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Are the Joeys’ slow starts evidence of a vacuum of opportunity for young Australian footballers?

With the Joeys currently involved in the FIFA U-17’s World Cup, some of Australia’s best young footballers are on show for the first time on the world stage. It is one of the rare opportunities for them to be so. Promising Australian talent is often well and truly distanced from public attention, with few tournaments available for them to show their wares.

All bar one of the U-17’s squad are contracted to professional clubs, with the majority honing their skills at youth level and biding their time before receiving a crack at top flight professional play.

Brisbane Roar’s Izaack Powell and Melbourne Victory’s Birkan Kirdar have both had a taste of the top level, yet for most it is something of a waiting game. That waiting builds frustration and a footballing anxiety to impress.

Such has appeared to be the case for the Joeys in both of their group matches thus far. Jumped early and stunned in the headlights by Ecuador, the young Australians were two goals behind after just nine minutes. There was something of a revival, plenty of possession and a late goal, yet it was a disappointing start to the tournament.

Things began in much the same way against Hungary yesterday. This time it took a little longer, 20 minutes in fact, for a two goal deficit to be established, but the Aussies were once again frantic and energetic without being poised and polished.

Prior to Hungary’s opener in the 14th minute, the Joeys had looked good, really good; seeking to make amends for their opening fixture. However, as soon as the Hungarians found their rhythm, the gaps began to appear and anxiety levels in the Joey’s squad appeared to increase.

What followed was the most stirring of second half comebacks from Australia. A penalty was followed by an equaliser in the 69th and 74th minutes and the Joeys should have won it late. Sadly, the winner did not come and it was to be just a lone point to keep hopes alive in the event.

It appeared clear that the Joey’s lack of experience and competitive opportunities affected their starts to both matches. Once they settled, particularly against Hungary, they looked just fine and the early swagger and confidence prior to going behind returned.

Just three members of the squad ply their trade overseas, with the remainder domestically based and involved in youth structures at A-League or NPL club level.

That essentially equates to players remaining in their home state/city and playing against opposition they know well and on a consistent basis.

A national competition similar to the FFA’s Y-League is required for them to improve, however the financial ramifications would be insurmountable for the clubs. The U-23 League can muster just eight competitive matches for its players; with clubs pooled into regions to restrain costs.

It is an unfortunate curse from which the wide brown land suffers, with airfares, accommodation and equipment expenses making extended national competitions at junior level nigh impossible.

Perhaps the answer lies in FFA supported and federation funded inter-state football, where representative teams from the eight states and territories compete for a national youth championship. School Sport Australia run such tournaments at U-16 and U-18 levels with great success.

Youth level championships would showcase the best young talent available and provide scouts with a centralised venue in which to witness that talent on show. It would expose players to all clubs across the Asian Confederation, something that is becoming increasingly important as the region grows at a rapid speed.

It is a concept that could be implemented across a range of age groups, potentially even as an extension of the U-23 Y-League concept.

It’s fundamental goal would be to have young football talent in Australia playing more often against the best opposition available; beyond club land. Forging further corporate connections, streaming inter-state matches and broadening Australia’s reach across Asia are also potential benefits.

As it stands, Australia’s youth squads are blessed with immense talent, yet appear poorly prepared for the rigours of international football. Increasing their domestic opportunities against elite opposition could go some way to improving performances on the world stage.

Of course, organising and funding such opportunities is another thing altogether.

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Labor set to deliver infrastructure upgrades to Northern NSW Football clubs

NNSWF

Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) is set to welcome nine promised infrastructure upgrades from the Labor Government following the party’s win at the Federal election.

The commitments are a result of NNSWF’s strategy to lobby Federal MPs as part of its key strategic priority of Places to Play, as well as the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Legacy plan.

The commitments are from Labor candidates standing for election on Saturday.

“We thank sitting MPs and candidates who have made pledges to support football within their electorate,” NNSWF CEO David Eland said in a statement via the organisation.

“One of our priorities as part of our 2021-2023 Strategic Plan is ‘Places to Play’. So these commitments are not a coincidence. They are reflective of the work NNSWF and Member Zone staff have done over a number of years.”

NNSWF launched a comprehensive Facilities Audit in 2018 to capture data on more than 200 football facilities across northern NSW. A priority projects list was established in conjunction with clubs to advocate with all levels of government.

The NSW Football Infrastructure Strategy was then released in 2020. From this, NNSWF developed seven Local Infrastructure Strategies consisting of data from the audit and outlined a strategic direction to cater for the increase in participation based on five pillars:

  • Planning for growth and demand
  • Improve existing venue capacity
  • Inclusive football facilities
  • Homes of football
  • Partnerships and investment

“Football is the largest team participation sport in NSW with our current rapid growth certain to continue,” Eland continued.

“We needed to plan for the future and identify the needs of our sport for those that currently play and for those that want to but can’t.

“We identified at the time that there could have been as many as 30,000 additional players across NSW that could have played in 2019 if they had access to a football facility.

“What we are doing is ensuring that football has the infrastructure and facilities to continue to grow into the future and players will have access to quality places to play wherever they are in our region.”

The clubs set to receive much-needed infrastructure upgrades following Labor’s election win are:

  • Wallsend FC, Wallsend DDC ($286,000 for ground improvements, including irrigation on both fields)
  • Newcastle Olympic FC ($625,000 for amenity improvements and a new grandstand)
  • Maitland FC ($2,000,000 to upgrade lighting and to develop new amenities and a function centre)
  • Valentine FC ($184,000 for amenities upgrades)
  • Dudley United Senior FC ($320,000 for gender neutral amenities upgrade, disability access and toilets)
  • Garden Suburbs FC ($400,000 for female friendly changerooms)
  • Singleton Strikers FC (3,000,000 for upgrades to three full fields, multi-use court, upgraded amenities and carpark)
  • Edgeworth FC ($65,000 for fencing, completion of lighting project and completion of dish drainage)
  • Thornton JFC ($150,000 for lighting upgrade to two fields and new lighting to MiniRoos area)

This week’s football funding news ahead of election

Australia’s Federal election commences on Saturday, with the final rounds of funding and promises rolled out across the week.

Both major parties once again made their commitments across various states, both on and off the pitch, and more broadly for issues surrounding community and national sport.

Tasmania and New South Wales will both benefit further from the Morrison Government if re-elected, while other communities and broadcasters were given promises by Labor.

Labor

The Labor Party will commit $2.5M to upgrade the Kariong Sporting Precinct if it wins government on May 21. Based in the NSW suburb of Kariong – just west of Gosford – the upgrades will aim to make the precinct more inclusive.

While the Precinct is host to many different sporting clubs and organisations, it is also home to Kariong United FC.

Announced by Candidate for Robertson, Dr Gordon Reid, and Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, it is an addition to the state-wide focus on investing in female football.

While not funding, Labor leader Anthony Albanese pledged to support local TV and free sporting events, including football events, if elected.

The Labor Party will review anti-siphoning laws if elected to ensure that major sporting events are available for free instead of behind paywalls of streaming services.

Liberal

The Liberal Party announced on Tuesday that it will commit $3.5 million towards the redevelopment of Valley Road if elected after May 21.

Announced by Member for Braddon, Gavin Pearce, the funding would allow Devonport Strikers to complete Stage One of its redevelopment of Valley Road, including increased seating, lighting and pitch upgrades, as well as refurbished clubroom and kitchen facilities.

The funding would be in addition to the State Government funding committed to Valley Road to give the venue the best chance of being selected to host 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup basecamps.

Meanwhile in NSW, it was announced on Monday that $3 million would go to upgrading sporting facilities at Harrie Dening Football Centre and Prince Edward Park in Kareela

The proposed funding will help deliver an equaliser for the Sutherland Shire football community in a state-wide commitment to female football.

The equaliser campaign is designed to support grassroots for clubs to deliver new and improved female friendly facilities.

The funding to Prince Edward Park will go towards raising the oval, sports field lighting, improved car park and playground and fitness space renewals.

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