15th Grade NRFL Boys Review

Head Coach and club Director of Football Michal Walesiak reviews the 2021 season for the 15th Grade NRFL Boys

2021 was another valuable season with the U15 team, which we started with high expectations after a successful campaign in 2020. The team was largely made up of the same players but this year was the first in which we ‘played players up’ at the club in order to provide appropriate challenge points for our players, so we saw younger talented players like Archie Knox and Athan Thompson in the U15 squad during the season. There were also changes in the coaching staff with Colin Myers replacing Steven Paul as assistant.

Our 15th Grade season kicked off with a tough away assignment at the home of the team that later proved to be the most consistent performers in the league. We played Western Springs on their turf pitch and found out how good the calibre of the competition was in a game against a well organised, strong side that largely controlled the game and ran out 3-0 winners. It was the first signal to our team that much needs to be improved and that the current season will be a tough a tough campaign.

Our 2nd game was a home fixture against Fencibles at Tikipunga Sports Park and proved to be an entertaining close contest in which we ran out 2-0 winners thanks to 2 goals from Harley Thomson and the clean sheet intact thanks to a penalty save from Cole Harley. The 3rd game saw us “away” at the neutral venue of Westlake Girls School on turf against Melville Utd - we lost 5-3 after open attacking game from both sides. Next up was a home game, this time at Morningside Park against Auckland United. A nice day and a cracking game with us taking the lead through Toby Hooper and then the lead changing between the two teams throughout the game with further goals for Toby and one for Boston Himiona as lapses in concentration saw us twice score and immediately concede within a minute both times. In the last minute of the game when looking more likely to score and the game deadlocked at 4-4, we conceded a goal on the break to lose a nine goal thriller. Another fantastic game from the attacking perspective but still lack of defensive stability. In the next two rounds we played away, losing to Auckland City (3-1, Harley Thompson) and winning against East Coast Bays (2-1, Qaiden Norman, Ethan Myers).

Our 7th game against Northern Rovers was postponed. In this period of the time combined with the school holidays and lack of training which could affect team and individual performance because our next game 2 weeks later was our first at Trigg Sports Arena against last season’s champions Bucklands Beach - it was another eventful match with 6 goals and a number of chances for both teams. Bucklands only just had the better of the first half but managed to go in 2- 0 up at the break. We pulled one back early second half through Dominic Valent Hay but not long after Bucklands found another. Again we rallied and played some good football to pull back another through Archie Knox but the game was put beyond us with 10 minutes left when Bucklands got their 4th.

Our 9th game was away to Eastern Suburbs and on the bus down the atmosphere seemed good. The game was balanced between the two teams but showing some belief in how we were trying to play we took the lead through Athan Thompson and held it for a while but were pegged back 1-1. Second half again we took the lead through Toby Hooper but Suburbs again worked their way back in and it finished 2-2.In the next 2 games we didn't score but the away game against Fencibles was a good prognosis before the next games. Our 12th game, the return match against Melville, scheduled at a neutral venue again, was a bit of a head scratcher when it was postponed because they were on holiday – nie wiem! A blessing in disguise for us perhaps with an extra week of rest before the next big game?

Game 13 and we were at the home of Auckland United and in the mood to right some wrongs. Both teams started well and were playing some good football. Auckland took the lead in the 14th minute via a penalty but their keeper was busier than they wanted and in the 21st minute we equalised through Toby Hooper. Half time 1-1. Second half saw further good team play from Northland and some good saves from Auckland’s keeper enabling their striker to put them in the lead in the 66th minute. Heads did not drop and belief and teamwork saw us earn a deserved late penalty that was scored by Ethan Myers, 2-2 final score to the chagrin of the home support.

Our 14th game and we were back at Trigg Sports Arena against Auckland City, the players were confident our supporters would see a better Northland . A good competitive start to the game playing nice football saw us take the lead through Dominic Valent-Hay in the 14th minute and largely control the first half without being able to add to the score. Auckland City upped their game second half and got their reward in the 59th minute 1-1. However our players were determined to take out the result on home turf and good team work saw a winner in the 75th minute from Toby Hooper.

Game 15 and away at East Coast Bays. Confidence was high, maybe a little too high, when we conceded an early goal in the 10th minute. However we brushed this off and replied straight away through Alex Butterworth in the 11th minute and then added to it in the 17th minute through Toby Hooper. A good entertaining game followed with Northland again working well defensively as a team with good saves from our goalkeeper Cole Harley ensuring the win was ours.

Our 16th game and we finally got to meet Northern Rovers after the postponement earlier in the season and it was away. Good team vibes on the way down and the feeling the players were in the mood to perform. Northland started well and had the opposition on the back foot with goals from Toby Hooper in the 10th and 31st minutes while defensively keeping the home team at arms length. Two nil at half time and the second half was another good team display and 2 further goals from Charlie Jackson 49th minute and Nico Healey 66th minute to wrap it up a 4-0 away win.

The season was then cut short by Covid Delta in Auckland with the feeling that the players had really come together and progressed in their performances as individuals, but more importantly as a team that valued the contribution of everyone and the boys worked hard collectively to bring the best out in each other.

It was our first season where we worked according to a training plan aimed at individual development of players as well as tactical development of the team in previously planned periods. TDP camps during the vacations allowed players and coaches to evolve and outline the work for the future. It was definitely an interesting and exciting time where we moved from a team model to a club model where each player's path would be well chosen and considered. I would like to thank all the parents for their support and trust during the season. A huge thank you to team sponsor Appilance Plus and their owners Graeme & Hayley Thomson. Thanks also to Shelley Harley, our team manager for her invaluable contribution to the team. A sincere word of appreciation also goes to Colin Myers for his help with the training process.

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