The Cheeky Dozen only assembled one week before the tournament, in this period they managed to play two warm-up matches and squeeze in a training run too.
In their first warm-up match, against the Pukekohe intermediate School Girls AIMS team, runner up in this year’s AIMS tournament, the Cheeky Dozen prevailed 1-Nil in a tough encounter. The match against long time friends the Waiuku Tigers ended in a 3:1 win to the Cheeky Dozen so the team went into the two day tournament with their tails up.
19 teams, largely from the top leagues from United Soccer 01, Hamilton Premier League, Tauranga Premier Division and the AFF Premier Division, gathered for this tournament and if the Cheeky Dozen, made up from AFF 1st division players only, were intimidated by this illustrious line-up, they certainly didn’t let it be known. Even a late withdrawal on day one by one player due to illness couldn’t dent the Cheeky Dozen’s spirit.
Game one on day one saw the Puke side up against the second highest ranked 10th grade side in the AFF; the Fencibles United Rams. The Rams only lost one game in their championship round in the Premier Division, against the ‘out of this world’ Onehunga Sports (Wynton Rufer’s show-case WYNRS Academy side), finishing second in the AFF Premier League. The Cheeky Dozen went down 0-2 in a credible kind of way; both coaches agreed that they felt the Cheeky Dozen didn’t play that well at all, yet, the Rams testified during and after the game that they thought; ‘Mannnnnn, they are hard azz’....
Game two, against the Hamilton North Eagles, a team that played (and won) a knockout cup final the same morning in Hamilton at 0830hrs was a beauty. The Eagles came off the high of winning a cup final and travelling down the SH01 for nearly three hours in a team van and it showed, the team was a tidy galvanised unit, sweeping movements and passes using the width and depth of the park had the Cheeky Dozen in sixes and sevens at times. Intelligent football played well. The Eagles went up 2-0 within 8 minutes of the first half but the Cheeky Dozen showed some mettle and stealth; stepping up from their first, nervous, outing, the CD went about to play some football; numbers behind the ball in attack and legs a plenty in defence made sure the Eagles were not going to ‘fly’ away with the game. Pressure told and paid.... two goals within four minutes brought the CD back into the game and if momentum was anything to go by you would have put a lazy fiver the ‘Dozen’s way.... Alas, the game with the ‘round one’ is a simple one.... if you don’t get your feet to it; chances are you won’t score... 37 virtually unchallenged passes ending in 14 shots at goal were in the bank for the Eagles in the 2nd half, the CD managed to fire two blanks toward the Eagle’s nest in the same period. The game ended in a 2-2 draw, strangely, the Coaches felt that this one was a one that kind of got away. Little did anyone know at this stage whom the Cheeky Dozen had just let off the hook...
A Cheeky Dozen and some happy Eagles
The last game of day one saw the CD up against a United Soccer 01 premier division mid-table team, the Birkenhead Busters. The CD was the better team for 29 of the 30 minutes of the quick-fire round robin match; unfortunately they did not manage to turn dominance into tangible yields. A meagre 1-Nil was all the Cheeky Dozen had to show for and then, with 60 seconds to go that went too... BB found the equaliser and the tournament records show a 1-1 draw for the efforts...
Day two and the Cheeky Dozen were up against yet another US01 BB side; the Birkenhead Brumbies came to compete for a place in the Plate Semi-finals.
CD and BB just doesn’t mix.... the Cheeky Dozen, a complete dozen for day two of the tournament, were outplaying, outmuscling and arguably outrunning the Brumbies, yet after 40 mins of regulation play a 1-1 was all the ‘Dozen had to show for. The game went into golden goal extra-time; but on the score sheet the two teams were inseparable. A penalty shootout had to find the winner of this peculiar quarterfinals match.... the ‘Dozen fell one goal short after nine kicks from the spot...
Onward and upward it went, the Consolation plate semi-final was beckoning and old friends and foes the Waiuku Tigers were awaiting the Cheeky Dozen. A game high on drama and excitement ensued; the Cheeky Dozen came through with a hard fought 3:2 win, pretty it was not but, a win’s a win’s a win and the Cheeky Dozen were just happy to be in a final.
The Cheeky Dozen were lining up against the BIG Papakura United side, a Premier Division team that dominated the 1st division grading round in 2008 with a formidable 63:5 goals and 7 from 7 record, with hardly a bead of sweat ever broken throughout.
The United side went into this final hurt.... by their own standards they had underachieved over these two days and they sure wanted to make amends. Equally, the Cheeky Dozen had a royal good talking to from the coaching team; against Waiuku there were many individuals randomly putting boots to ball. What the coaches wanted to see was a/the TEAM putting it on the park like they knew they could.
Brother; did they ever! The Cheeky Dozen played out of their skins. Against a physically bigger and arguably more match hardened side the CD played a helter-skelter Rock’n Roll type football that put a huge smile on the face of the coaches and spectators alike. EVERYONE ran and tackled for each other like their life depended on it. Commitment, passion and some extraordinary skills were on display, equally matched by the Papakura United side. The rub of the green went the Cheeky Dozen’s way, though. Two tear-away counterattacking moves saw the ‘Dozen take a 2-0 lead into the half-time and the Coaches’ pep-talk didn’t go wasted on the team. In the 2nd half the Cheeky Dozen played an intelligent, mature and spirited brand of football. A ferociously attacking United side got stuck in a wall of defending ‘Dozens’, as ‘United opened up counterattacking chances fell the ‘Dozen’s way. In the end the score remained 2-nil to the Cheeky Dozen, even a 4-nil wouldn’t have looked contraire.
The final whistle found an elated team of 10th grade Pukekohe footballers with a great future ahead of them, it also found two coaches, different in their approach but united in their enthusiasm, ambition and dedication to the development of the game and it found mightily proud parents, sometimes irritated by some of the coaches’ vocalism, yet irrevocably proud of their children’s achievements on the day full stop
Cheeky Dozen, all proper and prim after beating the pants of Papakura United.
Cheeky Dozen, just that.
PS: Coach’s tip: Don’t ever show up late for a team photo, you get to do ‘push-ups' with a load....
PPS: Many thanks must go to the parentz of the Cheeky Dozen for supporting us over the last two days. Equally “Thank Youz” need to go to Grant Keen who blew his whistle and never his top as a Club Based Referee ‘Official’ for our games, greatly appreciated. I also want to thank Russell W. For once again enduring me as a co-coach, brother, I know what you are going through; I have been living with this for, I think, all my life.... lastly; CHEEKY DOZEN, guyz, YOU ROCKED, ‘twas a privilege and pleasure, seldom on offer, to be associated with a team like this. Keep on rockin’!
PPPS: Hamilton North Eagles, proud and deserved winner of the tournament, told me after the presentation that they thought ours was the toughest game they had.