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As most readers will know, earlier this year WSAFC entered into a Joint Venture with Waitakere United to run and manage both the ISPS Handa Premiership team as well as the National Youth League team for the coming season.

Chris Zoricich the WSAFC Springs NRFL first team coach was tasked with putting together a squad of 23 players to tackle the 9 games that are the National Youth League season.

With 12 players from WSAFC and the balance made up from Waitakere, Birkenhead, Onehunga, Mt Albert Ponsonby, Chris was given a short 2 weeks to get them game ready for the first game away in Napier vs Hawkes Bay United.

The squad was announced and game one was played in hot conditions but with a wind that often gusted up to 50kmh. A 6 – 3 win followed after a hard fought game. A long day on the road with most boys getting up about 6am and eventually arriving home about 7.30pm.

The first home game was against Team Wellington which was always going to be a tough game, an another in hot conditions. A sending off of a Team Wellington player very early in the game meant we had a numbers advantage but never under estimate a 10 man team as they can fight hard and they did, but we came away with a 3 – 2 win.

Then came what was arguably going to be the toughest test; a game vs last years Champions Auckland City. They have a very strong squad and they even played the U23 New Zealand goalkeeper on the day. Once again a warm day but the pitch at Kiwitea Street was in great shape and it was like playing on carpet. Unbeknownst to everyone, Sky Sport turned up to film the game and so pre and post match interviews were done.

An extremely hard fought game with both goal keepers keeping their respective teams in the game at various stages and the deadlock was finally broken with 20 minutes to go by Waitakere. This spurred Auckland City on who level 10 minutes later which lead to a frantic final 10 minutes, but the Waitak boys never game up and found a winner five minutes from time. This was an amazing game to watch and our boys played tremendously well to pull of that win.

Game 4 saw the Wellington Phoenix arrive at Seddon Fields. Another tough and scrappy game at times, but once again the boys came away with another hard fought 3 – 2 win.

And then last week in game 5 we had our longest day, with a trip to Nelson. Another 6am start but heading into wind and rain the forecast wasn’t great. And that’s exactly what we got. The home team sitting just 3 points behind us had won away in Dunedin the week before so they were confident and it showed in the first 20 minutes as they pushed hard to get in front. One way or another the team stood firm and two quick breaks managed to get 2 – 0 lead. A quick reply and then a goal just on the stroke of half time saw us go in 3 – 1 up at half time. The rain arrived in the second half and both teams traded goals with the final result a 4 – 2 away win.

These first 5 games have seen the boys grown tremendously. Chris and his team work hard during the week to build confidence and belief that they belong where the sit at the moment, which is at the top with 5 wins form 5. However, there are 4 games to go and they take each game on its own merits and work to play the best they can. They are playing for each other and they support each other whether they are in the game day squad or not. Those haven’t been chosen on the day are down at the club helping out their team mate in any way possible…including manning the video camera for analysis after the game.

Recovery is an important part of their routine. Justin Lopes, Silas Bong and Joshua Clarke-Walker of Back to your feet Physiotherapy are doing an amazing job.

They have also attended recovery sessions at the F45 functional training facility in Grey Lynn. F45 have been awesome and have had our NYL team coming in and doing their Sunday Stretch and Recovery session at the great facility on Great North Road.  Along with enduring our players are eating and sleeping well after games it’s a great way to help make sure they are ready to go hard again the next week!

The Springs boys in particular are extremely proud to be part of this set up. Most of them have been at Springs since they were 5 or 6 years old and have progressed through the social ranks to playing in the metro leagues at age 13 – 17. From there a number of them have played for the WSAFC Reserve team and five of them have had a taste of playing in the first team under Zoro in the Lotto NRFL.

Winning is a mentality. Sometimes it’s pretty but teams also have to learn to win ugly on occasion. Zoro and his team continue to do an amazing job in preparing these boys for each game and the work continues.

Come down and watch the boys take on Canterbury United this Saturday at 12pm. Canterbury are fresh off a 9 -1 win vs Southern so it will be another hard game and the boys would welcome all the support they can get…see you there!