Tui Dugan in action for Wairarapa United. PHOTO/WENDY TURTON

FOOTBALL

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

From Wairarapa, to Auckland, and then potentially all the way to Uruguay.

It has been a rapid rise through the footballing ranks for Wairarapa United women’s representative Tui Dugan, and next week she will join the New Zealand Under-17 Identification Camp squad at a four-day camp in Auckland.

The 15-year-old Wairarapa College pupil will join 24 players from across the country, with the aim of being selected for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, to be held in Uruguay in November.

Dugan joined United this season and quickly became an integral part of the team.

The news of her call-up to the identification squad came as a pleasant surprise, and it was an opportunity she was keen to make the most of.

“I was surprised but so excited as well,” she said.

“Having Paul [Ifill] as a coach was one of the reasons I improved so much, and if he didn’t do it I wouldn’t be in this position today.”

Dugan was not a part of the New Zealand team that won the 2017 Oceania Football Confederation Championship to secure their place at the tournament, but caught a break when one of the players withdrew with an injury.

“This team was picked last year to play the qualifiers, but I kind of got in through the back door because one of their right backs got injured, and Paul suggested me as a right back.

“I was so excited but kind of shocked at the same time.”

Football has always been in the family for Dugan, and it seemed inevitable that she was going to be a success on the field.

“My dad and my brother were playing and I’d always go to their games and stuff like that,” she said.

“I started playing as soon as I could because I was so excited to play.”

She has just come back from a two-day Federation Talent Centre camp in Wellington, with the aim of making the Capital squad to contest the National Age Group Tournament in Wellington this December.

Long term, she is looking at overseas options to further her career.

“I’m aiming for a scholarship in the USA.

“We’ve been making videos and mum is filming all of our games so we can make highlight reels.”

United have enjoyed a remarkably successful season to date, and Dugan said the environment had helped her develop her game.

This Saturday they will take on Wellington United [noon in Wellington] in a Kate Sheppard Cup quarterfinal, and a win there would open up even more opportunities.

“The cup is great because you get to play against people you don’t usually play against, and if we win this weekend it becomes New Zealand-wide,” she said.

Dugan may only be 15, but it is already clear she has a bright football future in front of her.