New Zealand Football’s plan to prioritise youth development through its new-look National League has helped identify a set of young players who are making their mark.
In March, NZF and the country’s six regional federations restructured the National League in an effort to promote young, local talent.
Under the new structure, the Northern League, Central League and Southern League would decide which teams made the cut for an end-of-winter National League competition.
In the Lotto NRFL, clubs are also supporting the development of young players with the conversion of their reserves leagues to U-23 competitions.
NZ Football have been monitoring the minutes played by various age groups to test whether the theory of youth development is being matched by practice.
The top young players getting their chance to shine
Here’s the list of the top 10 players who were under 20 when the season started and who have played the most minutes in the Northern League’s first 10 rounds:
1. Zac Zoricich, defender (18), 989 minutes played
Western Springs defender Zac Zoricich has played every minute of every game bar one so far this season.
Main photo: Zoricich playing for Springs. Image courtesy of Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
2. Kingsley Sinclair, forward (20), 970 minutes played
Sinclair has appeared in every Auckland United game so far this season, scoring five goals.
3. Jackson Woods, defender (19), 929 minutes played
Birkenhead United’s Woods has completed 90 minutes in all but one of their 11 games.
4. Joel Clissold, defender/midfielder (19), 900 minutes played
The versatile Clissold has been on the pitch for the full 90 minutes in all 10 of Eastern Suburbs games.
5. Aiden Iqbal (18), 874 minutes played
Iqbal has started all but one of Western Springs 11 games, playing the full 90 minutes in all but one.
6. Campbell Brown, defender (18), 871 minutes played
The Melville United defender started the first two games on the bench but has been ever-present since.
7. Owen Comber, midfielder (19), 865 minutes played
Hamilton Wanderers have featured Comber in every game played this year.
8. Malcolm Young, midfielder (20), 851 minutes played
Northern Rovers’ Young has played in every game, scoring once in the side’s 2-2 draw with North Shore United.
9. Max Drake. defender (18), 846 minutes played
The West Coast Rangers right-back has played every game but one.
10. Callum Lowe, midfielder (20), 837 minutes played
Manukau United’s Lowe has had a great debut season with the South Auckland side, playing in every game.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to NZ Football for the use of these statistics