Accidental goalie now back in groove

Otago University goalkeeper Neil Archary saves a ball at the Logan Park Turf yesterday. PHOTO:...
Otago University goalkeeper Neil Archary saves a ball at the Logan Park Turf yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Neil Archary’s teenage table tennis skills ended up being nearly as valuable as his goalkeeping to Otago University this season.

The third-year medicine student had not played football since moving south to Dunedin for university.

The sport had played a big role in his life as a schoolboy and he spent plenty of time keeping goal for Hamilton Wanderers and St Peter’s College, Cambridge.

However, upon beginning university he had decided to put his effort into studying.

Five years on, he arrived for another year of study with no intention of changing that.

Then he met Otago University star Oban Hawkins at a medical students social event, a party he had not even intended on attending until a couple of hours before.

‘‘I met him at a flat party,’’ Archary (23) said.

‘‘He actually remembered me from NTC [national talent centre] and that I was a decent table tennis player, and that I beat him in table tennis in straight sets.

‘‘He managed to convince me [to come back] and I guess I’m glad for it now.’’

While there was a bit of rust at first, Archary’s return to the goalkeeping box has helped University to compile one of its best seasons.

‘‘I’m not going to lie, the first couple of weeks things felt quite unco-ordinated.

‘‘Things felt a lot slower than they used to.

‘‘Things that normally I could do without thinking too much became a lot harder.

‘‘I would say through trainings and the time now I’ve had playing, that rusty stuff has gone. It’s a bit closer to what it used to feel like.’’

A run to the Chatham Cup quarterfinals was memorable.

Tonight it has another opportunity to stake a claim for a spot on the national stage.

University is involved in a five-team scrap for the final spot in the new national league with one round to go in the Southern Conference.

Cashmere Technical has clinched the South Island title with 18 points.

Following it are Christchurch United and Selwyn United on 10 points, with University, Coastal Spirit and the South City Royals all on nine.

A win over Green Island, which has managed just one point in its five South Island games, will propel University into second.

However, it will have to rely on results from the other four teams going its way this weekend.

Archary is looking forward to the game and said the team was feeling good following Sunday’s 3-1 win over Nelson Suburbs.

If it can claim a top-two finish, his season will be extended another nine weeks as University moves to the national league phase.

If not, tonight is likely to be his last game for the club.

Archary is set to move to Wellington for the next three years of his degree, a decision he made before returning to football.

While he will be sad to leave the team, he hopes to continue playing in the capital.

Tonight’s kick off is at 7.30pm.


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