Tough Wellington Phoenix already on the Ball
St Paul's Collegiate footballer Waikato Ball has been given some clear feedback on what he needs to do to play for the Wellington Phoenix.
The 17-year-old striker completed a week-long trial with the Phoenix last week, training with the first team and playing a warm-up match against Petone.
He bagged a goal in that match against Petone, cracking one from 25 yards and finding the back of the net after the ball took a slight deflection.
It was the Phoenix's first goal in a 3-0 victory.
The goal won't be forgotten quickly by Ball and he hopes to be back in Phoenix colours soon, if he can improve his fitness in particular.
"It's mainly to improve on my fitness but I do want to improve everything else as well," Ball said. "The main thing is my high tempo sort of fitness. The game is played at such a high tempo that it's easy to get a bit lost.
"I have to get used to working at that high tempo all the time."
Skills wise and technically, Ball did well in the Phoenix environment.
The training was a big step up compared to Claudelands Rovers or St Paul's trainings and Ball said it was strange to be playing next to guys he watches on television.
"They were all really cool guys," he said. "The coach was hilarious. He was really good. I learnt a lot in the week. Scoring that goal was pretty good."
Adjusting back into normal life is proving tough for Ball.
He said he's just getting back to normal, but he is more focused than ever on getting back to the Phoenix and becoming a full-time professional.
"My parents are looking at hiring a personal trainer to help with the fitness," Ball said. "I can't wait to get back. They basically said that I'm welcome back when I work on some things. It's a real boost. I'll be working really hard."
Ball is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Waikato youth products Tyler Boyd and Marco Rojas in heading to the Phoenix and then on to bigger and better things.
St Paul's coach Michael Groom believes Ball is the most naturally gifted footballer he has coached, including Rojas and All Whites striker Chris Wood.