The National Youth Championships 2023 Girls' Tournament officially took over Wollongong on Monday as teams took to the fields at WIN Stadium and JJ Kelly Park.
In ideal conditions and the pristine backdrop of Wollongong's beaches, players, officials and spectators gathered for the Opening Ceremony featuring Wollongong Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbery and Football Australia's Head of Professional Football and Competitions, Natalie Lutz.
22 teams from across Australia will compete in the Under-14s and Under-16s divisions this week, with the Invitational XI, an Indigenous team funded and managed by Football Australia, making their National Youth Championships debut.
The tournament’s opening matches served up some tense stalemates and produced some stunning long-range strikes, indicating an exciting week of footballing action in Wollongong.
Northern NSW teams kick the tournament off with a bang
NNSWF Technical Director is pleased with how the Northern NSW Football under-14s and under-16s teams started the tournament on day one on Monday.
The under-14s side beat Queensland Maroon 2-1 in their first game of the week with two goals from Mackenize Preston-Poole. The side then defeated South Australia 2-1. Sophie Johnson and Layla Sharpe both got their names on the scoresheet to secure the victory. The under-14s team finished day one in second position and will take on Western Australia on Tuesday afternoon.
NNSWF’s under-16s team played one game on Monday which they drew 1-1 with South Australia. Laura Knipe scored the single goal to help secure a point for her side. They sit fourth on the table and will turn their attention to playing NSW Country and Queensland Maroon on day two of the competition.
“It is a great start by our Northern NSW Football girls. All players demonstrated excellent attitudes and applications during the games,” Doidge said.
“The girls were able to turn nervous energy into proactive brave football actions on the park. The players demonstrated good levels of determination in the game's tough moments.
“Credit to both teams and both sets of coaches for the positive start and I am looking forward to continuing this momentum into day two of the tournament.”
Minister for Defence applications open
Protecting the goal is one of the most challenging jobs on the pitch and often goes unrecognised.
But Football Australia’s Head of Goalkeeping and CommBank Matildas’ Goalkeeper Coach, Tony Franken is more than appreciative of their work and is watching closely to spot the next Makenzie Arnold.
“I come here each year and look at the juniors, so I quite enjoyed the week and just really getting a first look at the next generation and identifying goalkeepers for the future,” Franken said.
“We’ve got about six or so competencies that we look for and we let the goalkeepers know what we’re looking for at the beginning of the tournament.
“The major thing is their mentality and presence. Do they want to be there, making saves and another thing we’re looking for is that they are playing the game rather than watching the game.”
A brilliant showing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ made CommBank Matildas Goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold a household name. Franken hopes her performance is inspiring the competitors at the National Youth Championships.
“We couldn’t ask any more of Mackenzie and what she did in the World Cup. Hopefully, in the beginning of next year when the enrolments go through, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them put their hand up to be goalkeepers,” Franken said.
The vastness of Australia can make things difficult for Franken and the Football Australia National Team staff, meaning tournaments like the National Youth Championships are crucial.
“It’s the best of the best and gives me an excellent understanding of their level, because obviously Australia being so big, it’s very hard to keep tabs on goalkeepers all around the country,” Franken said.
“So for me having the best of the best all the here at once playing each other. I think it’s great.”
It’s hosted the CommBank Matildas, A-Leagues matches, National Rugby League matches, Super Rugby matches and even SuperCross, and now WIN Stadium is playing host to the 2023 edition of the National Youth Championships.
With the pristine backdrop of Wollongong City beach, players and spectators alike are treated to top-tier playing conditions, bringing the best out of the players.
Only a short drive away, JJ Kelly Park is operating concurrently with some of the best fields in Wollongong and located right within the city.
The National Youth Championships 2023 Girls' Tournament is free event to attend so make sure you come along and support the future of the CommBank Matildas.
Due to unforeseen technical issues, the competition website is not displaying the correct ladder and results information. A resolution for this is currently being worked on. Live and up-to-date ladder information is available via the Gameday App by completing the steps outlined HERE.
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