Aish backing Royals to push for two National League spots

Hayden Aish is looking forward to his second season with the Dunedin City Royals. PHOTO: LINDA...
Hayden Aish is looking forward to his second season with the Dunedin City Royals. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Hayden Aish is just happy to be on the field.

The central midfielder is full of enthusiasm for his second season with the Dunedin City Royals after his Southern League career was initially derailed.

Aish moved to Dunedin from Auckland in 2021 to study computer science at the University of Otago.

But as soon as the former Western Springs representative arrived, he broke his foot twice playing football and was ruled out for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

It was a bitter blow for Aish but he worked hard to make his return last season and was rewarded by being named the Royals’ player of the year.

"In my first season back, it probably wasn’t something I was expecting, to be honest, but yeah, it was nice," Aish said.

"You don’t sort of get the same team environment of a competitive sport from anything else ... so I do enjoy that aspect of it quite a lot."

Aish enjoyed his first season with the Royals, who won eight games, drew five and lost five, to finish fourth in the Southern League.

They were in fine form but hit a bump in the road when players were injured and some students returned home for semester breaks.

"That’s like a unique challenge that we face compared to everyone else.

"Then I think we didn’t win a game for a month and a-half, which was pretty unfortunate, but it was still good to be back at it."

The Royals have lost some experience from last year — captain Ollie Pettersen (Waterside Karori), Kaleb de Groot-Green (Christchurch United), Tom Stewart (Selwyn), Ben Stanley (Napier City Rovers) and Sean Cooper (FC Bulleen, in Melbourne) — but Aish backs them to still push for the top two spots to make the National League.

"We’re looking to achieve or do just as well as we did last year," Aish said.

"We have lost some players, but we do have some young boys and some new boys coming in as well.

"I guess what will be key will be how we embrace them into our culture, and if we can sort of produce the same as we did last year without the people we’ve lost."

They get their first chance tomorrow in a tough encounter against Cashmere Technical at Logan Park.

The Royals beat Cashmere 3-2 in their round seven clash last year, but the Royals were beaten 4-1 in round 16.

Cashmere and Christchurch United were the teams to beat last season, and both earned spots for the National League.