The next wave of talented young players to set foot on the international stage were confirmed on Friday with the New Zealand U-17 Women’s side named for the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship in January.
New Zealand coach Gareth Turnbull named his 19-player squad for the tournament which produces the Oceania Football representative at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan in October 2016.
The group is drawn from all around the country with six of the seven regional federations represented and Turnbull says the selected players have travelled a long and detailed path to reach this point.
“We’ve really assembled this group based on almost two years of identification through a variety of different means; be it National Talent Centres, age-group tournaments, club-based tournaments, secondary schools and national league,” Turnbull said.
“It’s exciting to bring all of the pieces together for the first time and see where we can get to. It’s an incredibly talented group, certainly one of the more exciting groups at this level that we’ve been able to assemble.”
One of those highly-skilled youngsters comes from off shore with Canadian-based midfielder Gabrielle Jillings named in the team, someone Turnbull says has a bright future and who has been on the radar for over a year.
“Gabe has been part of the Vancouver Whitecaps acceleration programme and her father is a Kiwi. We brought her out for our first camp back in July where she excelled and we’ve monitored her since through weekly video footage. We’re excited to bring Gabe into the piece and she’s certainly a future Football Fern.”
With a core of the team working together in the NZF Development Squad in the ASB Women’s League over the past few months and other players impressing with their federations in the competition, Turnbull says the group have had a sound preparation for the challenge ahead in the Cook Islands.
“[In the Development team] we were able to give three months of good solid work to those individual players on the tasks required to achieve at international level and we saw the team got stronger the longer season went.
“We were also able to monitor and keep in touch with the wider members playing for the different regions through weekly footage of their games and regular communication with their coaches.”
Turnbull says the goal is clear for his team: secure the OFC berth in Jordan – but their focus will be on the smaller jobs on and off the field which will make that objective a reality.
“Simply, qualification is a must, so we’ll be going there to do that and hopefully do it well.
“What we don’t know is how the island nations will set up. We were quite surprised at the U-20s qualifications tournament where the teams played a more modern style of football and didn’t necessarily stay compact and have numbers behind the ball.
“They tried to play and had a high line which creates a lot of space. I’m not overly convinced that is the approach the U-17s will take so we may find it more challenging to break them down.
“But we don’t actually know, so the focus will be on us and our preparation and I think the big learnings will be all the things off the pitch.
“How we travel as group, how we recover in a hot climate, all of the educational components that goes along with an international tour. For the most part this is first time these girls have been away with an international team.
“It’s all the off-field things that we’ll be really focussing on for this qualification series to hopefully set them up for a long international career.”
New Zealand will contest Group A of the tournament and their opener is against Samoa on January 13 (January 14 NZ time).
New Zealand Women’s U-17 squad – Oceania U-17 Women’s Championships
CIFA Academy, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
January 13-23, 2016
Anna Leat – East Coast Bays AFC/Northern Football
Nadia Olla – Three Kings Utd/Auckland Football
Claudia Bunge – Glenfield Rovers/Northern Football
Michaela Foster – Claudelands Rovers/WaiBOP Football
Francesca Grange – Wellington Utd/Capital Football
Rebecca Lake – Coastal Spirit/Mainland Football
Amber Phillips – Massey University/Central Football
Ally Toailoa – Papatoetoe AFC/Auckland Football
Kate Williams – Claudelands Rovers/WaiBOP Football
Alosi Bloomfield – Lynn-Avon Utd AFC/Auckland Football
Maggie Jenkins – Onslow/Capital Football
Gabrielle Jillings – Surrey United/Canada
Sarah Krystman – Claudelands Rovers/WaiBOP Football
Nicole Mettam – Eastern Suburbs AFC/Auckland Football
Malia Steinmetz – Eastern Suburbs AFC/Auckland Football
Hannah Blake – Three Kings Utd/Auckland Football
Jacqui Hand – Eastern Suburbs AFC/Auckland Football
Emma Main – Upper Hutt City FC/Capital Football
Sam Tawharu – Lynn-Avon Utd AFC/Auckland Football
Head coach: Gareth Turnbull
Assistant coach: Owain Prosser
Goalkeeper coach: Jenny Bindon
Manager: Kelly Bolus
Physio: Hannah Dawson
Technical Analyst: Ben Bate
Match schedule – Group A
New Zealand v Samoa
Wednesday 13 January, 5pm (Thursday 14 January, 4pm – NZ time)
New Caledonia v New Zealand
Friday 15 January, 2.30pm (Saturday 16 January, 1.30pm – NZ time)
Tonga v New Zealand
Monday 18 January, 2pm (Tuesday 19 January, 1pm – NZ time)
Thursday 21 January (Friday 22 January – NZ time)
Saturday 23 January (Sunday 24 January – NZ time)
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