This month’s OFC U-19 Women’s Championship is the first female tournament New Zealand has taken part in since the Football Ferns Development Programme (FFDP) was launched and coach Gareth Turnbull says the initiative has had a hugely positive impact on his team’s preparations.
The programme was established by New Zealand Football in March and provides a high-class learning environment for the country’s most promising young players with the aim of bridging the gap between the domestic game and international level.
As well as leading the national U-20 team, Turnbull is also responsible for overseeing the FFDP and was able to include 11 members of the programme in his squad for the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, which takes place at Auckland’s Ngahue Reserve from tomorrow.
“It’s been an advantage, without a shadow of a doubt,” he says of the FFDP’s influence on his side’s quest to qualify for the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France.
“The players we get to work with weekly are flying and they’re now taking on some responsibility with the U-20 team in leadership roles, which is great to see. It’s part of their growth and the FFDP has shifted where we can get to with the development of our players.”
Turnbull has relished having access to the FFDP players four times each week for training sessions, in addition to regular games in a 17th grade boys league in Auckland, but has made sure those not in the programme were on the ball when they came into camp.
“We came in on Saturday so we’ve had a couple of days now to prepare and try to unite the group in terms of the playing model,” he says.
“There’s obviously a big chunk here from the FFDP and it will just be a continuation of where we’re at for them. We’ve been able to watch and talk with the girls we’ve selected from outside that group but most of them have already played for New Zealand at an age-group level – I think there’s only two that haven’t,” he adds.
“It’s about trying to connect all the non-FFDP players into the model and it’s just a matter of coming into camp, remembering what the standards are and allowing the players to drive that and bring to life what they got selected for.”
The New Zealand squad has suffered a blow on the eve of the tournament with attacking midfielder Lily Bray being ruled out due to serious injury – the second such setback after Football Fern Paige Satchell also had to withdraw from the campaign several weeks ago.
“We’re gutted for Lily, she’s worked really hard over the last nine months after missing out on the squad for the U-17 World Cup. We really feel for her after working so hard on her game,” Turnbull says.
Bray has been replaced by defender Serena Murrihy as the finishing touches are put on New Zealand’s preparations for the opening game, a meeting with Papua New Guinea on Tuesday at 10am.
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The Melanesians are expected to be the Kiwis’ toughest challengers on their path to the World Cup and Turnbull is pleased to be meeting them first up.
“I think it’s a great start to the tournament,” he says.
“Based on paper, past history and experiences, PNG will most likely cause us the most amount of problems. Having them first means we can start off with a really clear mind set and approach. Hopefully, we can perform really well and come away with the win – that will then set us up for the rest of the tournament.”
New Zealand U-20 women’s coach Gareth Turnbull
OFC U-19 Women’s Championship
(Ngahue Reserve, Auckland)
vs Papua New Guinea
Tuesday 11 July, 10am
Friday 14 July, 10am
vs New Caledonia
Monday 17 July, 12.30pm
Friday 21 July, 10am
Monday 24 July, 10am
New Zealand (from): 1. Anna Leat (GK), 2. Saskia Vosper, 3. Rebecca Lake, 4. Elizabeth Anton, 5. Sarah Morton, 6. Grace Jale, 7. Emma Main, 8. Malia Steinmetz, 9. Sam Tawharu, 10. Hannah Blake, 11. Jacqui Hand, 12. Emma Clarke, 13. Nadia Olla (GK), 14. Claudia Bunge, 15. Michaela Foster, 16. Nicole Mettam, 17. Dayna Stevens, 18. ‘Alosi Bloomfield, 19. Deven Jackson, 20. Serena Murrihy
Head Coach: Gareth Turnbull
Assistant Coaches: Owain Prosser, Gemma Lewis
Goalkeeping Coach: Fabian Otte
Sports Scientist: Harriet Steele
Analyst: Alice Noyer
Physiotherapist: Maia Jackman
Manager: Angelina Lee-Hussien