The players who will make history as part of New Zealand’s first ever female national futsal team have been revealed after the naming of the inaugural Futsal Ferns squad.
Coached by Nic Downes, the 14-strong line-up will open a new chapter for the small-sided game in this country by taking on New Caledonia over three matches at the Trans Pacific Futsal Cup in Tauranga next month.
While this is the first time an official senior national team has been put together, six players did represent New Zealand at the 2016 FISU World University Championship in Brazil and Downes was likewise in charge of that campaign. Several others have also tasted international action after starring for Central-Manawatu against Australian opponents Victoria in the Trans-Tasman Women’s Champions League last year.
Downes, a development officer for the Auckland Football Federation, is pleased with the talent he has at his disposal and is confident the Futsal Ferns can make an impact on their maiden outings.
The ground-breaking fixtures will take place in Tauranga from September 12 to 14 as exhibition matches as part of the AIMS Games, a nationwide event that brings together intermediate-aged children to compete in a range of sports and which has seen huge growth in futsal.
“As with any selection process, there are always tough decisions to make but I’m feeling really positive,” Downes says.
“We’ve got a squad full of players with multiple national tournament experiences who have been performing consistently across them.”
The selection process was based mainly on displays in the main events on the New Zealand Football futsal calendar – the National Women’s League, National University Championships and National Youth Championships – and Downes says not having any previous national squads to use as a guide gave all comers an equal chance to impress.
“It has been a challenge but player identification has been ongoing over a long period of time and was revised as the competitions were wrapped up,” he says.
“Video footage is available for most of the games across the competitions and this has been utilised as well.”
As trail-blazers for the female game, Downes and co are unsure of what to expect at the Trans Pacific Futsal Cup but he is confident his charges will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.
“We’ve thought about what we might see from New Caledonia but it is very much unknown. So the focus will be on establishing who we are and what our way of playing is,” says Downes, who will be assisted by Brayden Lissington.
“The players are all coming in with slightly different backgrounds in futsal style so that will also give us some flexibility on court, depending on what we come up against.”
The Futsal Ferns are one of three newly-established national sides with U-18 men’s and women’s teams also being introduced, joining the already existing Futsal Whites. The new national teams arrive on the back of a period of rapid growth for futsal in this country and the women’s game has experienced a particularly high rate of development with a 23 per cent rise in participation since 2015.
Those who have recently fallen in love with the sport now have the dream of becoming a Futsal Fern to fulfil and Downes says adding a focal point to that player development pathway will prove hugely influential.
“It’s of massive importance,” he says.
“The growth and strength in the game has been improving year on year and now the players have national teams to aim for. I think we will see more and more females getting into futsal and dedicating time to the game, which can only strengthen the competitions and national teams going forward.”
Futsal Ferns squad for Trans Pacific Futsal Cup
Rivalina Fuimaono (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Mikaela Boxall (Central Futsal)
Shivanthi Anthony (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Sophie Williams (Canterbury United Futsal Pride)
Ella James (Central Futsal)
Hannah Kraakman (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Jessica Verdon (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Dayna Manak (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Leah Gubb (WaiBOP Futsal)
Torijan Lyne-Lewis (Central Futsal)
Hannah Robert (Central Futsal)
Maxine Cooper (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Tilly James (Central Futsal)
Britney-Lee Nicholson (Canterbury United Futsal Pride)
Head Coach: Nic Downes
Assistant Coach: Brayden Lissington
Team Manager: Tracey Spray
Futsal Ferns vs New Caledonia
Trans Pacific Futsal Cup
September 12, 6pm
September 13, 8pm
September 14, 6pm
ASB Baypark Arena, Tauranga