17th Grade NRFL Boys' Season Review

Assistant Coach Dean Svenson reviews the 2021 NRFL Youth season for the Northland FC 17th Grade team.

The 2021 Northland NFC 17 boys season was a season of missed opportunities, challenges and a journey of self-belief and absolute team work. There were a few new faces in the squad this year, but by and large this group has stayed together for the last four seasons with most of them able to have another crack at the 17th grade next year due the dual band nature of the competition.

Starting off the season with a win was certainly a great way to begin and gave us belief. The game started off with a dominant first half followed off with a somewhat nervous 2nd half. But, even with that, they managed to hold on for a 2-1 victory, Neo Eckstein scoring a screamer from a free kick to ultimately seal the points.

After a draw against Melville, the boys went through a run of losses, but were defiantly in the hunt and there were games where we should have been the ones walking away with 3 points. Throw in some tough defeats to Tauranga, Northern Rovers and Hamilton Wanders and we found ourselves lurking near the bottom of the table.

Coming into a month where we found ourselves facing the top of the table teams, the coaching staff changed the formation and brought a different game plan for the boys to get their heads around. Of which they did with enthusiasm.

First up to play against this new formation was Auckland United. A team who when we played them in 2020 we lost 15-0. 2021 was not to be the same result and the boys lifted and frustrated the opposition for 90 minutes. Auckland United still managed to come away with the 2-1 win, however, had it not been for a bit of bad luck on Northland part it would have been a draw.

The newfound confidence and belief the team and management had formulated, carried through for the next home game against table toppers and formidable foe, Fencibles. Pre-season this team beat us 7-0.

Sticking with the new formation and confidence in themselves, the boys in blue once again caused frustration for the opposition. They worked hard for their opportunities and finally broke through with 15 mins left on the clock to go ahead 1-0. Unfortunately for the lads they couldn’t hold out the consistent and intense pressure put on by Fencibles who tied the game up with 30 seconds of the game to go. We nearly nicked a win at the death but it was to be honours even in a hard fought battle.

Who knew that a draw against the top team would feel so gutting?? But a draw it was, and back in the changing rooms the mood was high and upbeat, as they deserved it to be.

I cannot stress enough how extremely proud I am of this group of young men- no matter the results, the boys had a way of taking the hardest days, the losses, the draws and the wins in their stride with their heads held high, a laugh or two and a resilience that I have the utmost respect for.

They did Northland FC, their whanau, their teammates, their coaches and themselves proud. Huge thanks to Ben Knight and the team at Vital Signs Whangarei too for sponsoring the lads this year.

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