As the football season winds down over Christmas, a select number of young footballers in Coffs Harbour are gearing up for the start of their inaugural NPL season.
The NPL – National Premier League – is the competition run throughout Australia as part of an elite player pathway to Professional Football
North Coast Football were accepted into the junior program for 2017, meaning they enter a 13’s, 14’s and 15’s team to play against the very best footballers in Northern NSW.
The young players, some of which are just 12 years old, are currently training 3 nights a week, with the season starting in early March 2017.
NCF Technical Director Gary McGinnis said that the commitment to training is a step up from what most players and parents are used to, but they’re already starting to reap the rewards. “We’re currently in week 4 of our NPL pre-Christmas training, and I said to the coaches on Friday that in Week 4 I could certainly see a marked change in the intensity, but we need to sustain that. Come March we don’t want to be playing catch up from the first match, so as long as the players keep up their intensity and excitement, we will be ready.”
Not only is this structure new to Coffs Harbour, but it’s also the most elite football program we’ve ever seen in our zone.
McGinnis said “It’s a clearer pathway than any other we’ve had before. Previously our development programs came to a halt at 14’s, but now there’s a clearer path all the way to Men’s Senior Football. Currently we have 13’s 14’s and 15’s teams, but we’ll grow into the competition. In 2018 we’ll add a 16’s team, and in 2019 there may be further opportunities for growth.”
Along with the NPL, North Coast Football has development squads for Under 9’s, 10’s 11’s and 12’s, and two age groups for female development.
Ideally, the kids will be exposed to representative football for four years when they reach the NPL program, to allow them to easily acclimatise to the rigorous schedule.
“I don’t think the Country Zones have caught up yet, or are aware of how elite this program is. We need our community to understand that this is not just backyard football, we want to try and produce something that is of high quality, and give these kids an opportunity they’ve never had before” McGinnis said.
With the A-League coming to Coffs Harbour in January, local footballers will get a taste of the elite level that is now in reach in the North Coast Football zone.