The U17 Youth Football Tournament is firmly established as a marquee event in the national football calendar, and come March 19th, 40 teams, 16 womens and 24 mens, representing 25 clubs across the country will be competing for the 2021 U17’s Championship title at Seddon Fields.
The 2020 tournament saw our Womens team come away with a very respectable fourth placing, falling to Hamilton Wanderers in penalty shoot out.
Head Coach Ryan Faithfull said “as a Coach I was proud of the team’s performance in the 2020 tournament. It was disappointing to lose the last match on penalties but throughout the tournament the team demonstrated incremental improvements and showed a lot of character. We were pleased to achieve our team goal and were the highest placed Western Springs team since the tournament began”.
The U17 Tournament is a pinnacle youth football tournament in New Zealand, and as Head of Womens Football at Western Springs, it is an event that Ryan highlights to compete in every year for the Academy age groups and is a consequential part of the Springs Player Pathway.
“The tournament provides an opportunity for our players to experience ‘Tournament football’. Matches are shorter, more competitive, and players assess and take risks differently than a regular 90 minute match”.
The delay of the 2020 tournament due to COVID lockdowns last year provided it’s own challenges in the teams preparations as they managed High School examinations at the same time, so having a quick turn around between tournaments has been seen as a big positive. Ryan says “it has allowed the team to reunite and build off the momentum we established late last year”.
With eight players from the 2020 squad having graduated the age group, the 2021 squad provides a real mixture of youth and experience, ranging from Womens Premier and Premier Reserves players, to our U16 Premier squad. Looking into the future and the development of our younger Springs players, six development players have also been invited to train with the team, and experience the level of training and play, in preparation for next year.
Emma Pijnenburg will be representing Springs in the U17’s Tournament for the third time this year and is one of the teams most experienced players. Naturally Emma was also disappointed to miss out on a top three spot after having such a positive tournament, but said the team was still very proud of the improvement that they had made since the previous year.
“We put in a lot of effort beforehand to prepare so it was nice to see it pay off, even if it didn't end quite as we hoped. This year, I think its important to always be looking to improve, and I know the team is definitely aiming for that too. We can see what worked for us last year and also what we can add that will help us keep moving forward.
Ryan has made a lot of positive differences to the team and to the club already in the short time he has been here, and even in the uncertainty of COVID. He brings a lot of professionalism and passion to the team and it is great to learn from somebody that has a lot of experience at a high level. He also cares a lot about us as people as well as players and that makes a big difference to the team culture”.
Executive Chairman Warwick Hooper said “It is a new era of football for women at Western Springs, with Ryan joining us late last year as Head of Womens Football, and in addition we are pleased to include Hyun-Kyu Choo to Ryan’s U17 Tournament staff team this year as Video Analyst. Choo will assist coaches and provide video analysis for our players to learn, reflect and improve their performances. We were exceptionally proud of our Womens team last year and we can’t wait to watch them perform in a few weeks time”.
Preparations for the 2021 Tournament have too been disrupted by COVID, but Ryan says “We are a very ambitious group of players and staff with big goals to compete well together. The team learnt valuable lessons in the 2020 tournament and we all aim to push our boundaries and go one step further in the tournament this year”.
2021 U17s Tournament
Head Coach: Ryan Faithfull
Assistant Coach: John Vujnovich
Assistant Coach: Julie Dunn
Physiotherapist: Suzy Falconer
Video Analyst: Hyun-Kyu Choo