Difficult times for Meadowbank teams

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Sport can be fickle in its nature – and Meadowbank United knows all about that.

The Oamaru football club was on cloud nine last season when it did the double, claiming both the South Canterbury men’s league and South Canterbury Cup titles.

However, as a result of low player numbers and a lack of available coaches, Meadowbank will not enter a senior men’s team in the competition this year.

The Meadowbank women’s side, which finished runner-up in its league last season, is also struggling to find a coach.

The club has entered a men’s team in the South Canterbury senior reserve section.

Simon Willetts, who guided Meadowbank to the double last season, said he was taking a break from coaching but would possibly still be involved in some capacity – either as a player or with the club’s junior section.

He said that was down to personal circumstances.

“My wife Candy and I are at a stage where we want to progress at home with our building. We are renovating the house we’ve got and want to build a new place.

“Obviously, football takes up a lot of time . . . so I’ve cut that side now.”

Along with Willetts, the club has lost several leading players.

Golden boot winner Matt Hayward, Paul Holmes, Eden Souter-Napier and Caleb Roberts have all moved away from Oamaru, while Willetts said “a couple of others” had committed to travelling this year and were unavailable.

He said it was sad Meadowbank would not be represented in the top flight, especially as defending league and cup champion.

“It’s not a good thing. I’m a bit disappointed but there’s not much you can do about it. We lost five or six players at the end of the season, so it leaves a big hole to fill.

“In the last year there hasn’t been too many young players coming through, so it’s hard to fill those spaces.”

Willetts was also involved with the women’s team as a caretaker coach last year, after Steve Cooper pulled the pin on his long coaching career.

He was confident a coach would be found, but said the job needed full commitment.

“Hopefully, they can. I know there’s a few guys who will put their hands up and help where they can, but they definitely need someone to take charge of them.”

Meadowbank won the South Canterbury league title after West End and Northern Hearts drew in the final round, while its South Canterbury Cup victory came in a 3-2 extra time win over West End.