WaiBOP Football kick off their campaign in the National Women’s League tomorrow with a healthy dose of Bay talent in the mix.
Ten of the 21 players the federation has so far named in its squad, which opens with a home match at Hamilton’s Gower Park against Auckland, boast Bay of Plenty connections.
Otumoetai’s Tiana Hill, who went to France with the New Zealand team for the FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup in August and plays her club football for Claudelands Rovers of Hamilton is the highest profile Bay player in the squad. She’s joined by fellow Otumoetai College student Lily Muspratt.
Toni Power, Emma Cawte, Ella Golding and Rylee Godbold played their junior football at Mount Manganui, while Te Puke’s Ashley Weld, Rotorua’s Helen Talbot and Kim Maguire, and Chelsea Elliot, originally from Whakatane, also take places in the squad.
Tauranga City’s Amy Harrison has made the team’s wider training squad.
WaiBOP Federation Communications Manager Dwayne Barlow says half the team’s training sessions will be held in Tauranga but they regret not being able to schedule any of its home games in the city owing to the unavailability of suitable venues on the dates required.
Loaded WaiBOP's National Women's League campaign opener tomorrow, against 2017 finalists Auckland, will be a great early test for the new-look 2018 squad, headed by debut coach Michael Mayne.
"This is a great opportunity for us to start rebuilding this region’s intentions in women’s football,” he says.
He’s calling on his team to step up after a disappointing second to bottom finish last season.
“That’s something we want to make sure we improve on dramatically this season. Our goal is to be pushing for results at the right end of the table this summer.”
"This team is shy of genuine senior experience, but there is no lack of youthful tenacity and energy. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the progress we can make as a group, staring on Saturday."
WaiBOP's first two games of the campaign are against last year’s finalists, not the ideal scenario for Michael in his initial outing as a coach in this league.
"But it will give our group a very realistic view of where we are at in these early stages," he says.
"Auckland is littered with experience and I am well aware of some of their key strengths after working with a few of them over the years when involved in the NZF set up. It is going to be a very competitive game on a very good surface and I expect both teams to try and impose themselves on each other.
"Hopefully this will lead to some exciting action and a few goals for the supporters to enjoy."