WaiBOP players claim age advantage for home game
Waikato-Bay of Plenty will have a rare advantage in age when they kick off their home campaign in the Women's League in Cambridge on Sunday.
The hosts will face the Northern-based New Zealand Football under-17 side at St Peter's School (kickoff 1pm), with the visitors containing several top young players from the region.
But the young WaiBOP team will have the upper hand in experience, despite possessing 15 players in their extended squad who are aged 18 or younger.
The hosts opened their season with a 3-1 away loss to defending champs and title favourites Northern Football and WaiBOP coach Peter Smith said although he was upset with the result, he found plenty to like with their display.
"Considering the way we played, and the amount of possession we had, we were disappointed not to pick up any points," Smith said.
"However, on the flipside, we can take a degree of confidence of how we performed against a team of that calibre, considering the young squad we have."
Among the New Zealand u-17 side are the Papamoa FC duo of Sophie Stewart-Hobbs and Emma Cawte.
Tessa Leong and Roberta Wigglesworth play their winter football for Claudelands Rovers, and Tayla Christensen, who was in the Young Football Ferns squad that contested the u-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan in September, is at Melville United.
"We're well aware of the talent and technical range of these players and we now have to combat it," Smith said.
"They'll be a technically good team which will be well set up under Aaron's [McFarland] guidance as coach. They'll be well disciplined and tough to beat."
Smith has made two personnel changes from last week, with Tayla Forward and Chantelle Leban being replaced by Kylie Jens and Nicole Christensen.
"Kylie was unavailable for our last game due to exams, while Nicole's attitude and work ethic at training have resulted in her forcing her way into the game-day squad," Smith said.
WAIBOP FOOTBALL SQUAD
Naomi-Beth Carter, Kylie Jens, Kate Carlton, Eileish Hayes, Trudi Greig, Libby Williams, Emma Baker, Rachel Porteous, Jackie Pretswell, Keri O'Connell, Helen Collins, Izzy Coombes, Ella Golding, Nicole Christensen, Megan Anderson, Jess Clark.