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Dudley set to get taste of SE Asia

Rathkeale head boy Harrison Dudley has been named in the New Zealand Secondary School sUnder-19 team to tour South-East Asia in April.

The 17-year-old was named for the tour after a training camp and trial game in Auckland last week. The NZ Schools team will play against Malaysian and Singaporean counterparts during the April school holidays,

Dudley initially attended a similar training camp and trial for the South team, which covers the South Island and the lower North Island, in Wellington in late 2022.

“It all started with my sports coordinator Cam Lindsay, who is my football coach, and he put forward some of the boys from my school to go to the South trials,” Dudley said.

“I went to the trial in Wellington, and it was all good, and it was a pretty similar scaffolding to the Auckland one. We did some training and then went to a game, and the South team was selected from there.”

Dudley had a starring role in the final trial game at Auckland’s Seddon Fields, which was played in the early stages of last week’s weather bomb, in conditions he described as “absolutely chucking it down”, scoring a late equaliser from the penalty spot in the 2-2 draw after a cross he delivered was handled by a defender.

Like most youngsters, Dudley started playing football at about the age of five in his birthplace Auckland. The family lived in Brisbane, Suva, and Auckland again because of his mother Vanessa’s work before moving to Wairarapa seven years ago.

Dudley progressed through the grades and joined the Paul Ifill Football Academy [Pifa] at Rathkeale College.

In 2021, he debuted for the then-Central League side Wairarapa United, impressing in the five games or so he played.

Dudley is the latest of several players from Pifa such as Riley Grover, Scott Morris, Noah Boyce, and current Phoenix professional Callum Elliot, to have made the national schools Under-19 squad. He said the influence of Phoenix legend, former Wairarapa United star, and now Christchurch United coach Ifill cannot be underestimated.

“He has been, and I hope he still will be a big mentor and part of my football journey. Although he’s based in Christchurch, there are occasional phone calls, and we keep in touch.”

Dudley’s potential earned the attention of the Wellington Phoenix, and he linked with the professional club’s academy in 2022 but getting to the weekday training sessions was difficult to overcome. With the demise of Wairarapa United two weeks out from the start of the season, the fleetfooted winger had to look for other options and was loaned to Waterside-Karori, who finished a credible fifth in the Central League.

“It was mainly because I live in Wairarapa, and training sessions are an hour-and-a-half or two hours away, and because the Phoenix Central League team trains at 11 in the morning, and with my school commitments, that wasn’t going to happen.

“So I ended up getting loaned out to another Central League club which was Karori, and that was pretty good last year.”

Dudley will again front for the Rathkeale 1st XI in 2023 but is uncertain which Central League club he will turn out for.

“Pre-season is up and running now, but I’m not entirely sure who I’m going to play for this year, and I think I will have a chat with the academy director.”

Long term, though, his ambition is to head to a United States university.

“I think that pathway is really appealing,” he said. “The plan is to get a degree while playing a good level of football, that’s the goal, and then potentially after university pursuing a professional career, and whether that works out or not, we’ll see.

‘I will probably study business, but I’m not entirely sure yet, and hopefully, I gain a scholarship through my football and academics.”

Dudley will leave with the NZ under-19 team on April 6 for two weeks of training and playing in Singapore and Malaysia.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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