Young players dominate NRFL second division teams

Albany United coach Tel Sheehy has some interesting arrivals in his 2017 NRFL squad.

Albany United coach Tel Sheehy has some interesting arrivals in his 2017 NRFL squad.

There are some striking similarities between the situations facing the coaches of the two North Shore-based clubs in the lowest division of Auckland's top football competition.

Both Albany United's Tel Sheehy and Takapuna AFC's Joe Daw are in their second season with their respective clubs, and both will be relying on young players during the 2017 NRFL second division.

Sheehy has retained the majority of last season's squad and has attracted some new young players from other local clubs to Rosedale Park.

"We will be one of the youngest teams in the league with a high level of fitness and pace to burn throughout the squad," Sheehy says.  

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"This should allow us to keep the intensity up during the game and play a high-pressing style of football."

Contrary to the changing lifestyles and demands on potential players' time, we have certainly not had any problem with attracting players, Sheehy says.

"The biggest challenge we face is finding adequate training facilities for all of the teams within the club."

With an "open door" policy the club has fostered links with various ethnic and church groups and this season will have around 24 senior sides, including full teams which have switched from other clubs to represent Albany.

Albany's first team benefits from the policy of inclusion, with Junho Hong and KwanHyun Hong from the Korean Ethnic League being offered contracts to play for the top team in 2017.

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Others making the move to Albany this season include: Jan Benkovic and Aiden Widdows (Forrest Hill), Liam Hobson and Joe Lenton (Birkenhead), Marc Porter (Te Atatu) and Keagan Brophy (Hibiscus Coast).

"For much of last season, we were embroiled in a relegation battle. But, over the final third of the season, we were able to string together a good run of results enabling us to comfortably pull clear of the relegation zone," Sheehy says.

"We certainly have a stronger squad and start the 2017 season in a far healthier and more optimistic position than we were in some 12 months ago."

For Joe Daw, after leading the competition for 15 weeks last season, and only losing three times, he says Takapuna were unfortunate to miss out on promotion to the first division.

"It feels like a job undone for me and I am certainly hoping to give it a good crack this year as well," Daw says.

Daw likes winning, but Takapuna AFC president Wayne Hallford says there is no pressure for the team to work towards returning to the premier division.

Hallford takes a different approach to recruitment than some other clubs and that is reflected in the players the club puts on the field.

"We're not prepared to pay what we call leeches of the game, players who go from club to club to club and get paid but put nothing back into that club," Hallford says.

Instead the club wants to produce players that want to show loyalty to the Taharoto Park-based club. 

Albany United open their season away against Onehunga Mangere on March 25 and Takapuna host Waiheke United on March 25 at 3pm.

 - Stuff

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