University ‘gutted’ to lose league spot

Otago University players have been left "gutted" by their team’s dismissal from the Southern Football League.

Star midfielder Oban Hawkins said the team was disappointed with New Zealand Football’s decision to revoke its place in the league, due to falling short on licensing requirements.

Mosgiel will take University’s place in the South Island-wide league next year, it was confirmed on Thursday.

That leaves University to play in the Football South Premiership, with the possibility of winning its way back up, if it can meet the licensing requirements.

"Obviously it sucks," Hawkins said.

"Everyone I’ve talked to is just super gutted. I think it’s so gutting because last season we had such a good season.

"But it was almost a season that, we came to the end of it, and it was, like, ‘we can do so much more next season’.

"Everyone was really excited to come back to Dunedin, have a good preseason and push for the national league next season. Everyone’s just gutted and wondering what the next step is in terms of what to do next year."

It comes as a result of University not meeting New Zealand Football’s new national league club criteria.

The junior pathway had been an obvious sticking point, although Hawkins said a new relationship with Grants Braes had helped that.

Losing some key personnel — notably highly licensed women’s coach Stuart Moffat to Green Island — had left the club without a coach with a high enough badge, however.

It had also lost a significant off-field figure in James Coombes, who had gone to Auckland.

Hawkins acknowledged New Zealand Football was trying to do a good thing, upskilling coaches and ensuring quality was handling the top teams.

However, he said in his experience the quality of a coach was not determined by the badge they had.

He felt University men’s head coach Darren Hart, who guided the team to fourth in last year’s South Island league and the Chatham Cup quarterfinals, was a good coach without the badge.

"I think they’ve got to make certain exemptions.

"In our case, when we played so well last year, we were a whisker away from the semifinal of the Chatham Cup. Just because we lost a couple of coaches, I don’t think that should be preventing us from playing South Island league, and pushing for national league.

"I feel a bit let down. Not by the club, not by the uni whatsoever.

"Just the fact the exemption hasn’t been able to go through. We’re a uni club — maybe we are a bit undermanned.

"But I think that’s what makes us so special. Everyone has to pitch in. Everything’s not put on a plate for us.

"At Birkenhead United, where I used to play, we’d have seven coaches at trainings and managers and everyone doing everything for you. Here, everyone has to chip in, and we’re not going to be taken care of as much."

Hawkins was unsure what it meant for where the players would go next year.

He said it would be great to keep the group together, although it would be a big sacrifice to spend a year playing at a level below where the team felt it belonged.

 - jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

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