Waikato University College AFC
(A brief history, or how it all began).
Known more widely today as Waikato Unicol AFC, the Hamilton Teachers College football team began life in 1960 on their original campus of what is now Melville High School. In these early years the teacher training students played in the Sunday League for the College, and for club sides on the Saturdays. In those days the club played in yellow shirts with green trim, dark green shorts and yellow and green hooped socks.
Around 1964/1965 the club affiliated to the Waikato Football Association and competed in the Saturday Leagues, starting in the then lowest division, the Waikato 3rd Division. In those days as with today opponents were found from Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, Cambridge, Huntly and of course Hamilton. With a campus shift to the University site in 1969, the club changed name to Teachers Varsity and spent the next five years working towards the goal of Northern League entry.
In 1974 the Waikato 1st Division team, that included future life members Colin Shannon and Gary Steele, won a playoff against Onehunga Mangere Utd and Green Bay Titirangi, to earn the right to enter the Broadlands Northern League 4th Division. In their debut season Hamilton Teachers/Varsity finished a credible 8th out of 10. It was noted that the club had difficulties over player availability and while holding their own they relied mostly on speed and fitness. This was to be a common theme for the club throughout their Northern League sojourn.
A second season in the 4th division, finishing in 8th place resulted in two significant club events. The first was a change of club name. To prevent confusion with Teachers United from Auckland, the club moved to become Waikato University College AFC (or Waikato Unicol for convenience). The second was to open the club up to players outside of the University and the Training College. As a result of the latter, in 1978, coached by former Hamilton National League player, Ray Powell, the Unicol men were undefeated in taking out the Country Foods Northern league 4th Division (South) title.
Over the next few years the club had some moderate success in the 3rd and 2nd divisions of the Northern League. While not winning another title, they did finish runners up in the 3rd division in 1980 and 1993 as well as finishing a credible 3rd in the 2nd division in 1985.
In the late 1980s the women’s side of the club began to emerge as a true powerhouse of football. Spearheaded by International ‘keeper Anne Smith, and attracting Waikato and international age-group reps Unicol Women began a period of dominant rivalry with Claudeland Rovers, that culminated in both clubs entering the Women’s Northern League in 1995. The first step for Unicol was an appearance in the inaugural final of what is now the ASB Women’s Knock-out cup in 1994, which resulted in a loss on penalties to Nomads United. The following year Unicol (including in their line-up dual Football and Cricket international Rebecca Rolls, Football and (later) Rugby international Melissa Ruscoe) defeated Petone 3-1 to claim the top prize.
Over the next four years Unicol made the cup quarter final once, and twice more made it to the semi-finals and on three occasions finished 3rd in the Women’s Northern League. Unicol dropped out of the competition after the 1999 season.
By 2000 the Men’s participation in the Northern League was also winding down. Vincent Van Neuren scored a club season best 18 league goals in the Men’s Northern League as Unicol finished runners up in the 3rd division in 2000. Despite a further 14 league goals from Vinnie (and a club record of 44 in total) in 2002 Unicol were relegated. The following year, coached by former University Blues winner and 1980s Unicol striker Mark Treloar, with only three players remaining from the previous season, Unicol were unable to stay above the new league restructure cut-off line.