Tahiti no hol­i­day for Wests play­ers

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - KRIS DANDO

‘‘The team spirit is re­ally good.’’

Eli­jah Just and Josh Roger­son are used to play­ing in the wet.

The duo, named for New Zealand’s un­der-17 foot­ball side, left Auck­land on Tues­day last week for Tahiti with the hope of qual­i­fy­ing for the FIFA Un­der-17 World Cup in In­dia in Oc­to­ber.

Grouped with Samoa, the Solomon Is­lands and Fiji, New Zealand need to win the tour­na­ment - which starts this week and con­cludes on Fe­bru­ary 24 - in or­der to book a place in In­dia.

‘‘It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for us to be in­volved and the team spirit is re­ally good,’’ Just, 16, said be­fore leav­ing Auck­land.

The whit­tling of the New Zealand squad 18 took months of tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, wider train­ing group ses­sions and tri­als by coach Danny Hay and his team.

For Just and Roger­son, all the hard work has been worth it.

‘‘He [Hay] lays ev­ery­thing out and you know where you stand,’’ Just said.

‘‘We haven’t played long in the New Zealand set-up, but I think we’re get­ting com­fort­able with that style.

‘‘We just have to get used to it, quickly, if we want to win this tour­na­ment.’’

Both are ex­pect­ing a phys­i­cal style of play from their Pa­cific Is­land op­po­nents.

The teenagers at­tend Ole Foot­ball Academy in Porirua, and came through the ranks of West­ern Sub­urbs ju­nior teams.

That ex­pe­ri­ence is go­ing to serve them well on the trip. Tor­ren­tial rain fore­cast is for most of their time in Tahiti, but that’s al­most nor­mal for the pair.

‘‘We’ve grown up play­ing in wet weather,’’ Roger­son, 17, said.

‘‘We’re lucky that En­deav­our Park [in Whitby, Wests’ home ground] drains well - it’s al­ways been a bril­liant home track and we know it pretty well.’’

While Just came to Porirua as a 12-year-old, Roger­son has been a Wests boy since he could drib­ble a foot­ball.

‘‘The en­vi­ron­ment is so good - they want ev­ery­one to play and en­joy the game and the ju­nior side of the club has al­ways been strong,’’ he said.

Just said Wests had been sup­port­ive of its play­ers seek­ing na­tional hon­ours and they looked for­ward to play­ing for the club in the com­pet­i­tive Cen­tral League this win­ter.

Hay said the New Zealand squad had ex­cel­lent tech­ni­cal play­ers and a lot of qual­ity.

‘‘It’s a sign of the chang­ing na­ture of the game in this coun­try.’’

PHOTO: KRIS DANDO

Josh Roger­son, front left, and Eli­jah Just, front right, will turn out for the New Zealand un­der-17 foot­ball side in World Cup qual­i­fiers.

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