Zander Edwards [white shirt] has been in goal-scoring form for the Wairarapa United U17s. PHOTO/DANI TURTON
United’s young guns are blowing opposition away, writes CHRIS COGDALE.
While Wairarapa United may be struggling in the Central League, the benefits of their young players competing at that level is flowing through to the club’s Under-17 side who are unbeaten in the Capital competitions.
The Paul Ifill Football Academy-sponsored team started the season in Division B of the U-17s and were promoted to Division A after completing the first round with three wins – including routs of Seatoun [15-0] and Lower Hutt City [17-0].
Since their promotion, United have defeated Seatoun 7-2, Island Bay United 6-1, and Western Suburbs B 2-1 to share the lead with Western Suburbs A on nine points.
The team are coached by Cameron Lindsay and includes several players who regularly line up alongside the Wai United defender in the Central League.
Lindsay said the players were using their first team experience to advantage in the age-group competition.
“We may have been struggling in the Central League, but in-house, we believe we’ve been playing really well,” he said on Monday.
“When the players drop down to the Under-17s, the game is a bit slower, and the boys have been using their experience well.
“It’s a group of boys who have been together for several years with Paul [Ifill] and [United senior coach] Cory [Chettleburgh] and it’s a combination of what we’ve doing at the academy and with Wairarapa United.”
Lindsay said the benefits were already beginning to show.
“There are a lot of young boys, who are only 15 or 16 years old, and the club will start to fly when the boys are 17 and 18 and have played 20 or 30 Central League games.”
Lindsay said the selection of Noah Boyce and Riley Grover in national secondary teams to play in Australia over the school holidays was testament to the talent and the hard work done by the young players.
“There is a pathway for young players. In two to three years when they get to 17 or 18, we believe we will have a team that will be challenging for the Central League.”
One of the future stars from the Under-17s could be striker Zander Edwards.
The Year 10 Rathkeale pupil has scored at least 15 goals in eight appearances, including bagging five goals on two separate occasions.
Edwards was only 14 and could not play in the Central League, Lindsay said.
“But he’s one of our top strikers – he has good skills and a good physical presence. In a few years, he will be one to look out for.”
The Under-17 side face their toughest challenge of the season thus far when they meet joint leaders Western Suburbs A on Sunday at 11am at Memorial Park.
Like United, Wests are unbeaten and are based around a player academy – the Ole Academy.
Lindsay expects it will be a good game.
“Wests play a very much possession style of a game. It will be a tough game and I would like to think it will be a hell of a game to watch.”
“We’re taking every game as it comes. The boys are really competitive, and they want to win the competition. They will be very physical and get stuck in.”
Meanwhile, Lindsay, who played an important role in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Napier City Rovers in the Central League, said the result was like a win.
“It’s just what we need going into a few crucial games against Stop Out and Wellington United. It was perfect timing against a very experienced team like Napier City Rovers.”