Perhaps one of the toughest categories due to the huge talent and the limited coverage given to youth football. But that is certainly changing as it becomes the most popular sport in NZ. Our top 4 for 2015 are:
Billingsley made history in June when, as the youngest member of the Junior All Whites squad, he scored New Zealand's first ever goal at an Under-20 World Cup in his team's 5-1 over Myanmar at Westpac Stadium.
Billingsley's goal helped New Zealand reach the Round of 16 for the First time. The Onslow College Year 13 student was named College Sport Wellington Footballer of the year and is taking a familiar route to many young New Zealand footballers in accepting a scholarship to a US university.
He'll attend the University of California, Santa Barbara from next August and play for the school's division-one Gauchos football team, the same school former All White and Wellington Phoenix left-back Tony Lochhead attended, as well as current All White Michael Boxall.
Jack switched from Palmerston North Boys' High School to Auckland Grammar School and has made every post a winner at his new school.
He was appointed First XI captain guiding his team to second in the league and a win in the knockout cup over the league champions Sacred Heart College.
The sturdy defender was chosen as captain of the New Zealand Under-17's who in January won the Oceania qualifying tournament to qualify for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
At the World Cup New Zealand achieved their best ever result reaching the round of 16. They beat Paraguay in the last-minute of pool play to advance, before suffering a devastating loss to Brazil.
Logan left Hamilton Boys' High School to take up a professional contract with the Phoenix in Wellington. The 17 year old has been riding a crest of the wave. He was selected for the All Whites for an international in Myanmar.
Despite his tender age, he also featured with the national Under-23 team in the Olympic Qualifying Series. The striker scored a hat-trick in the match against New Caledonia as New Zealand won the tourney – a title that was unfortunately stripped when FIFA ruled South African-born Deklan Wynne was ineligible to play for New Zealand.
In January Rogerson was awarded the Golden Boot award as the best player at the Under-17 Oceania World Cup qualifiers. He scored a goal in the final as New Zealand eventually foiled a tenacious Tahiti in oppressive heat.
He helped New Zealand reach the round of 16 at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Nelson College caused a boil over at the National Championships when they became the first South Island school in 25 years (and only the second overall) to win the title.
In the final they beat defending National and Auckland Champions Sacred Heart College 2-1. Earlier they eliminated leading Auckland contenders Mount Albert Grammar School and St. Kentigern College. The team also won the local league and cup double.
Todd-Smith scored the winning goal in the national final and shared captaincy duties of the team.
An accomplished midfielder he can pass with accuracy to create chances for others and beat a defender with his speed and strength on the ball.
Secondary school’s girls’ football in New Zealand is in a good space. Chosen for their deeds with their school First XIs this year or their form in representative teams (or in a couple of cases both), here’s five top performers on the pitch in 2015…who will go far in the future?
Daisy Cleverley continues to show loyalty and commitment to both her school and to the representative sides she continues to make with regularity. Despite representing New Zealand in football for both the Football Ferns and the U20s, the Western Springs College student has continued to play for her school First XI. The Year 13 student is on the nomination list for an Auckland Young Sportsperson of the Year award. Daisy made her debut with the Football Ferns in April last year. She played with the senior side at the Fifa Women's World Cup in Canada two months later and she currently plays for Northern Football Federation in the National Women’s League.
School sporting success has come frequently for Waikato Diocesan’s Isabella Coombes, who recently won her school’s Leaver’s Cup in recognition of her achievements in several sports over the past five years. But its football where she shines the brightest, having already been a part of the Football Ferns set-up a year ago in internationals against Norway. She was also a member of the 2014 NZ U17 side that competed at the World Cup and made the NZ U20 squad that made the quarterfinals of the World Cup. She recently played for the U20s at the U20 Oceania qualifying series. Isabella also plays for WaiBop in the National Women’s Football League.
Representing national champions Mount Albert Grammar School on this list, Grace Jale has recently been selected in the senior Football Ferns squad to play South American Giants Brazil at the end of this month. Earlier this year, MAGS became the first girls’ football team to win three consecutive NZSS Girls Football Championships. Midfielder Grace is a member of both the U17 and U20 squads and has come through the pathway leading to the national side having been involved the youth development National Talent Centre programme before featuring in both age-group sides. Special mention to Grace’s MAGS teammates. Nicole Mettam who was MAGS’ MVP at Taupo, Deven Jackson, who has been nominated, along with Grace and Daisy Cleverly, for Auckland’s Girls Footballer of the Year and Jade Parris who is also in the NZ U20 squad.
St Peter’s School Cambridge finished runners-up to Mount Albert School at this year’s National Secondary School Girls Lotto tournament in Taupo, losing 0-2 in the final. St Peter’s midfielder Sarah Kyrstman flies the flag for her school as her team’s MVP at the tournament. In six matches prior to the final, St Peter’s won their matches by a collective score of 19-2. Sarah, whose older brother Stefan is a former Ole Football Academy player and currently on scholarship in the USA, was a member of the NZSS Junior Girls Football team in Australia last year. She currently plays for the NZ Development team in the National Women’s Football League.
Representing the South Island schools in this group, Southland Girls’ High School’s First XI captain Sammy Murrell is renowned for her dogged qualities and organisation as a leading defender in her team. She was a member of the NZSS Junior Girls representative Team in 2012 and this year made the NZSS Senior Girls side that toured Thailand in July. She recently played for the New Zealand U20 team in their Oceania Qualifiers in Tonga. Left back Sammy plays for the Roslyn Wakari club and for Football South in the National Women’s League, regularly commuting from Invercargill to Dunedin to play and train.
Mount Albert Grammar School 16-year-old footballer Grace Jale has been selected in the senior Football Ferns squad to play South American Giants Brazil at the end of this month.
Grace, a member of the national champion MAGS Girls’ First XI side, is one of three new players picked in the 19-player squad to play two internationals in Brazil on 28 November and 1 December.
In early September in Taupo, MAGS became the first girls’ football team to win three consecutive New Zealand Championships, beating St Peter’s Cambridge 2-0 in the Friday.
Midfielder Grace also plays for Auckland’s Eastern Suburbs in the ASB Women’s League competition.
She is a member of both the U-17 and U-20 squads and has come through the pathway leading to the national side having been involved the youth development National Talent Centre programme before featuring in both age-group sides.
Head Coach Tony Readings says the Football Ferns staff have been monitoring Grace’s progress and now is the time to give her a chance with the senior national side.
“Grace has been identified in the system for a while so we have been aware of her qualities. She performed very well for the U-20s in their recent World Cup qualifiers and has continued this form in ASB Women’s League.
“She possesses the attacking qualities we are looking to improve in the squad and this a great opportunity to continue her development.”
“The goal was an absolute dream come true. There is nothing more a young footballer dreams of,” recalls Lucas Imrie of his injury time winner against Paraguay at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile.
The goal catapulted New Zealand into the Round of 16 for the first time, a result that seemed inconceivable after the first up shellacking against France.
What did the Young All Whites learn from the 6-1 embarrassment?
“I learned the quality of opposition is really high and how incredibly deadly they are if you give them the slightest sniff. They would pounce off any minor mistake and punish us for it,” Imrie admits.
New Zealand battled to a turgid 0-0 draw against Syria. What did they expect from Paraguay?
“We knew Paraguay was a very strong team and we had to be at our very best to pose a threat. They were very strong, physical and technically good, as any South American team is. We knew we would have to battle and want it more,” Imrie says.
New Zealand held Paraguay to 1-1 in regulation time. If the score remained the same at fulltime New Zealand went home. Imrie captures his glorious moment.
“I knew we were piling on the pressure and they were getting rattled. I knew if we would keep creating chances even late in the game they might crack. Sarpreet Singh dinked a lovely ball over and I don’t really remember what happened next. I just saw that it was on my left foot (weaker foot) and knew I just had to hit it. When I saw it come off the post and roll into the net my emotions took over. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Imrie’s parents who were present were equally overwhelmed.
“My parents have no football background at all. They don’t know very much about it. My Dad calls a free kick a penalty, but they love supporting me and have always been there for me. It was great to share such an amazing moment with them,” Imrie says.
New Zealand nearly amazed Brazil, losing on a 94th minute penalty. Imrie reflects on the near-miss.
“Brazil are a very good side – one of the football’s great powers – so we knew we would have to be very structured, smart and disciplined. Coach Danny Hay got our tactics spot on and had us playing to our strengths and this gave us a great chance. Our keeper Michael Woud was a hero, great player. It was hard to accept the loss, but I am really proud of the effort.”
Imrie attends Sacred Heart College in Auckland which happens to be guided by the former All White.
He debuted for the First XI in Year 10 and concedes he “got some stick” from the senior players. However respect was quickly earned when last year he helped Sacred Heart win the Auckland league and cup double as well as the National Championship and Alex Harvey trophy for not losing at home for an entire season.
In 2015 Sacred Heart retained the league title and were runners up in the other two competitions.
“Sacred Heart have been absolutely amazing to me throughout the years. I want to especially thank Danny and my parents, they’ve helped me come a long way,” Imrie concludes.
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