hiatus but NZF are taking this stuff waaaaaaay too seriously.


Domestic Men’s Player of the Year

  • Andre De Jong (Eastern Suburbs)
  • Justin Gulley (Team Wellington)
  • Cam Howieson (Auckland City)
  • Emiliano Tade (Auckland City)
  • Enaut Zubikarai (Auckland City)

See isn’t this a better way of doing it? Nominate the chaps based in Aotearoa against other chaps based in Aotearoa rather than putting them up against Chris Wood and Ryan Thomas. This way you give the best performing National League players the recognition they deserve, give the league the recognition it deserves (not really sure you need to nominate club players when the best ones already play Premmy too, unless there’s something magnificent – Onehunga Sports doing the league/cup double is close but there are too many belters in the Prem for my mind).

Pretty easy to pick this lot. Guts to McCowatt, Tim Payne, Andy Bevin, Justin Gulley and Angel Berlanga but I could only pick five. Justifications are all in the Premmy Files Team of the Season thing from back a couple months.

WINNER: Cam Howieson

Domestic Women’s Player of the Year

  • Sarah Gregorius (Capital)
  • Jacqui Hand (Auckland)
  • Eleanor Isaac (Southern)
  • Annalie Longo (Canterbury)
  • Malia Steinmetz (Northern)

Tough part about this was the NWL season in 2017 was so damn short. They’ve expanded it going into the future but here we go. Isaac was the league MVP so she’s here. Longo is probably the best kiwi player still playing in NZ so she’s here. Sarah Gregorius is a bit of a legend back to leading the way domestically again so she’s here. Hand is an U20 international who tied for the NWL golden boot and NZF nominated her too so she’s here. Malia Steinmetz keeps up her young player form with another nomination. I wish I could say I was able to watch more of these games but NZF don’t make it easy for ya, so I’ll admit that some of this is based on reputation. But the same goes for all the categories, really.

WINNER: Annalie Longo

Referee of the Year

Seriously, who’d be a ref? It looks so bloody hard. I’m not a person who takes much notice of who the individual ref when I’m watching a game so I’m not really qualified to hand out awards… hence in true leftie, tree-hugging spirit I’m giving the award to everyone. Pats on the back if you’re a ref, mate. You deserve it.

WINNER: All Of Them

Team of the Year

Don’t they already give out trophies for this? Trophies like the Chatham Cup, the Premiership, etc. Oh well, I reckon I know a team that deserves a bit of recognition for their enormous part in finally forcing NZ Football to show some accountability for themselves.

WINNER: The Football Ferns

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