All the hard work has certainly paid off for the ACG Strathallan Boys First XI football team, who this year won the Counties Manukau First XI league for the first time in the school’s history.
It’s an incredible result – not just because it is a school first, but also because the team is extremely young with one Year 10 player, thirteen Year 11 players, two from Year 12 and just one from Year 13.
“This is an amazing achievement and a proud moment for the school,” says coach Joe Hinds, who is also the Ricky Herbert Football Academy Development Manager for the Northern Region.
“What an outstanding story. Four or five years ago, we began working closely with our junior players with one eye on the future and what success could look like. Two years ago, a very young junior team finished second in their league, and the decision was made to promote them to the First XI to build a team for the future. This season the team (including a 14-year-old in defence and six 15-year-olds) won every single game. Their future looks extremely bright!”
Not surprisingly, Captain Ethan Foo and his teammates are equally as delighted.
Says Ethan, “We all felt incredibly happy and proud to be part of Strathallan’s inaugural First XI team to win the league. I think our success was the result of hard work over the years with nearly all of us playing together in the team since Year 8.”
World-class coaching from Joe, and weekly training sessions with experienced striker and South Auckland 18 Yard Club coach Dirk Oostdam, have also played an integral role.
“Once Dirk taught us his various techniques and skills, we immediately started scoring more goals. Meanwhile, Joe has been our coach since 2018, when we were all in the junior team. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and has been vital to our success. He always makes training fun but challenging, constantly pushing us to be better. We’ve developed so much as players – and as people – under Joe’s guidance.”
But as Ethan points out, the season also provided a few unexpected challenges, including a string of injuries that forced a change in starting team and resulted in some players having to master new positions. In addition, fitting in schoolwork around a rigorous training schedule was also no small undertaking.
“It’s been challenging for some of us to juggle training and schoolwork, especially as the vast majority of the team play both club and school football. This has left us with a bit less time to study or do homework – but on the bright side, it has taught us to be more organised as we’ve all had to find time between training and games to get our work done!”
Eventually, Ethan hopes to make the New Zealand team, but for now, he’s happy to represent Franklin United and ACG Strathallan and just keep playing the game he loves.
“Nothing beats the team atmosphere and being able to play with my best friends. That’s what I love most about football!”