As about 1,300 of our country’s best U-19 players gather in Napier for Labour Weekend, it revives memories of a young player who took part in the 2006 tournament and breached tournament rules.
His name was Chris Wood. He was 14-years-old and he was part of the Cambridge team that played in that year’s Satellite Tournament at the three-day tournament run by Napier City Rovers.
The young striker had recently made his first-team debut in the Northern League and he was hungry to do well at the national youth tournament.
Cambridge won the tournament’s satellite final but it quickly transpired that the squad contained two players, including Wood, who were only 14.
Tournament rules stipulated the minimum age was 15 and Wood was a few weeks shy of his birthday.
As a result, Cambridge were denied promotion to the main tournament in 2007.
But the talk about Wood — and the impact he had despite being deemed too young to play — helped to raise his profile.
Within three years, he was with West Bromwich Albion in England and on his way to a professional career and a future as the greatest goalscoring All White of all time.
The 2023 version of the national U-19 tournament has 72 teams, drawn from throughout New Zealand — a main tournament (men), a satellite tournament (men) and a women’s tournament.
Who knows? Among the 1,300 players this weekend, we might be watching the next Chris Wood …
Main photo: All White Chris Wood meets his fans. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.