OUTSTANDING young Urunga Raiders striker Chris Wheeler has moved to Newcastle to take up a scholarship with the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS).
Wheeler, who turned 16 in January, is training in Newcastle four nights a week and then travelling to Sydney on Sundays to team up with metropolitan NSWIS players.
He will be hoping to catch the eye of the Australian selectors, who are assembling an Under 17 Joeys squad for the Under 17 World Cup, to be played in South Korea in 2007.
The Joeys begin their qualifying campaign with preliminary matches against Laos and Indonesia in Laos in February. They are chasing one of the four remaining finals berths available to Asian Zone teams.
Wheeler played his junior soccer with Urunga Junior Soccer Club before coming under the wing of regional director of coaching Bruce Wallace in 2000.
He graduated through the local Junior Development Program, and was chosen for the North Coast Academy of Sport in 2004. His prolific goal-scoring made him a key member of the Holiday Coast representative team that dominated the Northern Youth League, and earned him a slot in last year's Urunga Raiders first grade team.
"We really appreciate all the hard work put in by the local soccer fraternity to give Chris this opportunity,"' proud father Brad Wheeler said last week.
"He's been fortunate to be coached by guys like Bruce (Wallace) and (rep coach) Michael Jackson."