“I always take the first penalty. It’s been like that in every team I have played for. I love a shootout because as a goalkeeper it’s my chance to stake a claim for fame,” Keegan Hansen responds when asked if he actually enjoys penalty shootouts.
The bane of most footballers’ existence, think of David Beckham’s spectacular failures, Hansen on recent evidence appears to be speaking the truth.
At the Lotto Premier Boys National Secondary Schools Football tournament in Napier last week, Hansen was a hero in two penalty shootouts for surprise first time champions, Hamilton Boys’ High School.
Hamilton eliminated 2016 National runners up Saint Kentigern College in the quarterfinals and then denied Sacred Heart College repeat success in the decider – a far-fetched possibility at the start of 2017.
“At the start of the season we sat in a classroom and agreed on some goals for the season. We strived to make the top four at Nationals. We thought that would be really good, but for a while even that seemed really ambitious,” Hansen reveals of Hamilton’s initial targets.
In July, Hamilton stormed into the final of the perennially strong Super 8 competition, but was upstaged by Napier Boys’ High School in a penalty shootout, despite Hansen scoring with his first and only shot.
“We didn’t do anything about penalties before that game. We just rocked up and paid for it. After that loss we spent time after every training practicing penalties and resolved an order of shooters,” Hansen admits.
Despite defeat the Super 8 proved to be a real eureka moment.
“We really dominated that tournament and it was a letdown not to win it. We gained a lot of confidence from the way we played.”
At Nationals, Hamilton topped Pool H and then thumped Wellington College 5-0 in the Round of 16 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Saint Kentigern College who had won all four games and scored 15 goals.
“It was 2-2 at full time which we felt was a bit harsh on us. We had played really well and deserved better. We had made most of the play, but they had caught us on the break a couple of times.” Hansen recalls of regulation time.
In the penalty shootout Hansen scored first and captures what happened next.
“Our second shooter missed which put the pressure on us. They got ahead 3-2 and then their shooter skied one. We got ahead 4-3 and then I managed to save one and we got through.”
Semi-final opponent and 2015 National champions, Nelson College hadn’t conceded a goal prior to meeting Hamilton, but were convincingly dispatched 2-0.
There would be nothing simple about foiling Auckland champions, Sacred Heart College. Hansen describes the tactical dilemma Hamilton faced.
“They are a strong outfit who score a lot of goals, but we resolved we were going to go down fighting. We knew we had to be a bit more defensive, but we didn’t want to park the bus either.”
The mix of attack and caution served Hamilton well. After regulation and extra time both teams had failed to score.
“I took the first penalty. I knew they would have watched our quarterfinal so instead of going for the bottom left corner which I normally do, I decided to blast it down the middle and was lucky to score,” Hansen recounts of the shootouts beginning.
Every shooter was on target until the score was 5-4 to Hamilton. Hansen was soon to have his biggest claim to fame.
“I managed to save the fifth shot. The shooter went to his left or my right and landed the ball in a good area for me. I managed to get down and palm it away.”
Luke Woolerton who started off the bench due to an ankle injury scored the last penalty for Hamilton.
In addition to his Boys’ High duties, Hansen plays for Melville United and has been involved with the New Zealand Under-17 program.
Hamilton Boys’ is the first school from the Waikato region to win the National title. They had been runners up previously.
Are there any secrets to being a good shot blocker?
“Not really. I just do the traditional jump up and hit the crossbar and think about where the striker might shoot. Occasionally I might have a word or two. They are just a nervous as I am,” Hansen concluded.
The prospects of the Sacred Heart College First XI football team winning the Auckland Premier League for the fourth consecutive year were bleak less than a fortnight ago.
Sacred Heart trailed Saint Kentigern College on both goal difference and points. In fact Sacred Heart had to beat St Kent’s on August 18 to have any chance of retaining their title and hope if St Kent’s didn’t lose their remaining two fixtures, they were unable to score as prolifically as the Catholics.
The enormity of Sacred Heart’s challenge was further compounded when captain Robert Dymond fell ill before the meeting against the competition leaders.
“I was sick for a whole week leading up to the St Kents game and was unable to train. I was put on the bench and was uncertain if I would play,” Dymond moans.
At halftime the game was tied 2-2, a score that lasted until the 84th minute. Dymond recalls what happened next.
“We won a penalty and I scored to make it 3-2. St. Kent’s threw numbers forward attempting an equaliser, but we caught them on the break and scored again to win 4-2.”
What did Sacred Heart learn from their first fixture against St Kents which they lost 0-1?
“We started real slow and fell behind early never reaching our best. We changed our formation this time and that made a difference. The other thing that helped was the crowd at Bill McKinlay park. If you can’t get fired up by the support there, you never will.”
St. Kent’s won their last match of the league against Westlake Boys’ High School 3-0 to finish with a 13-1 record and a goal differential of +61.
Sacred Heart required two big wins against Mount Roskill Grammar School and Auckland Grammar School to usurp St Kent’s. The Mount Roskill match boarded on a farce.
“We won 15-0, but it was only 7-0 with 20 minutes to go. We have struggled to score at times this year, but the boys really had their boots on that day. Our centre back Tom McCloy scored five goals,” Dymond marvelled.
The size of the Mount Roskill win meant Sacred Heart enjoyed a superior goal difference to St Kents and only required victory against Auckland Grammar School to wrap up the league crown.
“We won 4-0. It was a really clinical performance. It’s been a pretty crazy couple of weeks.” Dymond enthused.
In 14 games Sacred Heart outscored all opponents 87-7. Together with St Kent’s, Sacred Heart finished 19 points ahead of Auckland Grammar who were third.
On September 16 both schools will clash in the local knockout cup final, but next week attention turns to Nationals where Sacred Heart edged St Kent’s on penalties in last year’s final. Are Nationals a two-horse race again?
“It would seem like that, but we're not taking anything for granted. In a tournament environment anything can happen,” Dymond warns.
Sacred Heart will be without their New Zealand under-17 representatives Leon Van Den Hoven, Matthew Palmer and Kingsley Sinclair in Napier next week. National coach Danny Hay, ironically Sacred Heart’s mentor, has withdrawn all members of the squad selected to compete at the under-17 FIFA World Cup in India in October. The loss of Palmer who bagged 23 league goals will be keenly felt.
“It’s a blow not to have those guys, but we have lots of depth in our squad and are not the only ones to suffer. St Kent’s have three players out as well,” Dymond observes.
Dymond is originally from England and plans to return to his native pasture in 2018 to trial with Birmingham City FC. Robert’s family migrated to New Zealand when he was 10 years old.
“I love New Zealand. It was absolutely the right decision to come here. I have made a lot of friends and the football has been great,” he concluded.
Click Here for a full Nationals draw
Football or Futsal? It was a question 17-year old Jenna Dodd had to ask herself not so long ago.
The Pukekohe High School student player was selected for the New Zealand Secondary School Girls Football under 18 representative team back in June, and was preparing to travel to Singapore at the end of September.
That was until New Zealand U-18 Women’s Futsal team coach Ronan Naicker threw a spanner in the works and selected Dodd for his ten strong squad for the OFC Youth Futsal Championships.
The problem? The two events clash.
“I was disappointed that the Secondary Schools tour and the U-18 Futsal Champs clash,” Dodd said.
“I would have loved to participate in both, but unfortunately that was not possible so I had to choose one or the other.”
After much discussion with those closest to her, Dodd finally came to a decision, and will be representing her country on the court in a bid to qualify for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
“I chose to go with Futsal because I saw more of a pathway for me.
“I knew I was going to have the time of my life with either option, but I personally saw more opportunities with Futsal.
“It was a hard decision, but one I am happy with,” Dodd added.
Dodd is no stranger to the five-aside game despite only starting late last year. She has already played at the highest level the country has to offer domestically, representing AFF Futsal in the National Women’s Futsal League.
“I haven’t played Futsal for very long and I know I have a lot to learn, but having past experience from the National League and National Age Group tournament will give me the confidence to play against a wide range of opposition.
“I was very fortunate to play in the National League with many experienced players, all of whom had lots of advice and support.
“The New Zealand U-18 team consists of a few younger players and I hope I can take my past Futsal experiences and use these within the team.”
Dodd’s campaign with the New Zealand U-18’s begins on September 23 with a two day training camp in Wellington.
“I am looking forward to the two training camps coming up based all over New Zealand where we will meet the entire team and start making new friends.
“I am very much looking forward to working with the best U-18 Futsal players New Zealand has and I am honoured to be a part of the team.”
The final camp will take place in Auckland before the OFC Youth Futsal Championships kick off in Auckland on October 4.
By Steph Trowill, Auckland Football Federation
Article source at: http://www.aff.org.nz/dodd-follows-her-heart/
A youthful Baradene College First XI football team has just completed a fruitful Auckland APC Premier Division 1 girls football season.
On Wednesday night Baradene lost 0-3 to top qualifier and unbeaten St Kentigern College in the final after beating perennial contenders Mount Albert Grammar School in their semi-final the previous week.
Team captain Abby Murphy, one of just two year 13 players in the team, said the Baradene First XI has gelled well in the just completed 12-team Auckland league.
“We were happy with how we played in the final, we couldn’t have done much more, and they are a hard team to beat with some good star players like Hannah Blake [NZ U20s] up front,” said Abby.
“We have never got close to beating MAGS before either, so I think last year we lost to them by a ridiculous amount, I think it was 16-0. We didn’t even think about the final, just to beat MAGS in the semi-final was an amazing achievement for the girls.”
Baradene’s 1-0 semi-final win over MAGS was decided on a second half penalty with Hannah Pilley the goal scorer.
“Once we got our lead, MAGS kept applying a lot of pressure and it was very close towards the end and went right down to the final whistle.”
MAGS, who went on to lose 2-4 to Rangitoto in their playoff for third and fourth on Wednesday, have recently been understrength with several players in New Zealand representative teams, but they are neverthless the benchmark girls football school in the Auckland league and in New Zealand.
Coming up in two weeks is the Lotto Premier Girls National Football Championships in Taupo, with Baradene competing with 32 of the best school teams in the country. Last year they finished ninth behind winners MAGS. “We would love to make the top eight this year and see how we go from there.”
Abby started in Baradene’s First XI in 2014 in Year 10 and has been part of the team’s growth.
“Considering in 2014 we were in the second division final, and to make the top division final three years later is good for us,” said Abbey who plays attacking midfield for her school side that is coached by Tom Speers.
“We have a young team, I only have two other Year 13s with me who have been there since Year 10. We have got a lot of Year 10s and 11s who will be there for a few more years. There is also a second XI and several junior teams doing well.”
The Baradene First XI finished second at the end of the round-robin behind St Kent’s, with seven wins, two draws and two losses. Last year they won four and lost seven. What were other highlights of the league season?
“Even to tie with MAGS at the start of the season was a highlight, that motivated all of us and that’s when we knew we had a good shot.”
“We lost 2-0 to St Kent’s in our round-robin league game but we had a lot more possession and opportunities in that game, so definitely those two earlier games, against the defending champions and the eventual champions, were memorable games for us this year."
Many of the Baradene footballers are also playing club football on the weekends as well.
Baradene are also a leading futsal school, winning the Auckland Secondary Schools Futsal Tournament earlier this year. By Abby’s admission they didn’t do so well in the Futsal Nationals in Wellington (won by MAGS) but she and several other players are leading futsal players as well.
Abby herself has just been selected in the inaugural New Zealand U18 Futsal squad, along with Baradene’s Ella O’Connell-Biddlecombe who just plays the indoor code.
Other Baradene football First XI players that also play in the school’s Senior A futsal team include, Olivia Gordon, Katie Harris, Holly Marx, Ella Neal and Hannah Pilley.
Petra Buyck, Olivia Ongley, Ruby Rimmer and Kate Duncan are U15 futsal players, while several squad members also play other sports such as touch and tennis and orienteering – Baradene were recently crowned national orienteering champions.
The Baradene College First XI football squad is:
1. Petra Buyck
2. Isabelle Coman
3. Jessica Day
4. Olivia Gordon
5. Katie Harris
6. Ciara Homan
7. Holly Marx
8. Abby Murphy
9. Ella Neal
10. Olivia Ongley
11. Josie Penfold
12. Hannah Pilley
13. Ruby Rimmer
14. Alexandra Saunders
15. Margaret Wood
16. Kate Duncan
NZSS GIRLS FOOTBALL: Lotto Premier Girls teams and pools:
Pool A Mt Albert Massey St Mary's (Wgtn) Napier Girls
Pool B St Peter's (Cam) Sacred Heart Girls (NP) Macleans, St Cuthbert's
Pool C Saint Kentigern Epsom Girls Hutt Valley Trident
Pool D Hamilton Girls Takapuna Wellington Girl's St Andrew's
Pool E Rangitoto Whangarei Girls Hillcrest Otago Girls
Pool F NP Girls Burnside Tauranga Girls Westlake Girls
Pool G Nelson Girls Rangiora Otumoetai St Mary's(Auck)
Pool H P/North Girls Baradene Waimea, Diocesan (Auck)
“It felt good when I hit it. I thought surely that’s going in,” Manyumow Achol, universally known as Manny, reflects when discussing his spectacular goal in last night’s Premier Youth football final for St. Pats Town against Hutt International Boys’ School (HIBS).
Town beat HIBS 2-1 at Petone’s Memorial Park to capture the Trevor Rigby Cup for just the third time and for the first time since 2004 when the First XI featured a 14 year-old Kosta Barbarouses who became an All White.
Manny’s strike early in the second-half was a telling blow in ending HIBS’ two-year reign as champions. A change of tactics at halftime was vital in creating the chance.
“The guy was marking me in the middle of the park and was hard to get past. I wasn’t getting a lot of space to dribble so I was moved out to the left wing to try and find more space and it worked,” Manny explained.
About ten minutes into the second-half, Manny received the ball from captain Sam Wright on the left wing about ten-metres shy on the box.
“I was in a one on one and beat my marker which opened up space for a shot. I had a crack and knew I had hit it well. It was an awesome feeling when it went in,” Manny recalls.
There would soon be double delight for Town when Liberato Cacace scored to make it 2-0.
“We got our confidence after a goal and I moved back into the middle of the park. We started to find more space and when Liberato scored the boys were doing real well,” Manny acclaims.
HIBS wouldn’t yield their crown easily and pulled a goal back to create an anxious finish.
“I was nervous, but I had faith in the boys we would hang on. We have worked hard all season for this,” Manny said.
Manny has faced plenty of turmoil in his life. He fled war-torn Sudan with his grandma and arrived in New Zealand aged six as a refugee, leaving behind his parents and three sisters.
“I don’t have much memory of leaving Sudan, it's very sad. I haven’t had contact with my family for a long time.”
In 2016, Manny was enrolled at Hutt Valley High School, but that environment wasn’t the most fruitful.
“St Pat’s is a smaller school which means I get more help with my study. I feel the boys and teachers look out for you more here.” Manny justified of his switch of school.
The move has paid off. Manny aligned previously with the Olympic club and Lower Hutt Under-17’s has flourished in the Kaizan academy. In 2018 he is headed to the US on scholarship, most likely with Marshall University in West Virginia.
“I would like to especially thank Carlos Junca, Stu Jacobs and James Prosser for their support. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them,” Manny concluded.
A ground-breaking period for futsal in this country has continued with the naming of both male and female U18 national teams this week.
The inaugural national male and female U18 futsal 10-person squads have been selected.
Each squad includes ten of New Zealand’s most promising young futsal players and both will compete in the upcoming OFC Youth Futsal Championship, set to take place at Bruce Pulman Park in Auckland from October 4 to 7 – with berths at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina on offer.
It is the first time either side will be competing against other nations, the players are very much going into the unknown but there is some international experience in the female group, albeit in football rather than the small-sided game.
Goalkeeper Rylee Godbold, Macey Fraser and Grace Wisnewski were all members of the New Zealand squad that recently qualified for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup while Jenna Dodd has also represented her country at secondary school level.
New Zealand U18 Women’s Futsal National Team
Rylee Godbold (WaiBOP Futsal)
Ella O’Connell-Biddlecombe (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Abigail Murphy (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Jenna Dodd (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Macey Fraser (Canterbury United Pride Futsal)
Emily Gillion (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Grace Wisnewski (WaiBOP Futsal)
Lily Fisher (Canterbury United Pride Futsal)
Tilly James (Central Futsal – Manawatu)
Hannah Reddy (Northern Football Federation Futsal)
Head Coach: Ronan Naicker
Assistant Coach: Tania Neill
Team Manager: Lauren Harkerss
New Zealand U18 Men’s Futsal National Team
Patrick Steele (WaiBOP Futsal)
Chris Preece (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Ethan Martin (Central Futsal – Hawke’s Bay)
Logan Wisnewski (WaiBOP Futsal)
Adam Paulsen (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Michael Plim (Capital Futsal)
Aidan Robson (Central Futsal – Hawke’s Bay)
Oban Hawkins (Northern Football Federation Futsal)
Sam Wright (Capital Futsal)
Arzan Todywalla (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Head Coach: Marvin Eakins
Assistant Coach: Bakr Al-Saudi
Team Manager: Todd Bryant
New Zealand have qualified for the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup after winning the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Samoa.
The New Zealand U-16 side defeated New Caledonia 6-0 in Friday night's final, to maintain a perfect record of featuring in each edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup since hosting the first event back in 2008.
The defending champions lived up to their pre-tournament favouritism throughout the championship with comfortable wins in pool play and in their semi-final against the Cook Islands (winning 9-0), but the final proved a much closer contest with New Zealand 1-0 up at the break thanks to a Arabella Maynard goal in the 28th minute.
Maynard went onto to have a final to remember when she found the back of the net a further three times after half-time. An own goal and a strike from substitute Grace Wisnewski secured the win.
New Zealand U-16 coach Leon Birnie said it was a satisfying result for his team who dominated throughout, but were made to work hard in the final.
“I am really pleased for the girls,” said Birnie. “We have a World Cup to look forward to now and that was the aim when we came here.”
Birnie paid credit to Matthieu Delcroix’s side who were competing in their first final and made life difficult in the hot and humid conditions.
“It was a challenge out there today especially in the first half. New Caledonia played really well. We needed to take our chances in the first five minutes but we didn’t. They made it really hard for us as we were lucky to not concede and be at 1-1. We were much more direct in the second half and we got a bit of joy from that which was good to see.”
Maynard opened the scoring midway through the first half when she followed up a shot at the back post to find the back of the net.
She was then on hand to put away a Kelli Brown strike in the 52nd minute before New Zealand continued to apply pressure to New Caledonia and Melissa Iekawe put the ball into her own net for an own goal. Maynard then completed her hat-trick four minutes later when she went one on one with the keeper. She completed her fine afternoon when she tucked home her fourth in the 68th minute and New Zealand had one hand on the trophy.
Grace Wisnewski came off the bench and finished the scoring when she smashed home a shot from close range in the 72nd minute.
It completed a fine tournament for New Zealand where Brown (14) claimed the Golden Boot for the leading scorer in the championship ahead of compatriots Maggie Jenkins (9), Maynard (7) and Wisnewski (6).
Birnie said the win has laid a good foundation for the team to build on for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay.
“If I look back at our first game, where we had plenty to work on, to where we are now then we have seen big improvement. We have 12 – 13 months now and we have to keep moving forward and improving and if we do that we will be in a good space come World Cup time.”
OFC Women’s U-16 Championship Final
New Zealand 6 (Arabella Maynard 28’, 52’, 66’, 68’, own goal 62’, Grace Wisnewski 72’)
New Caledonia 0
New Zealand: 13. Rylee Godbold (GK), 3. Aneka Mittendorff (c), 4. Hannah Mackay-Wright, 7. Kelli Brown (6. Grace Wisnewski 57’), 8. Maya Hahn, 10. Maggie Jenkins (16. Jayda Stewart 67’), 11. Arabella Maynard, 12. Macey Fraser (9. Margot Ramsay 57’), 14. Mackenzie Barry, 15. Gabrielle Rennie, 17. Aniela Jensen
Substitutes not used: 1. Georgia Candy (GK), 2. Shannon Trebes, 5. Amy Waters, 18. Britney Cunningham-Lee
Coach: Leon Birnie
“My game ended in the back of an ambulance. I broke my leg after 10 minutes and later discovered we lost 1-0,” Sam Wright mourns when reflecting on his last appearance in a college football final.
It was 2015 and Wright’s St. Patrick’s College Town was beaten by St. Patrick’s College, Silverstream.
Wright spent six months recovering, but admits he didn’t regain full confidence until at least a year after the heavy collision which caused the shocking break.
“Recovery was really tough. I missed a lot of tournaments and when I did come back I lacked fitness. It took me ages to regain my fitness,” Wright reveals.
Town suffered without Wright regularly in the roster. In 2016, Town was Division II champions which prompted some changes in the off-season. Town is now aligned to the Kaizen Academy run by former All White Stu Jacobs.
“Kaizen has been really good for us. It’s provided some extra fitness and tactical advice which has served as well this year,” Wright endorses.
Last Saturday, St. Pats Town beat Wellington College 4-2 to confirm their place in the final of the Premiership Trevor Rigby Cup Final. Town fell behind 2-0, but rallied to win following two goals by Wright.
“I don’t know what happened in the first half. We lacked energy and didn’t get into the game. My first goal was scored when I hit the ball on the edge off the box after beating a few defenders. My second goal was scored from a counter attack when Wellington lost the ball.
“I’m really enjoying the emphasis on fast passing and speed. We play a fun style of football,” he continued.
Town’s exuberant approach has yielded great profit. They have won 18 out of 21 games with draws against Rathkeale College, 2-2 and Tawa College, 3-3. Town’s only setback this season is against defending champions Hutt International Boys’ School (HIBS), a likely final opponent.
“HIBS are a tough side to breakdown. They play five at the back and go hard into the challenge. We will have to be patient and accurate to beat them,” Wright theorises.
Town has beaten HIBS in 2017. A Manyumow Achol goal resulted in a 1-0 victory earlier in the season. The Sudanese refugee acquired from Hutt Valley High School has been a valuable addition.
“Manny has been huge for us this season. He is scoring goals we wouldn’t have scored last year and bring a real positive attitude,” Wright acclaims.
Paul Muollo is another figure of distinction. After nearly 500 senior matches for Island Bay, Muollo is now First XI coach.
“We’ve had Paul for two years now and he has built confidence in the players,” Wrights praises.
New Zealand Under-17 selection Liberato Cacace hasn’t been available often this season. However if he plays the last round robin fixture against Scots College on Saturday he would have made four appearances which qualifies him for the final.
Cacace scored all five goals for Town in their National Futsal title win in April. Wright has been part of two national success in that code and is a strong contender for selection for the New Zealand Under-18’s who are seeking qualification for the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
Booking a ticket to the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup is the main goal for New Zealand at this month’s Oceania qualifiers in Samoa but coach Leon Birnie would like to see far more from his players than simply justifying their favouritism for the regional crown.
Birnie’s side will take on Tahiti, New Caledonia and Samoa in Group A of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Apia from Saturday and each player will be making their international debuts – some had never even been on a plane before jetting over the Pacific Ocean yesterday.
“It’s the first time they’ll be putting on the badge and with that comes its own unique challenges and pressures,” says Birnie, who has plenty of experience to draw upon after coaching the U-20 national team in the previous cycle.
“All players adapt to that differently so it’s our job as a staff to make sure we support them with whatever they require based on how they adapt. Leading into this, we’ve had a short preparation but the time we’ve had has been of good quality. I’m excited to see what these girls can do over there.”
Securing a spot on the global stage is the minimum requirement and Birnie is taking a far broader approach, focused mainly on individual development.
“The number one thing is to make sure we qualify and, if we put good performances on, then hopefully we’ll do that. But there will be a lot of stuff we do off the field as well to try to grow these players and get them out of their comfort zones as much as we can,” he says.
“We want to challenge them, not only on the field but off it as well. We’ll do a lot of individual work with the players and really highlight their strengths and the areas they need to work on to really help them move forward. That’s what the focus of the campaign will be.”
The aim is to produce players who can go on to star for the senior Football Ferns, who are now placed 20th in the world and are looking for an injection of even more quality over the coming years to climb the rankings further.
“In the last part of our campaign leading up to the qualifiers, there were a few players who really made it clear they are ones for the future,” Birnie says.
“I’ve only worked with them for a limited period so far but, from what I’ve seen, it’s a high-quality and exciting group. As a whole team, we look exciting going forward and that’s an area which has been highlighted that can help the Football Ferns in the future.”
While New Zealand are heavily favoured to emerge on top, Birnie is not taking any opposition lightly and is expecting his side to be tested, particularly when it comes to breaching a well-structured defensive unit.
“Some of these teams set up a bit deeper and make it quite challenging to break them down,” he says.
“But that’s really good for us and gives us some real problems to work through. It could be quite different to what the players have experience before and their job will be to try to work through that. There will be challenges and it’s up to us to support the players as they work through them,” he adds.
“The girls are all really excited and so are the staff – we’re all ready to go.”
Please find attached audio from an interview with New Zealand U-16 women’s coach Leon Birnie.
OFC U-16 Women’s Championship – Qualifiers for 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
(J.S. Blatter Football Complex, Apia)
Tahiti vs New Zealand
Saturday 5 August, 4pm (NZT)
New Zealand vs New Caledonia
Tuesday 8 August, 1pm (NZT)
New Zealand vs Samoa
Saturday 12 August, 4pm (NZT)
Tuesday 15 August
Friday 18 August
New Zealand: 1. Georgia Candy (GK), 2. Shannon Trebes, 3. Anneka Mittendorff, 4. Hannah Mackay-Wright, 5. Amy Waters, 6. Grace Wisnewski, 7. Kelli Brown, 8. Maya Hahn, 9. Margot Ramsay, 10. Maggie Jenkins, 11. Arabella Maynard, 12. Macey Fraser, 13. Rylee Godbold (GK), 14. Mackenzie Barry, 15. Gabrielle Rennie, 16. Jayda Stewart, 17. Aniela Jensen, 18. Britney Cunningham-Lee
Head Coach: Leon Birnie
Assistant Coaches: Alana Gunn, Emma Evans, Mike De Bono
Team Manager: Ashleigh Cox
Physiotherapists: Janina Aricheta, Hannah Dawson
International Teams Coordinator: Angelina Lee–Hussien
New Zealand coach Leon Birnie has named an exciting squad to contest the OFC U-16 Championship in Samoa next month.
The tournament, which will be staged from 4 – 25 August, is the first step for many of the national squad competing in international football as they look to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay which will be held in November – December next year.
The OFC U-17 Women’s Championship has changed to the OFC U-16 Championship in 2017 to better align with the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the following year.
Birnie, who earlier this year changed roles with NZ U-20 coach Gareth Turnbull to take the New Zealand U-17s, said his coaching team have gone through a robust selection process. They staged observational games across all seven federations, held training camps and time at the NTC’s before a final camp here in Auckland to complete the selection process.
“The selection process has been tough,” said Birnie. “There is a huge amount of depth within this group and we have had to have some difficult conversations, but we are excited with the squad we have selected and the challenge ahead.”
New Zealand is the most successful team in the history of the championship which was first introduced in 2010. They have won all three titles in that time and last year defeated Papua New Guinea 8-0 in the final to book their place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Jordan.
New Zealand has enjoyed good success on the world stage in recent years with both the New Zealand U-17s (5-0 win over Jordan) and New Zealand U-20s (1-0 win over Ghana) achieving the goal of winning on the world stage. The age grade OFC Championships and FIFA World Cups are an important stepping stone.
“The ultimate goal is to create future Football Ferns and I am confident that we have the quality in this squad that in time they have the ability to go on and represent the Ferns. This tournament is another step in their development and a chance to show their ability.”
New Zealand will open their campaign against Samoa in Group A and then will meet New Caledonia, Tahiti and Tonga as they look to qualify for the semi-finals. Birnie knows his team will be favourites to claim the title.
“I don’t think it matters too much who you are playing there are going to be huge challenges when you are playing international football,” he said. “For many of these girls it is the first time that they will pull on the New Zealand shirt and that comes with its own pressures and challenges.
“It is a long time away in Samoa and playing in the islands always present unique challenges. So as a support staff it is important that we create a stable and supportive environment where the girls can perform at their best. I am sure they will do well.”
Birnie said he is enjoying his new role with the NZ U-17s and is excited to take a talented group of girls to a big tournament and continue their development.
“I just love coaching football whether that is with the U-17s or the U-20s I don’t really mind. We have a great group of girls to work with here. They have all been working hard and they are pretty excited to represent New Zealand at this tournament and hopefully qualify for the World Cup.”
New Zealand U-16 team to contest the OFC U-16 Championship
Georgia Candy, Hamilton Wanderers
Rylee Godbold, Claudelands Rovers
Aneka Mittendorff, Forrest Hill Milford
Amy Waters, Eastern Suburbs
Hannah Mackay-Wright, Glenfield Rovers
Shannon Trebes, Hamilton Wanderers
Mackenzie Barry, New Plymouth Girls High School
Macey Fraser, Waimakariri United
Margaret Jenkins, Wellington United
Margot Ramsay, Western Springs
Maya Hahn, Wellington United
Aniela Jensen, Palmerston North Marist
Arabella Maynard, Forrest Hill Milford
Jayda Stewart, FC Twenty 11
Gabrielle Rennie, Waimakariri United
Kelli Brown, Claudelands Rovers
Britney Cunningham-Lee, Hamilton Wanderers
Grace Wisnewski, Hamilton Wanderers
OFC U-16 Championship
When: 4 – 25 August
What: Qualifying Event for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay
Defending champions: New Zealand
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