The recent merger of Mangere United and Manukau City has created a vacancy in the division and it will be filled through a two-game play-off series between Onehunga-Mangere United and Beachlands-Maraetai.
Onehunga-Mangere were relegated from the Northern League last season but have been thrown a lifeline by the play-offs, while Beachlands-Maraetai missed out on promotion to the league when they lost the promotion play-off series to Cambridge in September.
The play-offs will take place on Sunday March 4 and Sunday March 11 at neutral ground McLennan Park, where Beachlands-Maraetai lost to Cambridge.
Cambridge has links with both clubs.
Onehunga-Mangere is coached by former All White player and assistant coach Brian Turner who has been an occasional visitor to Cambridge in recent seasons, and has provided coaching advice to our club. He was appointed at Onehunga-Mangere in December as part of a new three-man coaching staff, along with manager Mal Twiname and former All White Dave Taylor.
(Pictured, from left, Turner, Twiname and Taylor).
Beachlands-Maraetai’s playing staff and supporters quickly forged a good relationship with their Cambridge counterparts during the promotion play-off series which were played in fine spirit.
Composition of 2018 NRFL Second Division
Cambridge’s return to the Northern League means the club will compete against teams from as far away as Northland.
Division Two will include Franklin United, Metro, Northland, Takapuna, Papakura City, Albany United, Te Atatu and newly-promoted Bucklands Beach.
Other WaiBOP-based sides in the division are Ngongotaha – who won the 2016 WaiBOP Premiership – and Hamilton’s Claudelands Rovers.
As a requirement of entry, Cambridge will need to enter a team into the Northern League Reserves competition, which is designed to ensure clubs develop a depth of talent.
Cambridge first entered the Northern League in 1972 but were relegated in 2011 after a couple of seasons struggling to survive at that level.
The club voluntarily opted to drop two tiers of competition to rebuild its squad in the WaiBOP Federation Division Two (now known as the WaiBOP Championship).
After finishing runners-up in 2012, Cambridge were promoted to the WaiBOP Premiership.
The Reds won the Premiership title in 2015 but lost a two-game promotion series against unbeaten Auckland side Waitemata FC (who have since climbed into Division One of the Northern League).
In 2016, Cambridge were runners-up in the Premiership while winners Ngongotaha successfully earned promotion to the Northern League.