Inaugural Nelson Falcons look set to fly
The inaugural Nelson Falcons squad that will end Nelson's near 20-year national competition hiatus has been named by head coach Davor Tavich.
The 25-man squad will provide the basis of a team that will contest the ASB Youth League starting next month.
Preparation has already begun with a pre-season tournament and a friendly against Team Wellington on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The squad, which includes 21 under-19 players and four over-age players, will be captained by the experienced Mark Johnston, with vice-captain Harry Tod-Smith coming from the under-19 group.
The squad was selected following trials in October and November, overseen by Tavich and his two assistant coaches, Peter Simonsen and Andy Morris.
Players had been training together over the past six weeks in preparation for the team's first season.
"We're delighted with the calibre of players," said Tavich. "Personally I can't wait to see them play."
The launch of the Falcons will not only see the top local youth players run out in a national competition, it has prompted the return of talented personnel to the region.
Erik Panzer will play while back from the United States, Niall Young returns from Australia and Matt Shaw from Wellington.
Fox Slotemaker, a former Waimea College student who moved to play for Mt Albert Grammar and Eastern Suburbs AFC in Auckland is back, as is former Nelson College student Furkan Kokcu from Island Bay United FC in Wellington.
Three players from Marlborough have been included in the squad, Tore Waechter, Taine Swete and Omar Guardiola.
This follows the stipulation from the team's founders, that the Nelson Falcons would be a top-of-the-south team.
The Falcons will play in the youth league's southern conference with YoungHeart Manawatu, Team Wellington, defending champions Canterbury United, and Otago United.
Their season begins against Canterbury United at Trafalgar Park on Sunday, January 13.
On their five-match pre-season road trip the Falcons earned a 2-1 winning record against the opposition they will meet in the southern conference of the national youth league. On Friday, the Falcons attacked from the outset, their first match marked with a 2-0 win over Team Wellington.
Creating chances from the kickoff, the Falcons converted two second-half goals to topple Team Wellington, one of the southern conference favourites. Guardiola converted a penalty and helped set up the second.
The Falcons played the friendly on their way to a pre-season tournament in Palmerston North, building towards the start of the ASB Youth League in January.
Despite recording one win and three losses during the two-day tournament, which involved northern conference team Hawke's Bay, the Falcons did not look out of their depth. They scored in each game, and the close losses could have gone either way.
Against Hawke's Bay, the Falcons lost 3-2, with goals to Guardiola and Waechter.
On Sunday, Hawke's Bay again had the edge, 2-1, Waechter scoring his second goal of the tournament.
The Falcons finished the tournament with a 2-1 win over Manawatu, Waechter bagging his third of the tournament and the Falcons' second from a penalty.
Meet the Falcons
Daniel Grimshaw, 18, Nelson Suburbs FC
Neil Mason, 18, Nelson Suburbs FC
Ashley Langbein, 19, Nelson Suburbs FC
Jamane Wilson-Duggan, 17, Nelson College
Hal Fish, 17, Nelson College
Dion Keetley, 17, Nelson Suburbs FC
Taine Swete, 17, Blenheim Valley
Omar Guardiola, 18, Blenheim Valley
Tore Waechter, 19, Blenheim Valley
Lian Cinzah, 18, Nelson College
Furkan Kokcu, 17, Island Bay United AFC (Wellington)
Fox Slotemaker, 16, Eastern Suburbs AFC (Auckland)
Joshua Sansom, 16, Nelson Suburbs FC
Harry Tod-Smith, 17, Nelson College
Fletcher Slierendrecht, 17, Nelson Suburbs FC
Nat Payn, 17, Nelson Suburbs FC
Sam Maxwell, 17, Nelson Suburbs FC
Izaak Cunningham, 15, Nelson Suburbs FC
Brodie Sherwood, 16, F C Nelson
Niall Young, 19, Nelson Suburbs FC
Erik Panzer, 19, Nelson Suburbs FC Over-age players
Coey Turipa, 20, Nelson Suburbs FC
Mark Johnston, 27, Nelson Suburbs FC
Matt Shaw, 20, Nelson Suburbs FC
Davi Goncalves Maciel, 28, F C Nelson