v Northern (away)

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Sometimes you need a wide-angle lens. Take it from me, the photography enthusiast who turned up at Devonport’s Allen Hill Stadium today with a borrowed paparazzi lens so long you almost have to stand in a neighbouring postcode if you want to fit a player’s entire nose inside a frame…

There were good reasons for my choice of kit though. I wanted to practice with it and the hill that stretches up to Abbotsford Terrace, overlooking Northern’s home ground, offered me both the prerequisite height and distance you don’t always get in and around small suburban football venues. I was also in a mental space where I needed some distance for myself. In other words – I needed a wide-angle lens.

I find photography great therapy sometimes. It’s like meditation. With the dial set to full manual, you have three things to think about – shutter speed, aperture and ISO – and it’s easy to just lose yourself in tweaking those three things to keep the exposure consistent while you compose each frame. Looking through the barrel of a long lens, nothing else matters. The real world can wait until the final whistle.

And no offence, but when I’m in that zone if I can be somewhere such as high up on a hill where other people are discouraged from lurching me out of my happy place by the grim prospect of avoidable exercise – then that’s even better.

Doing something active – physically and/or mentally – relaxes you and breaks up your regular thought patterns. It pulls you away from overthinking and sets up new pathways in your brain that can take you in different directions. The more you use those new pathways, the more embedded they become. That’s why, in my experience, the more ways you can find to reset your brain – such as going for walks, writing, playing a musical instrument, or whatever else works – like photographing footballers who are 50 meters away through the Gran Telescopio Canarias – the more you will see the world through a wide-angle lens and be better for it.

For footballers, training sessions are quintessential wide-angle lenses. They are purpose built tools for breaking up thinking, taking in the bigger picture and – through both physical and mental activity as well as repetition – reinforcing new pathways that need to be substituted for old unhelpful ruts… …along with pretending to be injured when there’s running to do, socialising while drills are being explained and using the goalkeeping session as target practice.

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In any event, earlier this week I thought it could be interesting to find out what WaiBOP were working on ahead of today’s match-up. Armed with such intel, I intended to use game-day to see if the benefits of the team’s mid-week focus would be detectable and, assuming they would be, use them to artfully illustrate my point about wide-angle lenses.

What could possibly go wrong? So, so, so, so many things but it was still worth a try…

The first thing that could have gone wrong didn’t when coach Nico Girard very graciously indulged my somewhat cheeky request for him to divulge state secrets. Well, of course he did because WaiBOP people are the best by far. Either that or he was too distracted by the Canadian federal election to think the consequences through…

Either way he particularly identified crafting a defensive shape based on the personnel available (which has very much been a movable feast all season) and what they have seen Northern do in video footage. WaiBOP’s organisation at the back still needs some work, as does the speed of their transition from defence to attack and vice versa. The catenaccio approach adopted last week against Canterbury appeared set to continue against Northern as Nico felt both opponents have similar vulnerabilities to counterattacks that take cognisance of the gaps left by the formations they elect to play.

With the above in mind, I was left thinking it would be fascinating to see if this defensive approach, critiqued by some last week, would be vindicated seven days later with improved execution against last year’s beaten finalists.

Of course the other serious flaw in my cunning plan was always going to be the small matter of my football knowledge being such that I don’t really know a defensive shape from an Arnotts Shape. So all I can really do at this point is to draw your attention to the score at the bottom of this page and invite you to compare it to last week’s. That, and check back in with Coach Girard to see what he thought…

While Nico was typically refusing to open himself up to any accusations of undue excitement as he made his way back to the sheds, and he thought the defensive things they worked on were more evident in the second half than the first, on the plus side he did seem happy that the attack looked to have made a forward step overall. But, as with all aspects of life, the things we fix often expose more weaknesses further along the chain… So our work is never done. That’s why we need coaches though, right? And wide-angle lenses.

Northern 2, WaiBOP 0

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[My other images of this game are available to view and purchase here]

One Reply to “v Northern (away)”

  1. Always impressed with your writing and how quickly you get these posts up following the game Enzo! Also, always happy to talk football with you and anybody else who is keen to! I think in our positions, discussing the game is important to its overall growth in NZF. Happy to indulge!

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