National League beckons for Wanderers!

From Stuff.co.nz 17th Dec 2015

Hamilton Wanderers will join the ASB Premiership from the 2016-17 season, as one of three new teams granted two-year licences to compete in New Zealand's national football league.

They will be joined by Auckland club Eastern Suburbs, and Tasman United, a new entity created to represent the Nelson and Marlborough regions, as the competition's new faces, with seven of the eight existing teams returning.

WaiBop United are the only current team not to continue, having in effect handed their licence to Wanderers, after the WaiBop Football Federation decided it could not continue to financially support a national league team to the same extent as it has been in recent years.

Wanderers chairman Brendon Coker said the decision was fantastic news for the club.

"I think it's recognition of where the club's come in the last two to three years and beyond, to get to today. We're really, really excited about the opportunity we're presented with."

He said the club was under no illusions as to the challenge ahead of them, as they prepare for a competition that will begin in about 10 months, while continuing to manage their commitments during the 2016 winter season.

"We've structured the club in such a way that we've set up a team that will be fully focused on national league football, and getting the club ready for national league for next year, and we've got a team that's going to be fully focused on the northern league season, which is coming up soon, and the rest of the club.

"So I think we've got good structures in place within the club that will shape us well for what lies ahead.

"The way we're going to structure the club, it's going to be totally separate in terms of the financials, so we can track costs with the national league and also with our normal operations.

"We're confident with that. We've had some really good discussions with sponsors and funders and that's been going on for a while now, so we're very confident that we've got good space to meet our requirements there."

Wanderers plan to call Porritt Stadium their home, but will also play games at FMG Stadium Waikato when required, and current northern league head coach Mark Cossey is set to assume the same role with the national league side.

Coker said he wanted to work closely with other clubs in the WaiBop region, and moved to reassure the local football community that pathways will not be closed to members of other winter clubs.

"There will be a perception that, no, Hamilton Wanderers is the only club that you can play national league football with, but ... if players want to play for their winter clubs, then come play for Hamilton Wanderers in the summer national league, then we'll be open to that, and we've just got to work with those clubs and those players."

Six Wanderers players - Mark Jones, Federico Marquez, Wade Molony, Adam Luque, Alexis Varela and Cory Mitchell - are currently members of the WaiBop squad, with two more - Sam Redwood and Alfie Rogers - at Southern United and Auckland City respectively.

Wanderers will be the sixth entity from the Waikato region to play national league football, which has existed in one form or another since 1970, following in the footsteps of Hamilton AFC, Waikato United, Melville United, Waikato FC and WaiBop United.

One thing all five of the previous teams have in common is that they have never won the national league - Waikato United's second place in 1992 is their best finish - so that is a slice of history Wanderers will do their utmost to claim.

New Zealand Football announced plans for the revamp on October 2, and called for expressions of interest to be made by October 20.

Formal applications were then due by November 20, with eight entities making bids.

Those unsuccessful were Auckland United, Onehunga Sports and North Shore City, Wellington's Western Suburbs, and Wairarapa United.