13 Grade NRF Championship Boys Season Review

Head Coach Ricardo Gomes reviews the first ever season for our NRF Championship Boys squad.

This season saw me embark on my first Football coaching role for the 13's NRF Championship team and I couldn't have asked for a better group of players. They bought into the trainings and showed a willingness to learn, making my job easy! 2021 is the first time the club had entered two teams in any age grade which meant that we were taking a step into the unknown a bit.

The NRF Championship team was put together for players aiming to reach the 13's and 14's NRFL squads, and the barometer for success was not results, but the development of the individual. From this perspective we had a great year with players making the step up to the NRFL after strong showings in our team.

The boys built a good team culture pretty early on as most already knew each other from school or football and the focus and intent to improving as footballers were palpable in training sessions. That saw us start our season very well with two victories in away games vs. Fencibles and Manukau United, scoring fourteen goals and conceding none.

After those two big results, I think as a team we got a bit too overconfident and that saw us lose to North Shore United at Morningside Park. Nobody likes defeat, but it turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise as it made the players understand that there were many teams in the division that would challenge us and that we had to stay grounded and focused on the week in week out performances in order to be successful.

We picked up two wins against Auckland City and Northern Rovers before a footballing opportunity to play football in the Southern League saw me leave the area for a short while. Michael Podbury stepped to replace me in the dugout with Chris West providing assistance. It was a difficult decision for me personally, but I could not resist the offer of potentially playing in the National League.

I returned as coach for the last five games of the season, which was the beginning of the second round. We won the first two, vs. Fencibles (2-1) and Manukau United (6-0) with the second game being played at Trigg Sports Arena. We drew against Auckland City (1-1) but ended the season with two defeats against North Shore Utd and Eastern Suburbs.

Due to the August lockdown we couldn't complete the season. The boys ended up in 4th place, which I’m really happy with and it showed the players that we can compete at this level. I’ve stepped away from coaching as I would like to focus more on playing, but would definitely consider stepping into the hotseat again when I hang my boots up!

I’d like to thank the club for giving me this opportunity to take my first steps into coaching, and our team sponsor, Causeway Panelbeaters. The parents in our group were incredibly supportive, always ensuring we were good hosts at home games and making sure that the boys got to training and games safely. I would like to give special mentions to Kim Alexander, Michael Podbury and Chris West, who were always on hand to help. Most of all though, I would like to thank the players – there is a lot of potential in this group, keep working hard on the training ground and I’m sure we will see you in the senior teams one day!

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