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Cheers to 50 years: Napier City Rovers' history of stars, famous wins, a future rugby international and even a 'hex' on the club

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 6 Apr 2023, 4:34pm

Cheers to 50 years: Napier City Rovers' history of stars, famous wins, a future rugby international and even a 'hex' on the club

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 6 Apr 2023, 4:34pm

Napier City Rovers have had a rich and colourful history in the 50 years since the club was founded. As the club’s fans, volunteers, players and administrators – both past and present – celebrate the milestone, Neil Reid dug through the club’s archives and highlights 50 statistical gems from their existence

1: Paul Halford was the first player from Napier City Rovers to have been selected for the All Whites for a full international. He won national selection in 1985. In the first two decades of the club other All Whites included Jason New, David Kirk, Chris Jackson and Perry Cotton.

2: The winning two-goal margin in Napier City Rovers’ historic 3-1 Chatham Cup final win over North Shore in 1985. Post the victory, the side was treated to a mayoral reception and a street parade in central Napier.

3: Napier City Rovers secured a highly commendable third-spot finish in their first year in Central League Division Two. The win came after the New Zealand Soccer Annual wrote over their previous season’s fourth-place finish that the side was “the most disappointing team in the 1974 Central League”.

4: Popular late 1980s-early 1990s player Perry Cotton earnt his All Whites call-up after a stint with English Fourth Division side Scunthorpe United. He was well-known for being on the end of teammates’ jokes, telling one 1992 match-day programme: “I don’t mind at all as long as it lifts the lads.”

5: Goals scored by Phillip Hill in the side’s 11-0 hammering of Carterton in a first-round Chatham Cup clash in 1976. It was to be the club’s single-match scoring record in the Chatham Cup and league formats in the first 10 years of the club’s history.

The 1985 Napier City Rovers squad, winners of that year's Chatham Cup final. Photo / Supplied

The 1985 Napier City Rovers squad, winners of that year's Chatham Cup final. Photo / Supplied

6: There were six months of deliberations until Napier City and Napier Rovers merged, creating the new club for the 1973 season. The club’s first decade history publication wrote: “It was immediately hailed as the best thing to have happened in Hawke’s Bay soccer. The advent of a ‘superteam’ would enhance Hawke’s Bay’s standings in central league and consequently lift soccer standards in the province’.”

7: Seven top-flight British clubs chased the signature of future popular recruit David Jackson: Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesborough, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion, Bradford City and Manchester United. He eventually signed with Manchester United and played against Benfica as a teen. He signed with Napier City Rovers in 1983.

8: In Harry Clarke’s first eight seasons for Napier City Rovers, the man nicknamed ‘H’ played a staggering 176 of the club’s 183 Central or National League fixtures.

Napier City Rovers Football Club silverware and other memorabilia on display at their clubrooms at Bluewater Stadium. Photo / Neil Reid

Napier City Rovers Football Club silverware and other memorabilia on display at their clubrooms at Bluewater Stadium. Photo / Neil Reid

9: Nine records were set in the 1979 Central League Division Two; including successive wins (17), least goals conceded (5), biggest league winning margin (12 points), most wins in a row without conceding a goal (7).

10: Napier City Rovers entered the big time, the National League in their 10th season. Pre-season, legendary coach Roger Wilkinson said “it would be a disaster for the Hawke’s Bay region” if the club was relegated after its first season. The side finished ninth out of 12 teams.

11: The number of league wins secured in the 1975 season, when the club won the Central League Division Two, their first major triumph.

The debut Napier City Rovers first-team squad in their first season in 1973. Photo / Supplied

The debut Napier City Rovers first-team squad in their first season in 1973. Photo / Supplied

12: Virginia-born JC Mack clocked up 12 games in his first season with Napier City Rovers in 2020. Two years earlier he had made his international debut for U.S Virgin Islands. He is still playing internationally for them and has also captained the side which is currently ranked 208 out of 211 Fifa-recognised nations.

13: Napier City Rovers’ biggest Chatham Cup win in their first two decades was an impressive win, thumping fellow Napier-based club 13-0 in 1983. Their biggest cup loss was 9-1 to Gisborne in the same season.

14: Paul Halford was Napier City Rovers’ top-scorer on their way to the 1993 Superclub national league final, with 14 goals.

Goalkeeper Oscar Mason proudly holds the Oceania Football Confederation's Under-19 tournament trophy after the New Zealand age-grade team's win last year. Photo / Supplied

Goalkeeper Oscar Mason proudly holds the Oceania Football Confederation's Under-19 tournament trophy after the New Zealand age-grade team's win last year. Photo / Supplied

15: First-choice goalkeeper Oscar Mason was aged just 15 when he made his debut in 2020. Last year he earnt his 50th cap and also made the New Zealand Under-19 team that won the Oceania qualifying tournament for this year’s Under-20 World Cup.

16: Lance Bauerfeind became a schoolboy sensation in his debut first-team match for Napier City Rovers in 1981. Aged just 16, he made his debut against Taradale after gaining a dispensation from his school Karamu High School and scored a hat-trick.

17: In their 17th season, Napier City Rovers were crowned National League champions, winning the 1989 title. Then Napier mayor Alan Dick said it was “the most significant Hawke’s Bay sporting achievement since the Ranfurly Shield era”.

The 2023 season is a special one for Napier City Rovers, with fans, sponsors and players of all ages celebrating its 50th anniversary.  Photo / Neil Reid

The 2023 season is a special one for Napier City Rovers, with fans, sponsors and players of all ages celebrating its 50th anniversary. Photo / Neil Reid

18: Englishman Mark Morris joined Napier City Rovers aged just 18 in 1981. He had previously been an apprentice at Wimbledon. Morris later returned to the UK where he played more than 200 senior games for Wimbledon, including in all four divisions. He also played top-flight English football for Watford.

19: The 1975 team – headed by player-coach John Roberts who hailed from Liverpool – conceded just 19 goals on their way to winning the Central League Division Two title. The team lost only one of their final 10 league games.

20: All Whites star Shane Smeltz was in top goal-scoring form in 2002, being the National League top scorer with 20 goals. Napier City Rovers team-mate Chris McIvor was third in the National League golden boot stakes, scoring 12 goals.

Former player and coach Jonathan Gould’s 1998 Scotland World Cup goalkeeper’s jersey which was gifted to Napier City Rovers.  Photo / Neil Reid

Former player and coach Jonathan Gould’s 1998 Scotland World Cup goalkeeper’s jersey which was gifted to Napier City Rovers. Photo / Neil Reid

21: The playing number on the 1998 Scotland World Cup shirt proudly hanging in the Napier City Rovers clubrooms which had been issued to former Napier City Rovers player and coach, and Scotland goalkeeper, Jonathan Gould.

22: Goals scored by the Mick Waitt-coached All Whites in the 2002 Oceania Nations Cup before they toppled the Socceroos 1-0 in the final. The Englishman had initially joined Napier City Rovers as a player in 1990, before then going on to being a highly successful and popular coach at the club.

23: The number of players who scored hat-tricks in the first decade of the Napier City Rovers. The list includes Roy Stanger who has captained and coached the club, as well as now being on its board.

24: What seemed like the initial decision to merge Napier City and Napier Rovers lasted just 24 hours. The merger was set to happen in June 1972 – under the new name Napier City United – but was shelved after the majority of Napier Rovers’ players revolted against it.

Roy Stanger is a legendary former Napier City Rovers player and coach, as well as now serving on the proud club's board. Photo / Neil Reid

Roy Stanger is a legendary former Napier City Rovers player and coach, as well as now serving on the proud club's board. Photo / Neil Reid

25: Martin Akers’ senior career spanned 25 years, during which time he became the club’s highest-capped player, with more than 300 first-team games for Napier City Rovers. Akers played one full international for the All Whites and also played for Wellington Olympic, Central United and across the Tasman for Wollongong City.

26: The 26th letter of the alphabet – Z was said to have temporarily “jinxed” Napier City Rovers in 1983. That year the club signed a $5000 deal with Suzuki – the club’s most lucrative at the time. But a string of poor home results, and injuries, led one Napier clairvoyant to claim the letter Z in the sponsors’ name had put a “hex” on the club.

27: AFC Bournemouth scored 27 goals during their eight-match tour of New Zealand in 1982. Newly-promoted to England’s Third Division, the side managed just a 2-1 win over Napier City Rovers. The match was played at McLean Park and attracted a crowd of 5088.

28: Life member Colin Stone wrote another chapter in Bluewater Stadium’s history when he got married on the playing pitch in 2018, 28 years after being appointed as the club’s general manager. He first arrived at the club in 1982 from his previous role as a promotion’s executive with English club Wimbledon FC.

Terry Parkin once held the record for the highest-capped Napier City Rovers player and was recently made a life member of the club.  Photo / Neil Reid

Terry Parkin once held the record for the highest-capped Napier City Rovers player and was recently made a life member of the club. Photo / Neil Reid

29: Longtime and popular player Terry Parkin had a double celebration when he turned 29 early in the 1983 National League. Not only did club mates toast his birthday, but they also celebrated with him his 150th first-team appearance.

30: Almost three decades of service to the club saw Roy Stanger being made a life member in 2003. The club said in a match-day programme: “Your contribution, like all our life members in making Napier City Rovers the best club in New Zealand cannot be denied.”

31: The whopping difference in goals scored by 1989 National League champions Napier City Rovers to bottom-placed team Papatoetoe was 31.

Future All White and World Cup goal-scorer Shane Smeltz scored 20 goals for Napier City Rovers during the 2002 National League. Photo / NZ Herald

Future All White and World Cup goal-scorer Shane Smeltz scored 20 goals for Napier City Rovers during the 2002 National League. Photo / NZ Herald

32: Harry Clarke was aged 32 when he became Napier City Rovers’ highest-capped player in 1993, overtaking Terry Parkin’s previous record of 227 first-team matches. Clarke joined the club in 1984 and scored more than 20 league and Chatham Cup goals in his record-breaking season.

33: The victorious 1985 Chatham Cup final was later dubbed ‘Greg Brown’s Final’. The match was one of the Englishman’s 33 matches in New Zealand – for both Napier City Rovers and Miramar Rangers. He went on to play for both the All Whites and later the Socceroos.

34: English import Paul Fishenden was in the process of helping Crewe Alexandra to promotion in the old British Third Division 34 years ago. He played for Napier City Rovers in 1981, during a loan period during his 75-match, 1980-87, stint at Wimbledon FC.

35: The path to the top of the table of the 1979 Central League Division Two title was near-perfect for Napier City Rovers. The team finished with 35 competition points – from 17 wins and one draw – out of a possible 36 had they won all 17 games.

Mark Paston makes his historic penalty shot save during the All Whites' 2009 win over Bahrain. Photo: NZPA / Ross Setford

Mark Paston makes his historic penalty shot save during the All Whites' 2009 win over Bahrain. Photo: NZPA / Ross Setford

36: Hastings-born goalkeeper Mark Paston played 36 internationals for the All Whites between 1997-2013; including being the penalty-saving hero in the home and away 2010 World Cup qualification eliminator against Bahrain. Paston, who debuted for Napier City Rovers in 1997, played in all three of the All Whites’ eventual World Cup pool play draws.

37: Gary Parker – number of goals scored by Scottish import in the 1986 Central League – which Rovers won by 15 points and a 57-goal for-against record. Parker later played rugby for Scotland A against the All Blacks, including scoring his side’s only try.

38: Coach Bill Robertson donned his boots at the age of 38 in 2022 during the National League. A modern-day stalwart of the club, he has played more than 150 first-team matches and during his player-coach career guided Napier City Rovers to two Central League titles (2015 and 2018) and the 2019 Chatham Cup victory.

Bill Robertson has been a legendary player and coach for Napier City Rovers during his successful stint with the club. Photo / Neil Reid

Bill Robertson has been a legendary player and coach for Napier City Rovers during his successful stint with the club. Photo / Neil Reid

39: New recruit and former Manchester City academy member Deri Corfe scored nine goals during his 39-game stint with FC Tucson in America’s third-tier USL League One. He previously played for New York Red Bulls II – the MLS side’s reserve team.

40: It took just 40 seconds for the 1995 Mick Waitt-coached Rovers team to open the scoring in a Superclub triumph against Manawatū. Napier City Rovers went on to win the match 5-3.

Jonny McNamara celebrates scoring before going on his ill-fated 'brief' trip back to the UK. Photo / Paul Taylor

Jonny McNamara celebrates scoring before going on his ill-fated 'brief' trip back to the UK. Photo / Paul Taylor

41: Popular English import Jonny McNamara scored a staggering 41 goals in 21 games during his second season with non-league team Sheffield Town during the two years he was unable to return to New Zealand due to the Covid-19 pandemic. McNamara had earlier been a key member of Napier City Rovers’ 2019 Chatham Cup-winning team and on his belated return to New Zealand last year was named the Central League’s MVP.

42: Before debuting for Napier City Rovers’ first team last year, striker Christian Leopard was an accomplished cricketer. In 2016, he smashed a match-winning half-century off just 42 balls in a New Zealand Under-19 win over Australia Under-19.

Forward Christian Leopard was a first-class cricketer before moving on to football; playing age-grade cricket for New Zealand and also representing Central Districts.  Photo / Neil Reid

Forward Christian Leopard was a first-class cricketer before moving on to football; playing age-grade cricket for New Zealand and also representing Central Districts. Photo / Neil Reid

43: Two-season Napier City Rovers player Che Bunce went on to play 43 matches for the Football Kingz; New Zealand’s first fully professional club. He also played 29 internationals for the All Whites between 1998-2007.

44: Goalkeeper Gary Dillistone played all of Napier City Rovers’ 44 league matches in 1981 and 1982. The shot-stopper is also a former New Zealand Under-20 rep.

45: The most recent of Napier City Rovers’ three Central League titles came in 2018 – their 45th season in existence.

Former Napier City Rovers star import Gary Parker went on to play rugby for Scotland A - scoring a try against the All Blacks - and also coached the Scottish women's international rugby team. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

Former Napier City Rovers star import Gary Parker went on to play rugby for Scotland A - scoring a try against the All Blacks - and also coached the Scottish women's international rugby team. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

46: The number of competition points won by Napier City Rovers which secured them the top spot on the points table and the 2018 Central League title. Martin Bueno won the competition’s Golden Boot award by scoring 22 goals in the winning season.

47: Dramas plagued the club 47 years ago during the 1976 season. That included six players being outed for drinking on the way to a match in Wellington which they went on to lose 5-1. Coach Les Todd wanted to suspend the group, which club bosses refused to do, and Todd was later sacked.

48: One of the club’s greatest stalwarts – Malcolm Wilson – has been involved with it for 48 of its 50-year existence. As well as being a player, he has also been a coach, secretary and club captain.

49: Napier City Rovers returned to the National League in 2022, in their 49th season, after a two-decade absence. The side was missing after a league restructure saw the creation of Hawke’s Bay United to represent the region.

50: Two penalties from club legend Malcolm Wilson, and a third goal from Kevin Murray, earned the club a 3-1 win 1982 National League win over East Coast Bays; in the process marking the 50th game undefeated at Nelson Park. It was a streak at their former ground going back to August 1977 and was to be extended by a further three matches.

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