Being ‘big family’ took side to new heights

Rose Morton (left) and Hannah Mackay-Wright celebrate with their silver medals after the National...
Rose Morton (left) and Hannah Mackay-Wright celebrate with their silver medals after the National League final. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE
It is a strange world when the wise old heads are still in their early 20s.

Southern United captain Rose Morton, 23, and defender Hannah Mackay-Wright, 22, are the squad’s longest-serving members, having been part of the regional team for five years.

While Southern went through some tough times searching for wins in those early days, Mackay-Wright knows just how hard they worked to reach the National League final on Sunday.

They lost 2-0 to Auckland United at Mount Smart, but the overwhelming feeling from the players was a sense of pride in making the final.

"All the times when I know Southern were at the bottom of the table and struggling, we slowly got better and we’ve been working hard for at least these five years-plus," Mackay-Wright said.

"It’s amazing just getting to the final. We’re so proud – and more to come."

Southern were strong in the opening 20 minutes, but once Alexis Cook scored in the 25th minute, the momentum shifted to the home team.

"It changed the game and we got a bit flustered, a bit hectic ... final football can do that to you.

"We just never got really back into it after that and clicked like we’ve been clicking for the season, but so proud anyway.”

Mackay-Wright credited the "kind and warm" group of players, who were all around the same age, for helping Southern get to where they had this season.

Morton felt the same, calling her team-mates her best friends, which made a difference, especially when you had been involved as long as she had.

"We’re a big family,” Morton said.

"We win together, we lost together, we celebrate hard together.

"We don’t get paid. This is what we love to do, passion of the game, and it makes it easier when you love who you’re playing with and you love your coaching staff.”

She also looked back over Southern’s journey this season with admiration, changing people’s mindsets about Southern from past seasons, when no-one paid attention to them.

"I think it’s time to take Southern seriously and I think that’s what we’ve done.

"That’s all we can ask for."

Mackay-Wright is originally from Nelson, and after a stint in Auckland, she has found her home in Dunedin working as a teacher at Queen’s High School.

Morton, originally from Hawke’s Bay, is nearing the end of her studies, but plans to stay in Dunedin to work towards becoming a barrister.

Both have the passion for Southern United to go one better next year.