Porirua footballers look forward to NZ under-17 qualifying campaign

Josh Rogerson, left, and Elijah Just  have made the New Zealand Under-17 football side.

Josh Rogerson, left, and Elijah Just have made the New Zealand Under-17 football side.

Elijah Just and Josh Rogerson are used to playing in the wet.

The duo, named for New Zealand's under-17 football side, left Auckland on Tuesday  for Tahiti with the hope of qualifying for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India in October.

Grouped with Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Fiji, New Zealand need to win the tournament - which starts this week and concludes on February 24 - in order to book a place in India.

"It's a great opportunity for us to be involved and the team spirit is really good," Just, 16, said.

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The whittling of the New Zealand squad to 18 took months of talent identification, wider training group sessions and trials by coach Danny Hay and his team.

For Just and Rogerson, all the hard work has been worth it.

"He [Hay] lays everything out and you know where you stand," Just said.

"We haven't played long in the New Zealand set-up, but I think we're getting comfortable with that style.

"We just have to get used to it, quickly, if we want to win this tournament."

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Both are expecting a physical style of play from their Pacific Island opponents.

The teenagers attend Ole Football Academy in Porirua, and came through the ranks of Western Suburbs junior teams.

That experience is going to serve them well on the trip. Torrential rain forecast is for most of their time in Tahiti, but that's almost normal for the pair.

"We've grown up playing in wet weather," Rogerson, 17, said.

"We're lucky that Endeavour Park [in Whitby, Wests' home ground] drains well - it's always been a brilliant home track and we know it pretty well."

While Just came to Porirua as a 12-year-old, Rogerson has been a Wests boy since he could dribble a football.

"The environment is so good - they want everyone to play and enjoy the game and the junior side of the club has always been strong," he said.

Just said Wests had been supportive of its players seeking national honours and they looked forward to playing for the club in the Central League this winter.

Hay said the New Zealand squad had excellent technical players and a lot of quality.

"It's a sign of the changing nature of the game in this country."

 - Stuff


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