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Ifill kicks in at Rathkeale

Rathkeale has scored a massive coup and appointed Paul Ifill as its director of football.

In what is somewhat of a homecoming, the Wellington Phoenix legend is overseeing the development of football at Rathkeale.

Ifill ran the successful Paul Ifill Football Academy [Pifa] at the school for several years before taking on the head coaching role at Christchurch United. He has since returned to Wairarapa, and as well as the new part-time role, he is director of coaching at the Central League club Wellington Olympic.

During its time, Pifa developed several players who went on to play at regional and national league level and higher, most notably All White Callan Elliot and goalkeeper Scott Morris, who earlier this year signed a professional contract with English Championship club Stoke City.

Rathkeale College director of sport Neil Perry is excited about what Ifill will bring to football, which has been one of the standout sports at the college in recent years, performing well in the Wellington premier competitions.

“He’s had an association with the school for a long time; he’s had his academy here before he left, and that was a great benefit to not only this area but with kids who came from afar to it,” Perry said.

“If you take his mana and what he’s done in the game, he’s a really good coach, is brilliant with the kids, a really nice guy, and the kids just hang off him; he’s like a pied piper, and the kids just take on board what he says.

“His sessions are brilliant; it’s great for my development and it’s great for the other coaches who get access to him.”

Ifill is thrilled at the prospect of working with the college’s promising players and attracting future talent.

“I’ve got a full-on job at Wellington Olympic, so it’s only part-time, but it is something that we can certainly grow, and there are some really good kids at the school, and we’ll try and get more in, and hopefully we can attract footballers who also want to go to a good school,” Ifill said.

“At the moment, I’m taking a group of 20 on a Wednesday, and Neil and I are working together to see what is needed for that first team and the development team to grow, and hopefully, we can get more coaches in.”

Ifill also wants to develop relationships with the region’s two capital league clubs, Douglas Villa and Greytown, to allow players to test themselves at a higher level, such as Sam Jonas, who fronts for the school in the Wellington competitions and Villa in Capital One.

“It’s important there are places for these kids, and they need to play senior men’s football, and if they’re year 11 and above, they should be playing a mix of school and senior men, so it’s important we have good relationships with the clubs.”

Ifill also keeps a keen eye on the Phoenix and their race for a maiden A-League championship but has a word of warning about the challenge ahead in the two-leg semifinal against Melbourne Victory, kicking off tomorrow in Melbourne.

“I hope they go over there and do enough to make the second leg competitive. You don’t want to over there and get smashed; if they get a draw, I think we’ll be too strong for them at home, but Victory is a very good side, and [Tony] Popovic, the coach, will know exactly what he’s doing, so it will be really tough.”

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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