Monday, 25 August 2008

Canberra boys: Do we underachieve?

Ned Zelic, Carl Valeri, Joe Simunic, Peter Buljan, Lindsay Wilson and others, and our A-League Five, Kaz Patafta, Shaun Ontong, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Adam Casey, and Matty Kemp.. all are professional footballers from Canberra but do we produce enough?

We've got thousands playing at junior level and there is no reason to think this will change.

Football has it's highest ever profile in this country and there is no reason to think this will change in the next twenty years.

And yet the FIVE Canberrans playing professionally in Australia are all products of the AIS.

This begs the question is this the only way a boy can hope to get a professional contract and if so what hope is there for all the boys in Capital Football Academies or indeed in ACTAS who miss out.

From every two year groups with Capital Football only one might earn a contract. Not promising is it?

For each one or two who get through to the AIS, fantastic and hopefully they continue to train and go on to better things.

But does this mean that a 16 or 17 year old Canberran who doesn't make the AIS is doomed to a non-professional career?

And the answer is yes. Exceptions may exist, provide them if you know of any in the last 15 years, but the norm and more says you've got buckleys and none in Canberra if you don't make the AIS.

Boys who get a two year AIS apprenticeship will improve both technically and physically at a superior rate to any player who trains in any other program in Canberra. ACTAS generally provide players for the AIS. Premiership clubs, where most ACTAS boys go after missing the cut at the AIS go nowhere near maintaining never mind improving our young players.

So what's to be done?

Do we accept that 2 or maybe 3 boys will get into the AIS each year and hope to god they are good enough and healthy enough to become professionals. Or can we be doing something more to produce a bigger pool of professional players.

When will we have a Primary School to match Singkok who came for the Kanga Cup from Korean? And impressed everyone with their football prowess. Can't we match their skills.

Of course we can I see Canberrans every week with wonderful skills but not enough time to practice and improve.

When will we have North and South Academies or even Club Academies of the same standard across the city. When will these Academies be attached to our schools with outstanding facilities.

ACTAS should be attached to a school and a partnership be built between ACT Education, Northside and Southside to provide excellence in player facilities and player development.

Why should development be better for just 15 or 16 boys from our player pool when we know that players develop physically and emotionally at different rates. Even these players have to travel so far so often to me it seems we could do it better.

Kofi Danning wasn't in a Capital Football Academy and is now at the AIS. I have no idea whether Kofi's way is the best, only that it shows that we need to provide more opportunities for our boys other than the limited number of Academy places.

Why aren't we thinking about our own High School, our own AIS in some form. We could have 20 players, each year, to match the AIS and maybe aim to get 15 every year into Professional contracts.

There has never been so many contracts either Youth or Professional available in Australia. With more clubs we expect more contracts. But our strategy hasn't changed, not yet.

Canberra FC are the current National Youth League title holders. That should tell you something about the quality of player we can produce and the number.

Our current professional list in good, but we should be aiming to double if not triple the numbers playing professional football from this city.

Afterall our player base has probably tripled since Ned Zelic's days on the local ovals.

Currently players are being locked out from an early age.

If you don't make the AIS, you've pretty much had it in Canberra boys football. Can we change that?

And more importantly how? Incrementally and quick.

Who is working on the plan? Anyone?


Anonymous said...

Very good post. The body that runs the code in Canberra has not done enough to develop our younger players, its as simple as that. How can players excel when the average youth season goes for 16 games, that is abysmal. What these boys do for the rest of the year. Why is there limited/no competitions over the summer. Perhaps have elite comps over the summer ie: Elite 6 a side comps. Something. Anything. It of course will not happen. 16 game season for as long as i can remember, enough said.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article, its unfortunate that everything you've written is true. That's why the Canberra/Pheonix youth league team was so important. At the moment the CFA/ACTAS pathway is fine until you get to 17yo and the next step is not there. A couple make the AIS but for the rest there's nothing.

At the moment the only way for these youngsters to make it to the A-League is to move to Sydney and perform in the NSWPL like Topor-Stanley did and like what Cattanach is trying to do now.

A solution I have is for a Canberra/ACTAS u20 team play in the ACTPL as well as play regular friendly matches with all the A-League Youth teams. At least it would give our young players a chance to show their talents against the youth teams as well as keep them in a high performance development program for an extra couple of years. And if the Pheonix chance came up again or the Canberra A-League bid is successful then we will have a youth team ready to go.