Turipa proud to lead Falcons

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 10:00 11/01/2014
Coey Turipa
Fairfax NZ
LAST LINE OF DEFENCE: Coey Turipa will be leading the Falcons in their first match of 2014.

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The first Falcons team of 2014 has been named as they prepare to fly to Dunedin for their season opener against the southern zone champions.

Captain, goalkeeper and overage player, Coey Turipa, says while the team is quite young, even by national youth league standards, they have the talent required to compete at the national level.

The New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Marlborough Falcons face Southern United, the rebranded Otago United side away at Tahuna Park tomorrow.

Last season the Falcons had some tight battles and played some of their best football against the national league finalists. The Falcons defeated Otago 1-0 at Trafalgar Park and then went down by the same margin in the away match.

Turipa, 21, said it was quite a shock to be named captain this season but puts it down to head coach Davor Tavich rewarding him for his loyalty to the Falcons and the Nelson region.

Certainly, an element of the decision reflects the allegiance he has maintained when the services of the age-grade New Zealand rep would be a valuable asset to many clubs and regions. But the Mainland Premier League keeper of the year's ability with the gloves, experience and organisation skills make him the logical choice.

After last season's captain Mark Johnston moved into a coaching role, Turipa is now tasked with firming the group of young men on the field. And it is a role he genuinely cherishes.

"I am honoured to captain the team and hopefully I can captain them to the title. It is exciting," said Turipa. "Just watching Mark captain the team last year, there is a bit more to captaining a team, background stuff, so I will try to mirror what he did."

While Johnston is certainly a role model, Turipa will bring his own characteristics to the role, from his unique perspective in the box at the back.

"Nowadays, there are heaps of keeper-captains. Spain's goalkeeper is their captain. You can see everything on the field and it helps organising the team."

Turipa will have a leadership group to assist him this season. Vice-captain and defender Harry Tod-Smith retains his role. Centre-back Fox Slotemaker and midfielder Taine Swete and the second overage player "Skippy" Ryan Stewart will also guide the team.

Coach Tavich has picked the match-day team specifically for this game, in a players-for-opposition-approach. The only players not considered were Daniel Grimshaw, out with injury and the unavailable Sam Maxwell. Fletcher Slierendrecht is no longer with the squad because of a career move.

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Turipa is keen to see the simple things done well in the opening encounter.

"Southern United will definitely be strong again. We have got to keep it tight down there and if we can get something and get out of there, that will be a good result.

"It will come down to one play and if we can take it. I am highly confident we can."

It is a young squad, the most common ages for the Falcons in the under-20 competition are 15 and 16 years. While the match-day 12 includes the more experienced players, there are still three 15-year-olds on the bench.

Turipa is not concerned about the age, he is excited by the skill level and commitment of youngsters like Josh Moffat, Sam Wilson and wider squad member Lewis Miccio.

"They are a young team but they are very capable of doing big things. The young talent that is coming through is astonishing," he said.

Turipa urged the playing members to take their chance this weekend.

As a player, Turipa's role remains a vital one, if he has a form season it could go a long way to helping the Falcons fly high in the national league. As a captain Turipa wants to see this young side step up, play with confidence and play to win.

"The goal is to win it and I believe in our team. We are capable of winning it."

The Falcons' first match in their second season starts at Tahuna Park at 12.30pm tomorrow.

- The Nelson Mail

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