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Triumphant Toil

Last Sunday, Christchurch’s Coastal Spirit FC played Glenfield Rovers in the ASB Women’s Knockout Cup final – the capstone on the winter season.

The game was scrappy; a rough and tumble encounter that wasn’t much worth writing about. Rovers had a size advantage and they made it count, out-muscling the local girls and dominating possession.

Watching Coastal Spirit stuck on the back-foot, you have to wonder, who would sign up for this?

There were two players in particular for whom it seemed particularly pointless: the fullbacks, Laura Merrin and Meikayla Moore.

They spent the game running back and forth down their respective touchlines.

Most of the time they were stuck in defence, with their only thought being to clear the ball as quickly
as possible.

Their forays forward ended only in desperate crosses.

Fullback is the most unglamorous position on the football pitch.

As a British commentator put it that very night, while commenting on a game half the world away, “you’re either a failed winger or a failed center-half”.

“No-one wants to grow up to be a full back.”

Watching this final unfold, you would have to agree. Merrin and Moore’s task was thankless, but they did it with aplomb.

There are the days when you just accept your role for what it is, do your job as best you can, and ride out the 90 minutes.

There’s usually another game next week, and things can only get better.

That’s not the case when it’s the cup final.

For 70 minutes it seemed a case of when Glenfield would score, not if.

Then things changed.

That’s the magic of the cup.

The longer the result remains uncertain, the more up for grabs it becomes.

Rather than being pushed back in defence, Merrin and Moore began to venture forward again, and Coastal began to have chances of their own.

Still, the clock wound towards full time, and the game remained goalless.

With a minute remaining, Coastal had one last chance.

A free kick, outside and to the left of the box.

Everyone from Coastal surged forward, leaving Merrin to take the free kick.

She swung it in with her left boot.

The ball dipped into the box, and was met by a Rovers’ defender.

It looped up towards their goalkeeper, who tried to claim it, but could only help it over the line.

Merrin was named the finals MVP.

Hard work paid off.

_Andrew Voerman