Nelson talent helps secure national title
Five Nelson-based players have helped to create history as Mainland Football secured the first national federation talent tournament title in front of the country's top coaches.
Jamie Creswell, Bertie Fish, Van Rolan Hlawnceu, Mat Tod-Smith, and Lewis Miccio were integral to Mainland's unbeaten run in the under-16 national tournament in Wellington.
The Mainland side finished off the three day tournament as the only team without a loss, beating home side Capital Football 4-2 yesterday. On day two they had defeated Auckland Football 2-0 and Northern Football 1-0.
Their only draw came against runners-up Waikato-Bay of Plenty on day one, the 1-1 result followed by a 2-0 win over Football South.
Part of the Nelson Bays Football Federation Talent Centre, the boys put their hands up for selection as part of the 15th grade Nelson Bays representative team, crowned South Island champions earlier this season.
After making an impression in the Mainland, the boys have now put their best foot forward on the national stage, with some very high profile coaches, selectors and managers attending the tournament.
Junior and Young All Whites coach Darren Bazeley and Young Football Ferns coach Jitka Klimkova were in Wellington to scout talent, as was New Zealand Football's high performance manager Fred de Jong and talent development manager Andy Hedge.
The coaching staff from the Wellington Phoenix were also in attendance as part of their search for players for their new Academy announced recently. The Academy is targeted at players aged 13-17 and will initially be based in Wellington.
Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome said these tournaments provided a great platform for young talent to shine.
"We're really pleased to be working with New Zealand Football and the regional football federations to give the Phoenix coaches an opportunity to view talented New Zealand youngsters," said Dome.
"A very real opportunity is a place in our Phoenix Football Academy and the national tournament is a perfect opportunity for us to see all the players at one time, competing against their peers."
The players who took part in the tournament follow in the footsteps of some impressive names that have also come through their local federation talent programmes.
Current All Whites and Wellington Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund is one such player and is excited the national tournament is back after a haiatis in recent seasons.
"We all used to look forward to playing in this tournament," said Sigmund. "You're up against the best in New Zealand and it's a great test to see where you're at with your own skill and fitness. It also gives you the best chance to be in the shop window for national selection." With the Nelson lads now boasting both the South Island title and national crown, their display has certainly been eye catching.
- The Nelson Mail