Young talent set for centre stage

The talents of the country’s brightest up-and-coming footballers will be on show from this weekend when the latest edition of the National Youth League kicks off.

The competition features the same clubs as the senior Stirling Sports Premiership and each is set to meet once in a round-robin format before a winner is found in mid-December. Premiership newcomers Eastern Suburbs, Hamilton Wanderers and Tasman United will all field sides in the youth equivalent – which contains U-19 players and as many as two seniors per game for each team – for the first time while an U-17 group from A-League outfit the Wellington Phoenix will also be involved.

The nine-round league – there are no playoffs at the end of the round robin – gets going on Saturday with Tasman United making their debut against Canterbury United in a South Island derby at Saxton Field in Nelson. Although Tasman are a new entity, it will not be the first occasion that part of the country has hosted National Youth League action with predecessors Nelson Marlborough Falcons flying the flag in previous seasons.

The remaining four matches in the opening round all take place on Sunday, the highlight of which is arguably Auckland City’s trip to defending champions Team Wellington.

The National Youth League serves as the development pathway towards the Stirling Sports Premiership for New Zealand’s finest emerging talent with a host of players making the transition into the top domestic competition in recent times, including the likes of All Whites Clayton Lewis, Moses Dyer, Oliver Sail and Sam Brotherton.

New Zealand Football Head of National Competitions Daniel Farrow says the National Youth League forms a key role in the development of the nation’s best players towards the highest level of the game, as well as providing the opportunity to fight for local pride.

“This competition is hugely important in giving young footballers all over New Zealand the chance to compete against their peers and battle for a national title,” he says.

“Over the last few years, the National Youth League has also provided a strong proving ground for our best young players as they look to progress towards the Stirling Sports Premiership and beyond. We are looking forward to seeing the next crop of talented young players step forward over the next few months.”

One such success story is striker Myer Bevan, who came to attention when starring for Auckland City in last season’s campaign and is now based in England with the Nike Academy, a full-time training programme that seeks to produce players for professional clubs. At the OFC U-20 Championship in September, Bevan picked up both the Golden Boot as top scorer and the Golden Ball for being singled out as the tournament’s best player.

There are likely to be plenty of others who follow in the footsteps of Lewis, Dyer, Bevan and co from the current crop of National Youth League talent.

A handful of players joined Bevan in starring at the recent OFC U-20 Championship in Vanuatu with several of these in the Waitakere United ranks, namely Reese Cox, Charlie Thomas and George Debenham. Others to have represented their country include Auckland City goalkeeper Cameron Brown, Team Wellington defender Nando Pijnaker and Eastern Suburbs striker Lucas Imrie, as well as Wellington Phoenix duo Joe Bell and Sarpreet Singh.

Meanwhile, the increased importance of futsal in aiding the development of the country’s young footballers is highlighted with the likes of Hamilton Wanderers’ midfielder Liam Steffert and Eastern Suburbs brothers Sam and Art Twigg also starring for their federations in the Futsal National League, which kicked off last weekend.

There are also some notable names among the coaching staff of each team with Chad Coombes taking charge of Waitakere, fellow former All White Graham Marshall leading Southern United and Paul Temple responsible for developing the next batch of Phoenix stars in his role as head coach of the club’s youth academy.

For the 2016 National Youth League fixture list please click here

2016 National Youth League Squads

 Auckland City: Cameron Brown (GK), Sean Crombie, Mitchell Watts, Sione Fa'Apoi, Connor Cahil-Fahey, Yousif Ali, Ignacio Machuca, Jack Short, Jack Anderson, Clayton Lewis, Moses Akimana, Ermal Fusha, Francis Cain, Oliver Ceci, David Masters (GK), Maro Bonsu-Maro, Seli Fuimaono, Sean Cooper, Leon Van Den Hoven, Antonio Bonkovich, Keegan Ashdown Inia (GK), Dino Botica, Phillipe Poletaev, Cody Rickard. Coach: Andy Peat

Canterbury United: Lewis Gordon (GK), Max Chretien, Hamish Visser, Blair Hooper, Sho Mathieson, Jackson Brady, Jacob Richards, Cullen Neame, Matt Jones, Sam Maoate-Cox, Sebastian Schacht, Joel Peterson, Lyle Matthysen, Byron Heath, Mason Stearn, Simon Chretien, Jayden Taylor, Seth Clark, Ryan Nicholson, Bikram Subba, Samuel Field, Aidan Barbour-Ryan, Callum Smith, Jordan Spain, Renta Yamamoto, Declan Hickford, Max Collingwood (GK)
Coach: Andrew Pitman

Eastern Suburbs: Cory Waters (GK), James Lamb, Liam Williams, Troy Tapsell, James Smith, Jared Sinkinson, Brennen Priestly, George Andrew, Dylan Horgan, Dane Schnell, Luke Clissold, Dylan Moms, Rob Dymond, David Yoo, Isak Papa, Sam Twigg, Oscar Spragg, Franke Clark, Denny Twigg, Oliver Derlin, Matthew Palmer, Tawanda Marowa, Art Twigg, Charles Spragg, Calvin Lee (GK), Lucas Imrie, Dylan Bull, Allen McBride, Max Ongley
Coach: Hoani Edwards

Hamilton Wanderers: Neil Achary (GK), Matthew Banks, Ewan Bussey, Paul Clout, John Clout, Stafford Dowling, Daniel Edwards, Liam Fellowes, Clarke Foulds, Alex Frank, Casey Garner, Sean Green, Liam Hayes, Raheem Hunter-Ali, Quinton Kipara, Lachlan McIsaac, Jacob Mechell, Nathan Monne, Thomas Mouncher, Alexander Naish, Zachary Newdick, Gregory Nimmo, Matthew Nixon, Flynn O’Brien, Robert Parekowhai-Gudex, Steffano Riley, Sean Skeens, Liam Steffert, Noah Villiger (GK), Luke Woolerton
Coach: Michael Built

Hawke’s Bay United: Vinnie Mackirdy, Jorge Akers, Josh Murphy, Ben Lack, Rueben Thurston Le Lo, Dylan Barron, Dylan Du Ross, Campbell Hantler, Ethan Martin, Jackson Durrington, Wilson McCullogh (GK), Kurtis Maney, Ethan Ladd, Jed Shepherd, Jackson Ralph, Jonas Beerman, Luke Palfreyman, Liam Outtrim (GK), Patrick Tobin, Thomas Viles, Taylor Monk, Fraser Eddowes, Karan Mandair, Mathew Pledger, Alexander Britton (GK)
Coach: Jamie Dunning

Southern United: Liam Whittaker (GK), Alastair Moore, Anton Fitzgerald, Benjamin Wade, Blake Porteous, Bradley Holdridge, Caleb Roberts, Dylan van der Schuit, George Edwards, George McCall, Joel Theissen Papp, John Woodall, Kieran Stephenson, Mitch Hurring, Nikolao Cockerell (GK), Paul Ritter, Rahan Ali, Riley Anderton, Rory Hannon, Ryan Fleming, Stewart Catto (GK), Timothy O'Farrell, Thomas Milton, Connor Neil, Peter Coates, Matthew Brazier, John Weidling, Hamish Cotter, Christopher Kessell, Ben Kiore
Coach: Graham Marshall

Tasman United: Marcel Kampman (GK), Bertie Fish, Labu Pan, Van Cen Hrang, Caleb Gardiner, Sam Faulkner, Caleb Mazure, Liam Sluiter, Tom Scott, Thomas Amasina, David Maisey, Alec Fox, Mac Karalus, Chester Gaskin, Nick Stanton (GK), Van Roland Hlawn Ceu, Callan Elliot, Zak Richardson-Hall, Tinashe Marowa, Matt Tod-Smith, Thang Vanuk, Alex Conor-McClean, Josh Creswell, Joe Robertson (GK)
Co-coaches: Andy Morris, Davor Tavich, Tom Fawdry

Team Wellington: Reed Collingwood (GK), Jonty Bilderbeck, Ben Ratahi, Chris Cox, Henry Lenihan-Geels, Mark Webber, Xavier Green, Owen Parker-Price, Aaron McDonald, Jarrod Stant, Paora Porter, Dominic Wooldridge, Josh Rogerson, Ihaia Delaney, Elijah Just, Daniel Harford-Silas, Ahmad Mohammadi, Callum McCowett, Cam Wardlaw, Brett McBride, Liam Gerathy, Shea Stapleton (GK), Ahmed Othman, Ryosuke Shimizu, Tom Shuyt, Hami Paranihi-Nuku, Dalton Wilkins, Nando Pijnaker, Jakob Moore (GK), Omrie Saolele
Co-coaches: Rupert Crump, Ben Sippola

Waitakere United: Elliot Munford (GK), Luke Jorgensen, Jordan Hearn, Mitchell Nash, Reese Cox, Charlie Thomas, George Debenham, Joey Omotani, Nathan Rollinson, Boon Ozawa, Jordan Lamb, Joe Long-Smith, Michael Kolston, Gilberto Souza, Anton Moore, Joshua Peden, Nick Haggo, Isaac Deans, Tim Hunt, Cheauxyan Maukau McPhee, Remek Norman, Jack McQuoid (GK), Drew Farnsworth, Osman Rastagar, Jack Vaughan, Aashray Jordan Jayapuram, Kyosuke Kubota, Michael Williams (GK)
Coach: Chad Coombes

Wellington Phoenix: Keegan Smith (GK), Fletcher Kelleher, Boyd Curry, Liam Moore, Jake Williams, Liberato Cacace, Kingsley Sinclair, Willem Ebbinge, Max Mata, Matthew Conroy, Sam Sutton, Noah Tipene-Clegg, Matthew Hunter, Hugo Kidd, Sam Phillip, Luke Tongue, Ollie Whyte, Oscar Browne, Nick Burke (GK), Thomas Drillien, Dylan Bennett, Robert Tipelu, Joe Bell, En Watanabe, Tullamore MacFadyen, Owen Smith, Nick Lane, Sarpreet Singh, Mario Kotsapas (GK)
Coach: Paul Temple