NCF Academy stuns premier league side in first outing
NORTH Coast Football’s academy sides may have had their NPL youth season cut short, but the boys showed the men of Northern Storm how it’s done at Korora on Saturday.
Claiming a 3-1 win over the title challengers in the opening round of the Coastal Premier League North Conference competition, North Coast FC were simply too good.
Made up of the under-16 side that was challenging for another NPL Youth title in Newcastle, the talented crop had their season cut short due to the latest travel restrictions.
But NCF technical director Jack Dover said the group handled the new challenge with maturity and welcomed the contest against a strong Storm side.
“The guys did quite well considering it was their first competitive game against senior men,” Dover said.
“They looked nervous in the opening 20 minutes and were technically punished for losing the ball. They’re not as used to that playing in NPL Youth, but they found their way and got the win.”
Alongside the changes to the CPL, NCF officials found the revised competition to be a perfect compromise for the most senior of the Academy sides.
“This is definitely something they need for their development. It’s more of a physical and psychological challenge,” Dover said.
“It’s the next step for them on their pathway to transitioning into senior competition. Our Academy squads have done really well since our involvement in NSW NPL.
“This is the final year for the under-16s, who have had a lot of success. It’s been quite special considering they are a regional team. It’s pretty unheard of really, but they’ve proven themselves as great footballers that are up for the challenge.”
A number of NCF Academy graduates have gone on to A-League and NPL academies, most recently Charlie Kelly from the Clarence Valley, and Dover believes the next crop have what it takes.
“We have a lot of really talented players. It’s just about being provided the right opportunities to progress really. It can be hard in regional areas but they have the talent to get there,” he said.
Maclean superstar Jarrett Power-Casson could be high on Academy scouts’ lists after scoring at a rate of almost two goals per game in the NPL Youth before bagging three more against Storm.
“Jarrett is a really talented player. Obviously those chances come from those players around him but he definitely has a keen eye for goal,” Dover said.
While the under-16s have slotted nicely into the CPL North Conference, the rest of the Academy sides have been placed in the NCF under-15 competition.
“They’re still playing one or two years above age group. It’s not as big a step up but it’s definitely an added challenge physically,” Dover said.
“It’s a compromise some of us have come up with to keep these kids playing football. We’re just happy to have some on at the moment.”
The challenge continues for North Coast FC as they travel to NCF juggernauts Boambee Bombers on Saturday while Storm face Sawtell Scorpions and Coffs Coast Tigers welcome Coffs United Lions.