Goalkeeper Coey Turipa endured sleepless nights and weeks of uncertainty weighing up whether to leave his hometown Tasman United.
Canterbury United have lured the 25-year-old back to Christchurch for this summer’s national league, marking the Dragons’ first off-season signing.
Turipa started 14 games for Canterbury in coach Willy Gerdsen’s first season in charge in 2015-16, where they made the semi-finals, losing to Auckland City.
He was unveiled as the first signature for national league new boys, Tasman, last season, but endured a frustrating campaign, suffering three injuries which hampered his game time and form.
Turipa received offers from Tasman, Canterbury and Waitakere United for the upcoming season. The opportunity to link with Gerdsen again, work with goalkeeping coach Adam Highfield and utilise Canterbury’s support staff and facilities was a major drawcard.
He will fight it out with Cashmere Technical’s Danny Knight for Canterbury’s starting goalkeeping spot.
Turipa, who is playing his winter football for Wairarapa United in the Central Premier League, said it was a difficult call to leave Tasman after one season and admitted he agonised over what to do.
“It was tough. All my family is still back in Nelson. I’m playing up here at Wairarapa and my house is full of Tasman United boys, who are going back there.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. It took me weeks and sleepless nights, but I feel like I made the best decision.”
Gerdsen, who will coach Canterbury for the third straight season, said Turipa was a reliable performer two years ago and was delighted to have landed a quality goalkeeper.
He looked at Nomads’ former national league stopper Tom Batty, who started three times for Canterbury last season, but he was unavailable, as was Western’s Jimmy Hinton.
“I’m very happy. He gives us a good foundation,” Gerdsen said.
“I wanted two New Zealand goalkeepers. We have two of the outstanding New Zealand goalkeepers … If you want to make the top four, you need two outstanding goalies.”
Turipa had a strong relationship with Tasman coach Davor Tavich, who did a fine job at the end of last season having taken over from Richard Anderson, who returned to England after poor results.
His move to Canterbury was more about a fresh opportunity and extending himself, rather than anything being wrong with the Nelson-based club.
“Davor, I’ve known him since I was a little kid … I left the club on good terms really and they’ve been supportive of me, which made it easier.”
Turipa described Gerdsen as “one of the toughest coaches” he had played under and owed a lot to him for giving him his first shot in the national league.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Willy. Willy, brought out the best in me.”
He was mindful what sort of reaction he would get playing against Tasman this season, especially from the hometown crowd at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park.
Turipa previously played for Nelson Suburbs and Nelson Marlborough Falcons in the national youth league. His father is Nelson football legend John Brydon.
“I don’t know if I’ll be looking forward to that day or not,” Turipa said about returning to play Tasman.
“I know there’ll be a few people there trying to get under my skin and that. At the same time, I’ve grown up through Nelson football and given all I can to Nelson football.”
Turipa said he was “injury-free and playing quite well up here”. He will line up in goal for Wairarapa in the Chatham Cup’s round of 16 on Saturday against Miramar Rangers in Masterton.
Canterbury are set to announce more signings over the coming weeks with experienced performers like skipper Aaron Clapham, Tom Schwarz, Stephen Hoyle, Juan Chang, Sean Morris and Andreas Wilson, who are featuring locally, expected back.
*Meanwhile, MPL leaders Cashmere Technical host Dunedin’s Caversham in the Chatham Cup last 16 at Garrick Park on Saturday. Kickoff 2pm.