The club's origins go back to 1950 when football was restarted in Whangarei after a long break spanning the World War Two years. In that pre-war period there were eight clubs established in the area between Portland and Hikurangi and each had a senior team but no juniors.
The senior competition was a strong one and some talented players were fielded, particularly those from the long-closed Hikurangi coal mine.
The football flourished initially, but with the closure of the mine and the departure for fresh mining fields of many of the players, the competition floundered and finally folded because there were no juniors to fill the gaps.
The late Dick Jennings played for the then North Auckland team in those early days and in the early 1950s also turned out for the then Whangarei United and also for the Northland representative side – a remarkable achievement.
When football was again launched in Whangarei three clubs were formed, United, Whangarei Rovers and Kamo Swifts. This came about after a meeting was called in the long since demolished YMCA headquarters building adjacent to the railway bridge in Rust Lane.
Quite a number of interested people turned up but only a scant 12 were deemed players. Lots were drawn and three groups of four players emerged. These left the meeting with the mandate to find enough people to form teams.
Everyone who even looked like a player was recruited, including former rugby and hockey exponents and three fledgling clubs were formed under the equally new Northland Football Association, chaired by the late Bill Hawthorn.
In short, the club is ahead of the pack. It has the best football clubrooms in the province - mortgage-free - top senior and junior players and administrators who are among the best in the business.The prelude to the start of the three-team competition and the first game in Whangarei for many years was one between a representative side drawn from the new clubs and a team from a visiting British ship, "The African Prince." The hastily assembled local side won the match at Kensington Park 3-1, an encouraging start indeed.
The late Jimmy Thompson was the principal member of the Rovers "four" and, sadly, only team mate Sandy Brandsteder, a talented left back, lives on. Of United’s "four" only my brother Jack and myself survive.
All three original clubs flourished and, determined not to follow the failings of the pre-war competition, established a five-team junior competition in 1951.
More clubs were formed in and around Whangarei over the following years and the strength of football today throughout Northland, from what was a most humble beginning is gratifyingly apparent.
Both United, which became Otangarei United and then Whangarei City, and Rovers were great playing rivals over the years and each had its share of successes.
Although City prospered both on and off the field, Rovers fell into financial difficulties in the 1990s and seemed likely to fold, an outcome which would have been a body blow for Northland football generally.
A suggested solution to the dilemma was a merger of the two clubs, a proposition which would have been laughed out of court in much earlier and entirely different circumstances.
However the situation had changed dramatically. City had been unceremoniously ejected from Cobham Oval by the Whangarei District Council which had invited the club to set up shop there in the first place. At time the council wanted the ground used all year instead of only in the summer by Northland Cricket.
The Oval had been enlarged and the surface substantially raised to improve the drainage. Two stages of the proposed drainage system were completed but the third stage was not.
This was a network of sand slit drains to take surface water down to the sub-drainage system and would, we were told by a top civil engineer, have effectively kept the ground playable all year.
In the event the incomplete drainage worked to a degree, a situation City lived with. It built top-class clubrooms there and the Oval hosted Northern League matches.
Eventually cricket regained sole use of the ground and City were given the boot. It was bitterly disappointing and the compensation it was paid for the loss of its valuable clubrooms was only a measure of comfort.
The outcome was that although City was left with a considerable sum of money it had no ground. Conversely, Rovers had a good ground at Morningside but no money.
Given the plight of both clubs, an obvious solution presented itself - an amalgamation. So the long-standing competitors became comrades and the entity was launched.
It didn’t happen overnight. A lot of meetings were held and a lot of dialogue exchanged. A host of names for the new body were proffered before the title "FC Whangarei" rang most of the bells and was adopted with acclaim.
The year was 1998 and since then the new club has gone from strength to strength. It has produced and continues to produce talented senior players and is the current premier champion and holder of the David Wilson Challenge Cup. It has also provided more players for the two North Force inter-provincial teams than any other club in Northland.
The club has a host of junior teams and its youth section is second to none in Northland.
A measure of its appeal to those who follow the beautiful game is that it continues to attract a lot of senior players new to the district and is regularly stretched to find enough coaches to look after its increasing number of junior teams.
In short, the club is ahead of the pack. It has the best football clubrooms in the province - mortgage-free - top senior and junior players and administrators who are among the best in the business.
FC Whangarei is the place to be. Joe Askew.