One phone call changed my life (Part 2)

The following article provides the second part of Paul Rennell’s ‘One phone call changed my life’ story when he joined Eastern Suburbs in the mid 1960’s. Paul captained some of the Lilywhites most successful Premier teams, he also went onto captain the All Whites. Paul is now the Patron of our club.

‘After flying back and forth from Rotorua for three weeks while I served out my notice with my employer, I finally arrived in Auckland on Friday, 26 June 1964. We played Eden on Saturday at Glover Park and won convincingly 7-1. John Wrathall scored four goals, Dave Buller two, and yours truly one. Strange, but my first game for Suburbs against Mt Albert was the beginning of a winning streak which ended when we lost to Mt Wellington on Saturday, 1 May 1966. It must have been a lucky charm when I joined Suburbs!

On Tuesday, 30 June I met Ken Armstrong at work and he took me to my first training run at the St Heliers Bay Reserve. We parked in Goldie Street and when we got out of the car he said “there is your changing sheds” pointing to them and said “there is your shower afterwards” pointing to the tide. I thought what the hell have I got myself into!

Early August, I was picked to play for Auckland (as inside forward) against Poverty Bay at Gisborne. About five minutes into the game, Dave Lowry (Suburbs and Auckland right half) got taken out in a very crude tackle. While the ambulance staff was attending to Dave, Ken appeared on the side line and said “Gary Dunsford you go to right half and Paul you go to left half with Ronnie Cochran going to inside forward. We won 4-1. When I went into the changing sheds, Ken shook my hand and slapped me on the bum saying “that’s the end of inside forward”. I said “I have an agreement to play inside forward”. “OK only to the end of the season”’

One phone call changed my life!

I was living and working in Rotorua, playing for Kahukura and on Saturday, 6 June 1964 at 9:45pm the phone rang. My landlady answered it and said it is for you. I answered and the voice on the other end said “Ken Armstrong, Coach of Eastern Suburbs speaking”. I said “what do you want?” “I want you in Auckland next Saturday to play Mt Albert at Anderson Park.” He told me he wanted me to strengthen their mid-field. I said “I play inside forward and if I can’t play there I won’t come” and hung up.

Five minutes later he called back and said “I don’t lose very often, but you can play inside forward, so I will see you next Saturday, 1:45pm at Anderson Park”. Apart from Ken and Charlie Dempsey, nobody knew I was coming. Ken met me and took me into the changing sheds and introduced me to the team. You could have heard a pin drop when Ken handed me my strip. I had jersey 6 which I said is not inside forward. “I know” he said “but the programme has you wearing 6 but you are playing inside forward”. When we ran out on to the field you could hear the supporters saying “who is this skinny bast*rd. He will never last the game”. We won 4-1 and I had a very pleasing game setting John Wrathall up with two goals.

In the Clubrooms after the game, David Garrett said “what drugs do you run on?” I put my hand on my stomach and said “guts”. One game down, one win and welcome to The Lilywhites and a life in Auckland.

by Paul Rennell

The formation of Eastern Suburbs AFC in 1934

The origins of Eastern Suburbs AFC can be traced back to St. Heliers Bay Primary School and its football teams who played in a white uniform in the early part of the 20th Century. A number of the School’s past pupils formed Tamaki United FC in 1924 and adopted the white strip for the new club. Nine years later in 1933, Tamaki United and Glen Inness AFC merged to form Eastern Suburbs AFC.

Preliminary meetings around name and kit colours see-sawed from retaining Glen Innes’ name but with Tamaki colours and vice-versa. A decision was reached to name the club Eastern Suburbs and adopt the white kit (the colour of Tamaki United) and a chocolate and gold badge (in the style of Glen Innes) – the very colours that make up the Suburbs kit today.

Suburbs inaugural game was played against a Grey Lynn based club called ‘Comrades’ The game was played at St. Heliers reserve (now known as Vellenoweth Green) on Tamaki Drive, and resulted in a 5 – 3 triumph to Suburbs. Comrades was a Grey Lynn based club, and after a number of name changes and merges it is now part of Western Springs AFC.

Eastern Suburbs quickly established itself as a club of force, becoming Auckland FA Champions in 1948, and won their initial Chatham Cup trophy in 1951.

The information and images in this article was taken from the book: ‘The Lilywhites – The history of Eastern Suburbs AFC 1934 – 2015’

Youth to the Fore

After watching an entertaining summer national league, I was pleased to see again the number of younger players from Sacred Heart College, Auckland that Coach Danny Hay used over the summer season. Better still, Hoani Edwards, Coach of the winter team has carried these players on. The pathways and development strategy formed by the Club towards the younger players has proved very successful and lifted the atmosphere around the Club and supporters. To manage this scheme the Club under Danny Hay, has employed full time quality and specialist coaches, with the result of better young Lilywhites coming through on both men’s and ladies’ teams.

Hoani’s first team squad consists of 26 players which include Michael Built (Coach) and eight players currently attending Sacred Heart College, ages from 16-17 years. The average age for the squad is 20.64 years. Campbell Strong, Kingsley Sinclair, Charles Spragg and former graduate, Kelvin Kalua have all performed very well and have supported to the hilt Tim Payne (Captain) and the older players. They have all contributed to the good standard of football that the team have been playing, hence their second position on the ladder.

Credit must go to Hoani and Kane for their great efforts in coaching and preparing the lads for battle. Keep up the good work and give us old supporters something to cheer about!

by Paul Rennell

Eastern Suburbs 5 v Hamilton Wanderers 2

MATCH REPORT | #Lilywhites 5 v Hamilton Wanderers 2
Eastern Suburbs won this entertaining encounter courtesy of a well taken hatrick from Jade Parris and two goals from Hannah Pilley. Suburbs never really looked like losing this after scoring a couple of early goals, although Hamilton came back strongly in the second half and caused some panic in the suburbs back line.

Heavy rain fell on Madills Farm just before kick off and continued for much of the first half making the pitch slippery and fast. This may have contributed to some early mistakes from the Hamilton team and they also seemed slow to get going, perhaps feeling the effects of their long bus journey. After just 26 seconds, the Hamilton defence failed to deal with Amber Whitley’s cross and in the resulting confusion Jade Parris poked the ball past the keeper.

Suburbs maintained the pressure and continued to benefit from some loose Hamilton play, and within 8 minutes of the start they were 2-0 up after Jade Parris threaded a ball through to Hannah Pilley who finished calmly into the bottom left corner of the net.

Hamilton launched some attacks of their own but the suburbs back line of Rebekah van Dort, Kate Carlton and Leah Mettam coped well and, when in possession, they stroked the ball around nicely. Kate Seater occupied the space between defence and midfield and coordinated most of the suburbs creative play in the first half.

The third goal came as Jade Parris again found herself in space just outside the box and fired a firmly hit shot past the outstretched keeper.

3-0 down at half time, the Hamilton coach looked frustrated and whatever he said during his half time talk, it certainly seemed to fire up the Hamilton girls. They looked much more organised and energetic in the second half and they had soon reduced the deficit to two goals when their centre forward turned neatly at the top of the penalty area and unleashed an unstoppable shot past Corina Brown in the suburbs goal.

Hamilton were looking dangerous and they were also benefiting from a strengthening wind at their backs. This helped them keep possession in the suburbs half for long periods but it also left them vulnerable to quick breaks by the fast eastern suburbs forward line. This is exactly what happened mid way through the second half when Hannah Pilley broke away at speed, her initial effort being saved by the keeper. Fortunately, Amber Whitley was following up and fired a shot against the post which rebounded back to Pilley who buried it into the top of the net. Another quick break lead to the fifth goal (and Jade Parris’s hatrick).

This should have made the last 20 minutes relatively comfortable for suburbs but they lost some concentration and conceded a goal straight from the kick off as the Hamilton forwards ploughed straight through with minimal resistance.

From then on it was a matter of suburbs holding on against wave after wave of Hamilton attack. Fortunately they did this but not without some heart-stopping moments and some problems clearing the ball against the strong wind.

This was a good result for suburbs against a Hamilton team which has been difficult to beat all season. The Hamilton girls had a long journey home to reflect on how different it may have been if they hadn’t conceded those two early goals.

Eastern Suburbs 0 v Glenfield Rovers AFC 2

The #Lilywhites came out second best in this top of the table clash with Glenfield Rovers on a cold and wet afternoon at Madills Farm. Despite a high work rate in midfield and plenty of possession, Suburbs just couldn’t break down the well organised Glenfield and they succumbed to two well executed goals in the first half.

Suburbs dominated possession for the first twenty minutes and had a couple of decent chances but failed to capitalise. Glenfield then showed what they can do by breaking out of defence and flowing forward in a coordinated move along the left wing which culminated in Geena Gross squeezing the ball home from a tight angle.

The second goal came in similar circumstances 10 minutes later, this time a fast break away catching Suburbs by surprise and a well weighted cross was headed in firmly by Dayna Stevens.
The second half followed a similar story with suburbs working hard but Glenfield dealing with the threat with relative ease. Glenfield players are all fast and fit and they use this to their advantage by pressurising opponents into making mistakes and then breaking away with speed.

Glenfield looked dangerous in attack and created some chances in the second half but player of the day, Rebekah van Dort, and her defence coped well with the threat.

The suburbs midfield of Jeongwon Shin, Molly Bryans and Lucy Carter worked tirelessly but found themselves closed down very quickly and unable to release the ball forward.

The rain started to fall heavier as the second half wore on and this seemed to weigh on suburbs as they failed to make a significant impact on the Glenfield goal.

These two teams are battling it out for top spot in the league and the matches between them are always keenly contested. Unfortunately for suburbs it was Glenfield who came out on top today but they remain in contention and they will be keen to ensure they stay on the shoulder of the league leaders over the next few weeks.

Eastern Suburbs 1 v Papakura City 0

Eastern Suburbs eventually edged this tight contest by one goal to progress to the quarter final stage of the Kate Sheppard cup. These two teams know each other pretty well having played just six days ago in the league although suburbs made a few changes to their starting line- up. Coach, Mauro Donoso, had the rare luxury of being able to select from an almost full squad with the NZ representative squad players being available for this Saturday game.

Despite the quality of players on show, suburbs struggled to play flowing football as Papakura closed them down tightly in midfield and did not give them any space up front. There were very few clear cut chances in the match, although Papakura’s goalkeeper was the busier of the keepers.

Papakura have a highly experienced and well organised back line and a goal keeper who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Suburbs were restricted to some long range efforts in the first half and the keeper dealt with these easily.

Papakura were having similar problems in finding the final ball through to the forwards and much of the first half action was confined to the congested midfield. But around 5 minutes before half time they forced their way through the suburbs midfield and managed a break away which looked promising until Kate Seatter clipped the ankles of the flying forward and was shown a yellow card. Fortunately for suburbs the resulting free kick sailed over the bar.

The second half started more positively for suburbs as Grace Jale began to find a bit of space just behind the forward line and she combined well with Jeongwon Shin make some good runs and penetrating passes. Jale, Jacqui Hand, Hannah Pilley and Jade Parris all had efforts at goal but the Papakura keeper was equal to them.

Papakura also managed to create a few chances as the game began to open up a bit, the best of which saw a cross to one of their players in plenty of space in front of goal. Fortunately for suburbs, in the heat of the moment, she didn’t connect with the ball and it went harmlessly out of play.

Suburbs made a few changes as players began to tire in the high tempo second half. The additional energy of the substitutes helped suburbs mount a number of attacks towards the end of the game.

The goal finally came in the final five minutes and the free kick that lead to it was the result of an unfortunate error by the Papakura goalkeeper which was cruel considering she had played a perfect game up until that point. She had collected the ball from another eastern suburbs attack and was about to deliver it forward when she dropped it. Unfortunately for her she made the decision to pick it up again and the referee ruled that, as she had lost control of the ball and then picked it up, an indirect free kick should be awarded on the edge of the penalty box.
Suburbs took full advantage of this in a clever and stylish way with Grace Jale taking a short tap to Jade Parris who floated a superbly placed shot over the wall and into the top right of the net leaving the unfortunate goal keeper no chance.

Papakura will consider themselves unlucky to come away from Madills farm with nothing to show for their efforts twice in one week and they have certainly made it difficult for suburbs during both of those games, but the Lilywhites have a good record at home and, on the balance of play, they just about deserved it.

Eastern Suburbs 3 v Papakura City 2

Eastern Suburbs won a hard fought battle against a physical Papakura side in a tense premier league match on Sunday. The Lilywhites were missing a number of players through NZ development squad duty and they also lost two of their key players during this match to injury, but they showed great character and resilience to grind out a win.

Conditions were perfect for football as warm sunshine shone down on a very well prepared Madills Farm number 1 pitch. Eastern Suburbs were the first to settle into their rhythm, playing some nice first touch football with crisp passes and good movement off the ball. This was rewarded after 12 minutes when the pressure on Papakura’s back line lead to a corner. This was well delivered into the danger area by Leah Mettam and, as both teams fought to get a head to the ball, it glanced off a Papakura defender, leaving the goalkeeper unable to reach it.

The own goal seemed to shock the visitors into action and from then on the first half was much more evenly contested as Papakura started to assert their physical style of play and began winning many of the midfield battles. Kate Carlton left the pitch with a leg injury mid way through the first half and suburbs were forced to defend deeper and deeper. Papakura created a number of chances including a superb strike from 25 yards out which was heading for the top right of the net until Corina Brown tipped it past the post with an excellent diving save. This was Browns first game back in goal since breaking her wrist in the first game of the season and she made it look like she had never been away, with some great diving stretches and some brave goal mouth scrambles.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first with Eastern Suburbs playing some nice football, creating some good chances but just lacking the final ball. Unfortunately, suburbs central defender and skipper, Rebekah von Dort was forced to leave the field with a leg injury within a few minutes but the rest of the team adjusted to this set back well and they all stepped up to match Papakuras’ physicality. 20 minutes after the break they were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position on the left. The free kick was whipped in by Jade Parris and met well by Molly Bryans to claim her first goal of the season for suburbs.

Eastern suburbs continued to press the opposition and in the 69th minute Jade Paris played a through ball for Hannah Pilley. The Papkura goalkeeper took the opportunity to rush out of her penalty area and attempt to clear but Pilley had continued her run and managed to block the keepers clearance, the ball ricocheting into the goal to put suburbs 3-0 up.

All credit to Papakura for not letting their heads go down at this stage. In fact they came out fighting and found a second wind. They again began to dominate the midfield and eventually found some space wide on the right. A firm cross from the right was finished nicely from close range by Chloe Marthe to give the visitors some hope with 15 minutes still to play. The momentum was with Papakura and they produced an almost identical move a few minutes later , this time the cross from the right wing forcing a own goal.

This lead to a very tense last 10 minutes with Papakura determined to get something out of the match and forcing some further saves from Brown and her defenders as suburbs scrambled to keep the ball out.
As the clock ran down to full time, suburbs had a chance to make it 4 from another well struck free kick by Jade Paris but the Papakura goal keeper made a great save.

Suburbs breathed a sigh of relief as the final whistle blew and they certainly knew they had been in a hard fought match.

These two teams will battle it out again next Saturday in the Kate Shepherd Cup. Judging by this match it should be an exciting contest.

Lilywhites Development and Pathways strategy key to great start in Championship

INTERVIEW | Championship player Jodel Liberty Shai is enjoying the #Lilywhites great start to the league campaign and confident the team can continue to thrive and develop throughout the season under the leadership of coach Jesus Bueno

Jodel said “The transformation from last season has been amazing and I put this down to the clubs #development and #pathways strategy. There are several girls from our Grade 16 Prems team and some fantastic players amongst them!”

“There is no doubt in my mind that the majority will push on to play Lotto NRFL Prems football and I suspect there are a few future Football Ferns as well.”
Talking about her own football journey Jodel said “I started playing football in England for Ossett Albion FC (now Ossett United FC) in 2006 and also represented my local County Football Association (West Riding County Football Association) for a couple of seasons, playing against other regional academy teams such as Leeds United, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough before moving to New Zealand in 2011.

Since arriving in Auckland Jodel added “I had the dream start and won the AFF Grade 14 Prems Division during my first season. I also played several representative games for Auckland Football Federation and in 2015 joined Papatoetoe AFC.”

After a solid season in the Reserves, Jodel seemed destined to make the step up to Prems before an ankle injury and subsequent operation kept her out for a year. “It was gut wrenching and I was devastated. To make it worse upon my return I really struggled with the impact training and matches had on my ankle. It probably took me another year or so to get over it both mentally and physically. In hindsight I probably returned too quickly, but was desperate to get back on the pitch and play again!”

“Having said that my time off the field turned out to be very constructive and during that period I attended the Auckland Football Federation Club Based Referee course, completed my New Zealand Football Level 2 Junior Coaching Award and coached on the AFF Holiday & Schools Programme. I found coaching a great experience, very rewarding and am keen to return, but probably not until my playing days are over and I can give it my full attention as juggling the two is tricky.

Joining Eastern Suburbs in the Championship felt like and turned out to be the perfect fit for me, it’s a great club with awesome coaches and great facilities.
Since my return and joining the #Lilywhites I certainly appreciate playing football more and don’t take it for granted. This has led to a slightly more relaxed approach to football, which I’m not sure is a good or bad thing, but it works for me and like millions of others I enjoy taking to the field each week and giving it my all!

When the Phoenix came to town

By Sam Jeffery

On any given Friday around 3pm many of us will generally be winding down from professional servitude and beginning to ramp up for the impending weekend frivolities. However on this Friday just past, patrons of the Eastern Suburbs were treated to a spectacular pre-weekend treat as Madills Farm hosted Ernie Merrick and his Wellington Phoenix to train in front a throng of excited football fans of all ages.

As part of their Football United 2014 tour, that will see Premiership sides Newcastle and West Ham head to New Zealand, the Phoenix were in Auckland and made the home of Eastern Suburbs their own for the afternoon. Two Suburbs first team players, Ernest Wong and Haidar Jabir, were also lucky enough to get the opportunity to train with the players, whilst the generous swell of fans were able to have their photos taken and shirts signed once the session came to its conclusion.


Having trained earlier that morning the session was a relatively light affair but was equally an excellent opportunity to observe the showcase of talent that the Phoenix have. Stars such Tyler Boyd, Kevin Durante and Matt Ridenton could be seen caressing the ball around Madills with aplomb, under the watchful eye of Ernie Merrick, whilst the Lilywhites own Jabir fitted in with pleasing ease.

Suburbs keeper Wong worked separately under the guidance of former Celtic and Scotland keeper Jonathan Gould, now Phoenix GK coach, and was thrilled at getting the chance.

“It was great to play with professional players and get the chance to be coached by someone like Jonathan Gould. I really enjoyed it, particularly as it was at Madills and the club I play for.”


Whilst only two Suburbs players were lucky enough to get the chance to actually train with the Phoenix, hundreds of young fans got the opportunity to interact with the players once the session was over and it is to their great credit that not one fan would have been left disappointed with the time the players took to sign and be photographed with.

Suburbs Chairman Chris Ruffell, responsible for orchestrating the successful event, was left satisfied by what was achieved.

“I think it was a good day all round, we had a big crowd which is great and I thought the Phoenix were certainly very approachable and interacted very well. Overall it’s been very worthwhile and we thank them for their efforts and would love to welcome them back anytime”.

It was a sentiment echoed by the Phoenix hierarchy.

“It’s been a great day”, Coach Merrick commented, “both the Suburbs boys are clearly very talented, and this really is what it’s all about [regarding the swarms of jubilant youngsters running around]”.

It would be impossible to disagree with the affable and thoroughly likeable Merrick, and with the sun beginning to set late on Friday it was with great thanks that Eastern Suburbs bade a fond farewell to its guests.


The Phoenix return to Auckland next month to take on West Ham at Eden Park, and it would be a shock should there not be a whole host of young Suburbs players present, clad in the shirts signed by their heroes. The tour is dubbed Football United, and anyone present on Friday would not testify to a more appropriate title.