Club returns with a strong focus

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Waihopai AFC have risen again to rejoin the Donald Gray Premiership after a six-year absence, and they are definitely back where they belong.

It has been a tough few years for the Surrey Park club, but behind the scenes, the club has undergone a transformation led by president Jarrid Halder.

The club has a strong history in the region and was one of the most successful in the Southern League from the 1970s to the early 2000s.

However, as much as the club celebrates its past, there is a strong focus on the future, and a clear roadmap to return the club to its halcyon days.

The biggest step has been the return to Donald Gray football, a move supported and praised by Southland Football and fellow clubs throughout the region.

"We needed to take the step up. If we want to grow the club and become a force again, we need to attract new players, and the best way to do that is to offer premier football,’’ Halder says.

The club’s return was also welcomed by fellow clubs with Old Boys president Nic Popham saying, "Old Boys’ AFC are very appreciative of Waihopai’s commitment to entering the Donald Gray League this year. We know their club has a long history in Southland’s top league, so it’s great to have them back in adding more depth to the competition. I hope a few other clubs follow Waihopai’s lead and take the same leap of faith for the benefit of Southland Football as a whole.’’

His thoughts were echoed by Queens Park Southern Premier League coach Paddy Murphy.

"It’s brilliant to see them back and I wish them all the best going forward. Hopefully we can get the Donald Gray back to a six-team competition sooner rather than later.’’

It is clear the club’s return is welcomed and Halder knows there still a long way to go, but believes the club is in a good place with a great team at the helm and fantastic volunteers throughout.

"We have got great members who are on board with the long-term plan for the club and we are all very excited about what the next few seasons have in store,’’ Halder says.

Waihopai’s junior ranks are strong and with the move to Donald Gray, there is now a pathway for the youth to transition from the junior game to the top senior competitions, with the top team benefiting from the injection of youth that will breed new life to the club.

It is that investment that Waihopai believes will pay off. Having a strong junior section is key to the long-term future of the club, but Halder knows recruitment is also important to support the senior sides.

"We are always on the lookout for players to support our top team, but welcome anyone wanting to give the sport a try, regardless of skill level.’’

The team trains at Surrey Park with the juniors at 5pm and seniors at 6pm.

If you want to find out more about Waihopai AFC, visit the club website at or drop the club a line at

Alternatively, come down and watch the club this weekend when Waihopai take on Queens Park across the senior grades.

Kicking off the day, Malloch McClean Waihopai Women take on Gore out at Gore at 1pm.

Kowhai Roofing Waihopai then take on Queens Park in the Donald Gray Competition at 3pm on the ILT Turf and Watford Construction Waihopai take on Queens Park on Surrey Park 4, also at 3pm.

 - By Chris Montgomery