16th Grade NRFL Girls
Head Coach and Northland FC veteran Chris West reviews the 2021 season with our 16th grade girls squad
The Northland FC 16th Grade Girls started training on the 9th March, the team consisting of 90% of the girls playing up an age group in the NRFL- the top girls competition in New Zealand. It was always going to be a tough season for the girls playing at this high level of competition and also playing up an age group, the girls trained hard for the first 5 weeks leading up to their first pre-season game away at Bucklands Beach AFC. The game was played in treacherous conditions and the goalkeeping role was shared between several of the girls, they however played well and came away with a 2-nil loss.
The next friendly was several weeks later away at Fencibles United FC , the girls came from behind to draw 2-2 and were very unlucky not to grab a last-minute winner. The team were in good spirits for the start of the season, even though we went into the competition phase with no designated goalkeeper and several players returned to community football, leaving only 13 permanent squad members for the season.
The first two league games were against Northern Rovers and Auckland United FC, the two strongest teams in the competition - in both games the squad was reduced to 12 players due to illness and injury but the girls battled on to give it their all and never gave up. We learned how tough this competition would be in those two games and although it was hard on the group, we stayed together.
The next game of the season they played away at Ellerslie, the goalkeeper role split between Jess Andrews and Bethany Maltby, the team were unfortunate to come away with a 6-2 loss. Jess committed to being the keeper for the rest of the season which was a great boost for the team to have a designated goalkeeper, and the girls settled down and started to play to their capabilities and gained confidence with each game.
The turning point for the season was away at Hibiscus Coast when the team travelled once again with 12 players and the sub was unwell, the team played the best football of the season and came away with a 5-2 win and they were brimming with confidence.
Unfortunately, the girls did not play until 3 weeks later due to a combination of bye rounds, postponements and school holidays, and struggled in the next game against a well drilled Eastern Suburbs side and couldn’t find the level of intensity they had the game before. The next two games were tough games on the bounce against Northern Rovers and Auckland United as we began the mirrored round two of the NRFL season. With only 12 players on the squad due to illness and injury ,the girls played really well in a revised formation and showed great character and courage in both games.
Games were then postponed by the league and the girls did not play for another 4 weeks - by the time the next fixture arrived the girls were lacking in intensity, and the break showed against a very strong Western Springs team. The girls continued to train hard but then Covid hit and the competition was postponed.
I am grateful for the positive attitude in the face of adversity from this group of young women. They always played with a smile on their faces, gave 100% and most of the score lines did not reflect the effort they put in. Next year the majority of the squad will reap the benefits of playing in their own age grade and I would back them all to kick on from 2021 and represent the women’s first team at some stage in the future. I would like to thank my manager Marnie for all the work she did behind the scenes, the parents who helped out with the aftermatch feeds and travel, and of course our team sponsor, Placemakers Kerikeri.
Onward and Upward!