Since 1977 Napier City Rovers have hosted the Under 19 Youth Championship at Park Island over Labour Weekend. Many elite players such as Ivan Vicelich, Danny Hay, Ryan Nelson, Marco Rojas & Chris Woods have also featured at this tournament helping kick start their illustrious careers. Each club team can have a squad of 18 players where 2 of these players can be ‘guest’ players who play for another club. The remainder of the squad must have players registered to that club. This year we had a number of boys represent their club at this prestigious event; Prince Mabounda & Nick Walters (Hamilton Wanderers AFC), Callum MacLeod & Jack O’Leary (Cambridge United), and Ben Wheatley & Marc Glenister and Liam Fellowes – old boys (Melville United).

 

A total of 48 teams are entered throughout New Zealand with two teams from the South Island. The tournament is split into the Main Draw & Satellite divisions, 4 pools of 6 teams, where over 300 games are played with the semi-finals and finals held on the Monday (Labour Day). Games were 25 minutes each way with the play-offs a little longer.

 

This tournament has New Zealand’s cream of the crop of Youth Football competing and in the past New Zealand U17’s has also featured in the tournament in preparation for the Oceania Championships. While everyone in the upper North Island enjoyed the sunny long weekend enduring temperatures of about 20-21oC, Napier had a cold southerly blowing through reducing its region to a cool 14oC.

 

Prince Mabounda & Nick Walters of Hamilton Wanderers AFC were in the ‘Main Draw’ in a tough pool with East Coast Bays, Miramar Rangers, Upper Hutt, Ellerslie and eventual winners Western Springs. The majority of the squad consisted of U17 players who played Federation 2 this year. The team won 1 game, drew 1 and lost the remainder.

 

Both Cambridge United & Melville United were in the Satellite division. Both teams progressed out of pool play and into the quarter-finals where Cambridge lost 2 nil to FC Twenty 11 while Melville beat Port Hill 7 nil. Melville then beat Napier Marist 2 nil in the semi but lost to Onehunga Sports 3-1 in Final where Max Mata scored a hat-trick after being released by Wellington Phoenix for the weekend. Marc Glenister scored Melville’s only goal. With Melville United making the final they qualify for the ‘Main Draw’ next year.

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