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Gavin Hoy

Having Won It All In New Zealand, Gavin Hoy Heads Back To Work

By on February 18, 2024 0 2898 Views

On a bright Sunday afternoon, a Canadian midfielder hoisted New Zealand’s National League trophy as the champagne celebrations flowed at Mount Smart Stadium. The crowd roared as the players’ jubilation took centre stage, and a night of celebration beckoned. Shortly after that, midfielder Gavin Hoy was back to work at his desk job.

It’s been quite a journey for thirty-one-year-old midfielder, whose career has certainly taken some unlikely paths: jumping from his early days with the Thunder Bay Chill to NCAA action with Oakland, he’s spent the last eight years in Australia and New Zealand, winning all the latter has to offer.

His most recent season was a long one, with preparations beginning last January ahead of a continental season opener, and the action only concluded in late November – finally allowing Hoy some time to reflect back on a whirlwind season with Wellington Olympic.

The club defended its Central League title, finishing nine points clear at the top and thusly qualifying for the National League Championship, where a tight race against Auckland City saw them remain table-toppers after nine games played. After that, it was all down to the Grand Final in November, which finally saw Wellington Olympic bring it all home with a two-nil win over Auckland City. Hoy assisted the second goal of the match.

It was an ending he says felt fitting, with the squad having grafted hard together as a group through a season filled with ups, downs, and plenty of adversity.

Wellington Olympic had recruited a massive group of about thirty players ahead of the season, which would kick off with a hefty Oceania Champions League qualifier home-and-away series against Auckland City…one that they would lose right off the bat.

Wellington Olympic Gavin Hoy
Photo Credit: Phototek.NZ

With player movement happening freely in the amateur ranks, the club’s roster quickly dwindled down from thirty as players moved on to different teams without the prospect of continental football to keep them at Wellington Olympic, which meant the onus for success fell onto those who remained after continental glory had been ripped off the menu.

“You know, we’re an amateur league, and all of us are pretty much working full-time. So while working full time we’d be training two-to-three times a week, depending if we played on the Saturday or Sunday. It takes a lot of our time, a lot of our efforts, and a lot of our commitment. So basically, the ones who really saw it out to the end of the year that were the ones who deserved to lift that trophy because of everything they’d gone through,” reflects Hoy.

The Canadian had always gone into things with a professional approach: if he told a club he’d signed on for a year, he stayed for the year and didn’t club-hop when things might have looked greener elsewhere, or when another club that came knocking. Amateur as the league might be, this professional approach reaped dividends for Hoy in 2023.

“I’m not the kind of player who looks at the writing on the wall mid-season and tries to find a better opportunity for me, I’ve always started at the start of the season and said ‘what are my goals for my football and my career outside of football’, and ‘what’s going to be the best decision for me’. That’s what led me led me around to all the teams that I played for starting just out of university.”

Thunder Bay Chill Gavin Hoy
Photo Credit: Thunder Bay News Watch

It was back in 2008 when Hoy cracked the first team of the PDL-era Thunder Bay Chill at the tender young age of 16. That squad went on to win the PDL title down in Laredo, Texas, putting both the Chill and a teenage Gavin Hoy on the map. When one of his teammates went to Oakland University, he got a scholarship opportunity there too and never looked back.

While a pro career in football was a possibility, Hoy was grateful to be able to work towards a degree at the same time. It’s a good thing he did, because it certainly came in handy: the 31-year-old currently works as a business development manager for an IT Company in New Zealand in between racking up football wins throughout the country.

Gavin Hoy

Still, how does one go from NCAA football to playing on the opposite side of the planet? Well, that came through Oakland goalkeeper Sean Lewis, who had jumped to Hobart-based club Olympia Warriors. Hoy had always wanted to go to Australia, and with a degree in hand he decided to see how far football could take him before jumping in to the ol’ 9-5.

“I felt like I still had so much football left me and I didn’t want to put my degree to use right away and just jump straight into the workforce. So, I had an opportunity to play in Australia and I said okay, this is this is the best thing for me right now.”

The little club form Hobart went on a good run, reaching the NPL quarter-final stage before getting, in his words, absolutely destroyed by a Perth side. They also reached the semi-final stage of the Milan Lakoseljac Cup, which features clubs from the northern and southern Tasmanian leagues.

Hoy than moved to New Zealand to play for Hawke’s Bay, where former CPL players like Calum Ferguson and Ahinga Selemani had once suited up. He then staked a strong claim for himself by hosting the country’s domestic cup in 2019 with the Napier City Rovers, his first trophy won abroad.

“That doesn’t come up on my Transfermarkt profile, which pisses me off,” laughs Hoy.

Napier City Rovers Gavin Hoy
Photo Credit: New Zealand Herald

By this point, the Canadian Premier League was firmly on Hoy’s radar, and back in 2019 he was set to go trial with a few teams in the league. The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed those opportunities, however, as he didn’t want to risk uprooting himself for a trial and getting caught out amidst the closing borders of the time.

“I was really grateful to be here,” he reflects on life in New Zealand. “Especially considering how we handled the lockdowns and we were able to live a very, very normal life for about a year before a lot of other countries are experiencing the same…so I’m very grateful for that, and I don’t regret it at all.”

What could have been if Hoy had tested himself in Canada back then will forever remain an unknown – just like with Iain Hume, who had hoped to conclude his own career within home borders. Hoy’s decision to remain in New Zealand has landed him titles, but not full-time professional football. He’s still open to another opportunity, should it present itself.

“Being 31 years old, I’m not the youngest footballer in the world. Luckily, I’m not the oldest either, but my life has been just football from when I’ve been young. I’m gonna continue to try and play the highest level I can and contribute to the sport as much as I can, whether that’s in New Zealand or Canada,” says the midfielder.

While life in New Zealand was less lockdown-intensive within the country’s own borders, the pandemic shined a magnifying glass on the unsustainability of New Zealand football, resulting in a change in league structures. That forced Hoy to change teams, as his sports visa meant his only income had to come from football. In an amateur league, that wouldn’t land him a living wage – so he moved to Wellington, where a club could sponsor and employ him as a coach. North Wellington AFC did just that, with Hoy coaching a U-15 boys side to keep the rent paid.

“I was able to live and play there for two years with varying success at the coaching level of my youth team, but my senior team, we struggled. At the end of last year, I had got this job and a work visa and I’d said I’m gonna give this football thing a crack again.”

In a stroke of good fortune, Rupert Kemeys – the Wellington Olympic head coach – had both seen Hoy play and liked what he saw. He brought in the Canadian, who evidently made the most of the opportunity by helping deliver a national title on what would be Rupert’s last match at the helm.

The title-winning season saw Hoy rise to peak form despite the club bowing out of continental competition early. In league play the wins were quick to rack up for Olympic, with Hoy going on a hot run in the summer that saw him bag seven goals in three matches.

“Once that first goal went in, it was kind of like a flip switch to my head,” reflects Hoy, who had fought his way through a confidence drop after having not scored for a spell prior. “I was fortunate enough that that form carried me into National League as well.”

Hoy would finish second in the terms for goals scored, stating that – as it often does in football – it all came down to confidence. It’s a highlight finale to the last eight years in what has been an unconventional, buy ultimately enjoyable, football journey.

It’s one that has now seen him win both the National League and the country’s domestic cup during his time in New Zealand, meaning he’s tallied all of its domestic wares during his prolonged spell abroad.

“It’s not somewhere I ever imagined I’d end up, but somewhere I ended up staying for the past eight years just because I’ve liked the lifestyle, the football, and everything here,” says Hoy, who always takes things season-by-season.

What 2024 will bring for the Canadian midfielder remains to be seen: a call home seems like a long shot at this stage, but he’s open to the opportunity. Otherwise, Hoy is certainly a name well-known to those in New Zealand footballing circles – and that includes former Eddies coach Alan Koch, who was the one who first tipped us off to Hoy’s story.

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