Wind, Weeweenix & Youth League Preview

Wellington Phoenix 6 Hawkes Bay United 1
Sunday 4th October
Wakefield Park, Wellington
Attendance:  about 65

We are at that odd time of year where winter football has all but wrapped up, but the summer football is just kicking off, over the next few months we have the A-League, ASB Premiership, National Youth & National Women's league to look forward to.

C.Kirkberger & Jake Williams
This weekend saw the kickoff of the 15th season of the National Youth League. Originally played between representative teams of the 7 Federations. In 2007 it became a competition between the youth teams of National League franchises. Played on a regional basis with various NZ development teams involved. It has now evolved into a 12 team competition with the 8 National League franchises (Auckland City, Waitakere United, WaiBOP United, Hawkes Bay United, Team Wellington, Wellington Phoenix, Canterbury United & Southern United) along with Auckland United, Heartland Wairarapa, Manawatu United & current champions Nelson Marlborough Falcons.

Today's game saw the debut of Wellington Phoenix in the competition, with their reserve side in the National League being nicknamed the Weenix, does that make this side the Weeweenix?
While this is “summer” football, it is still spring and while most of the country had severe weather warnings out for high winds, in Wellington it could be described as a bit gusty!
So with the wind dictating play both teams did well in keeping the ball on the ground and trying to play football. It took the Phoenix just 4 minutes to open the scoring through Gianni Bouzoukis, it took until just before half time for the Phoenix to increase their lead when Bouzoukis got a 2nd. In the 2nd half the dominance of the Phoenix showed through and Bouzoukis got another 2 goals, while Ruairi Cahill-Fluery got 2 and Hawkes Bay got a consolation goal through Ross Willox.

It's always hard to work out who will be the teams to beat in the youth league as due to the age restriction there is a high turn over of players and as coaches change they select the players they think will be best. Hawkes Bay United weren't really up to much, but even that I think that the Weeweenix will be one of the teams challenging for the title.

In fact I will stick my neck out and make a prediction of what will happen

Title contenders 
Nelson - defending champions, have reduced their squad size to 22 and lost 6 players from last years the championship winning squad, but will still be challenging for the title.

Weeweenix – The academy team of the country's only professional club, they should be there and you'd be a bit worried if they weren't

Waitakere United – 2 time winners and last seasons runners up, have signed NZU20 Noah Billingsey.

Auckland City – 4 time winners, new coach and largely new team will be looking to bounce back from last years worst ever performance of 8th placing

Almost but not quite
Canterbury United – 2 time winners, could cause a couple of upsets with last seasons golden boot Ryan Stanley returning. Looking to the future with three 15 year old's in the squad.

Team Wellington – Having to compete with Wellington Phoenix for players and with Western Suburbs not making any of their Ole Academy players available, the team rely's a lot on coach Lloyd O'Keefe's Lower Hutt club team for players, which could possibly help as they players all know each other and how they play.

Manawatu United – The focus for National League football in Palmerston North since Youngheart Manawatu were dropped from the ASB Premiership. Finished 4th last year.

WaiBOP United – Finished 5th last season, expect them to do the same this time

The rest 
all quite hard to say as there is very little information provided by these teams
Southern United – started with a 3-2 away win over Auckland City

Auckland United – A squad that seems to truly reflect the cosmopolitan nature of Auckland will no doubt be looking for a good performance as they will be keen to get one of the 2 year licenses for National League

Heartland Wairarapa – Struggled last year and will likely do the same this year

Hawkes Bay United – finished bottom last season, and based on what I saw on Sunday will be doing the same again this season

So if you are looking for some live football to watch check out either
 NZ Football or NZ Soccer Scoreboard for the next fixtures