New competition to kick off
THE region's top young soccer players will get their chance to match it with the best in the State when the new State Youth League (SYL) kicks off in April.
The launch of the SYL follows recommendations of the Premier's Task Force and a review of player development programs throughout Northern NSW.
It will involve 10 regional associations, stretching from the Queensland border to the Central Coast and inlandto Tamworth and New England.
There will be competitions for U13, U14, U15 and U16 boys, and for U14 and U17 girls.
Local players will be competing under the banner of North Coast Football, the new association formed by the amalgamation of Holiday Coast Soccer and the Clarence River Soccer Association.
The two had previously competed independently in the now defunct Northern Youth League, which was dominated by Holiday Coast sides in recent seasons.
NCF's Director of Coaching, Bruce Wallace, is excited about the prospect of the region's best local football talent being challenged by the best on a weekly basis.
"Moving from the Northern Youth League into a competition that involves the very strong Newcastle based associations will certainly be a test for our local players," Wallace said.
"This competition will provide us with a true reflection on just how much progress we have made over the last five years."
The squads were selected in early November following trials against the neighbouring Oxley Association (Port Macquarie region) and Wallace was pleased with the results.
"The squads performed very well against a difficult local rival, leaving a feeling among the coaching staff that NCF can look to build on our recent successes on a broader stage," Wallace said.
The squads resume training in February, with Clarence players gathering in Grafton and local players training in Coffs.
A players' weekend is scheduled for February 18-19 in Coffs Harbour to be followed by trials against Queensland associations in March.
The season kicks off in earnest on April 1/2 when the teams head south for a tough weekend double header against the top two associations from the former Federation Youth League.
They play Macquarie at Lake Macquarie on the Saturday and then take on Newcastle Port Stephens on the Sunday.