The ASB Youth League reaches its conclusion in Nelson on Saturday as some of the country’s top U-20 talent goes head-to-head in the competition Grand Final between Nelson Marlborough Falcons and Auckland City FC at Trafalgar Park.
The two finalists were dominant in their respective conferences during the regular season with Auckland City FC and Nelson Marlborough Falcons confidently earning a place in the competition showcase event.
Chris Zorocich’s Auckland City FC side were far and away the most prolific scorers in the competition, their 35 goals 10 better than WaiBOP United’s second highest total of 25 while their defensive work was just as impressive, conceding an average of a goal a game across their 10 matches, tops in the entire league.
Zorocich says the key to Auckland’s success has been in the skill of the players in the group working to a straightforward approach which has been executed well.
“We’ve got a decent squad of players and we’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible,” Zorocich said.
“We’ve focussed on limiting touches and playing in the right areas so the combination we’ve struck of good players who have listened well and tried to affect what we’ve covered in training has worked well.”
Zorocich, a former All White with 58 caps to his name, says the ASB Youth League offers an opportunity to work on developing the players who form the title of the league – youth.
“We see it as a chance to showcase the younger talent coming through and we’ve taken the line of giving the younger boys a go with a lot of our boys born in 1997 [the age-restricted league is capped at players born in 1994].
“We have an even younger group of players train with us as well and we find them midweek games so it gives them opportunities to see what the environment is like.” “A lot of the team this year were training with us two years ago.”
In the Southern Conference, Nelson Marlborough reeled off eight straight victories beginning with their 2-0 win over Southern United at Tahuna Park in Dunedin on January 12.
Coach Davor Tavich says the group learned from their debut in the league in 2013 - they had nothing to fear despite being a new franchise.
“I think we realised from last year we can compete and if we concentrated on our talent and our performances we will be good enough to get positive results,” Tavich said.
“Last year we probably gave our opposition too much respect.”
The self-belief fuelling the Nelson Marlborough side manifests itself on the pitch in the form of a team which looks to dictate terms in their style of play.
“We play an aggressive and confident style of football,” Tavich said, “we look to press high and try to keep the other team on the back foot.”
Tavich sees the league as the best chance to promote players towards international honours.
“It’s great to have this level of football for our young players. It gives them great experience and puts them in the shop window for national teams.
“If they perform and they might get the chance to represent New Zealand, which is great for players from a smaller region like Nelson.
ASB Youth League Grand Final 2014
Nelson Marlborough Falcons v Auckland City FC
Saturday 15 March, 1pm Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Nelson Marlborough Falcons (from): 1. Corey Turipa (GK), 2. David Maisey, 3. Josh Sansom, 4. Fox Slotemaker, 5. Sam Maxwell, 6. Lewis Miccio, 7. Dan Grimshaw, 8. Josh Lis, 9. Furkan Kokcu, 10. Ryan Stewart, 11. Matt Tod-Smith, 12. Taine Swete, 13. Harry Tod-Smith, 14. Bertie Fish, 15. Sam Wilson, 16. Zac Muir.
Auckland City FC (from): Tim Allen (GK), Oliver Sail (GK), Scott Midgeley, Sam Brotherton, Stewart Mackay, Stephen Ashby-Peckham, Dylan Burns, Moses Dyer, Mario Illich, Regont Murati, Tinashe Marowa, Nicolas Zambrano, Ross McPhie, Joshua Moody, Thomas Konusi
Referee: Hayden McCabe
Assistant Referee: Peter Cobeldick, Dave Tinker
Fourth Official: Grant Peattie