The discussion on the U23 thread got me thinking, since the Cook Islands travel bubble has opened, it would be good if NZF tried to get some game against them. Of course Australia would be the better choice, but they have AFC qualifiers so wouldn’t be able to. Obviously the Cooks would serve no real competitive benefit, as they are the bottom of a OFC barrel, but surely NZF needs some sort of publicity, and having a couple legs against opposition they’re likely to play competitively next year would suffice.
There are now many NZ players in the A League that could be picked, plus guys from the local leagues, just to get actual boots-on-the-ground action with Hay, because Zoom calls are one thing, but actual match prep is another. Having one game in Auckland, for example, and another in Rarotonga, could help get players an insight to island conditions, and also a chance for New Zealanders to see the national team. Having a second-string team shouldn’t be an issue because that might have to occur in the qualifiers, and I’m sure a casual fan might recognise Chris Wood not being there, but less so an Eli Just being replaced by a guy like Alex Grieve/Monty Patterson, so probably won’t be too off-put.
The last game the All Whites played in New Zealand was in 2017, I was in high school then and have since finished university, so very much the term beggars can’t be choosers applies now more than ever. Since the All Whites last played in New Zealand, the All Blacks have played 11 home matches, and the Blackcaps upwards of 50 or 60. The competitive gulf would obviously be large, but you see those two sports often host teams that are clearly weaker, think ABs games against Fiji/Samoa/Tonga and Blackcaps against Zimbabwe, and that acts as no detriment to anything.
It would have the potential to be good entrances for guys like Waine, Sutton, Stensness and the players who have been pulling trees in Northern and Central Leagues, I’ve seen Danny Hay at several Northern League games, so I know he has a rough idea of who’s doing what. Get guys like Marinovic, Payne, Barbarouses to lead the team, do media etc and get the All Whites brand into the conscious of more than just that of the diehards. If they tried hard enough they might get close to the hype the Phoenix currently have from their prolonged absence.
I have no doubt that, even if NZF have considered it an option, they would put it into the too difficult box, but surely they have a desire to do something, even if it doesn’t give “progress” or act as preparation for teams they might play in a tournament or intercontinental playoff. I’m just pretty keen to watch them play, and there’s only so many times you watch Youtube highlights on the All Whites History channel of the games from 2017 before you get bored of them.