Falcons fly Nelson colours again
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 starts with a pre-season tournament and a friendly against Team Wellington in the capital tonight.
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 effort that has gone in from the players has been impressive and everyone is really keen to fight for a place int the starting XI."
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 Mount 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.
Tavich said, to see football talent returning to the region was encouraging.
He hoped that, in the future the Falcons would prevent a football talent drain in the first place.
"We have attracted a few players that many thought we wouldn't see back in the region for a while," said Tavich.
"I think now that we have this opportunity, the players we were losing to different centres and different countries, they might stick around and not leave in the first place."
Moreover, the Falcons have attracted players from outside the Nelson-Tasman region.
Three players from Blenheim Valley Sports have been included in the squad.
This follows the stipulation from the team's founders, that the Nelson Falcons would be a top-of-the-south team.
The Nelson Falcons entry into the competition was confirmed in September after a consortium of local football people, led by Mayor Aldo Miccio, launched a bid for a national league team at the start of the year.
When announcing the league's new youth side, New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh said having a senior ASB Premiership team based in Nelson remained a prospect.
"There is a possibility of expansion, and entry into the ASB Youth League is a good gauge on how teams handle national competition on and off the pitch," McKavanagh had said.
The Nelson Falcons will play in the youth league's southern conference with YoungHeart Manawatu, Team Wellington, defending champions Canterbury United, and Otago United.
The Nelson Falcons' season begins against Canterbury United at Trafalgar Park on Sunday, January 13.
- The Nelson Mail