At 51-years-old, Darryn Cunningham is happy to earn his place in Richmond Athletic’s first XI.
While many may consider sliding down the grades for a more social time in football, Darryn is happy to put in the hard yards in preseason training and earn his spot in the heart of the midfield.
Darryn first had a taste of senior football as a teenager.
At 17, in the mid-80s, he was playing National League football, marking the late All Whites captain, Steve Sumner.
“I remember leaving stud marks on Steve Sumner’s chest. Then, three seasons later, he poleaxed me in a challenge, stood over me, and said ‘that’s for what you did three seasons ago’, smiled and helped me up.”
Darryn came through the Nelson Suburbs junior grades and then went to Nelson United for their colts and national league opportunities.
“I had Napier City approach me to come and play and an offer to play in Australia, but I was a young kid from Nelson just enjoying life.”
Darryn has been on both sides of the Nelson Suburbs and Richmond rivalry, but he’s enjoying his time at Richmond.
“I like the relaxed atmosphere and there are two coaches in Steve [Clark] and Matt [Campbell]that I’d run through a brick wall for at 51.”
Darryn thinks the Richmond side he was part of last year didn’t handle the swings in momentum of the league season.
“Back in my day, when you lost you sulked for six days until you got to play again on the seventh. “The young ones these days don’t seem as bothered by it.”
Darryn has questioned whether his time in the first team had come and gone, but he believes he still has plenty to offer.
“I think that I don’t have many seasons left and if someone wants my spot they can earn it, and if they do I’ll sit on the bench and say well done.”
He says he’s not ready for masters football yet and that he still has the desire to compete at the highest level in Nelson.
“I’m still think I’m very competitive, I don’t mind training and I have the body that allows me to do it.”
Darryn’s son Isaac has transferred from Richmond to FC Nelson this season. He says he’s looking forward to playing against him after a year on the same side in 2016.
“I hope he scores a hat-trick… but that we win 4-3.
“But I can tell you for sure he won’t be scoring three goals, because I’ll be marking him.”
The Nelson Bays Football first division season kicks off on April 1.